When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Theology is difficult for me. Understanding God is difficult for me as well. I do so much better with stories and metaphors to try to get my mind wrapped around Biblical truth. Maybe you’re that way too…in fact, maybe we are all that way. Maybe that is why God gave us His Word in the form of Jesus and in the stories of the Bible rather than in formulas and spreadsheets. Surely that is why Jesus used stories, similes, and metaphors so much in his own communication.
The metaphor most of us use to describe our Spiritual pilgrimage, our faith walk, is relationship. We talk about our relationship with Christ, or with God. We use little sayings like, “It’s a relationship, not a religion.” We use that term (that metaphor, if you will), because it best captures what it means to follow Christ. It is NOT a metaphor Jesus used for ancient times, because it would not have had meaning then. It is NOT a vocabulary we find anywhere in God’s Word. But, like the term “mission”, it still has profound meaning to our culture today, and it is a useful way of describing our part in this amazing revolution that is Christianity.
The call to follow Christ is a call to relationship. Yes. So, why doesn’t that answer all our questions? Why does that metaphor fall short for us? Specifically, what does it NOT teach us about grace and forgiveness? Because, even though it is indeed a relationship…it is different from any other relationship we have ever known or ever will know.
David wisely points out in Psalm 32 that, just like in any other relationship, the only way forward in our faith journey is through open, honest communication. Every relationship depends on honesty. We understand that. The metaphor works well in that respect. Honesty with God, what I like to call “eye contact” with God about sin in our lives, is a critical first step toward spiritual growth and transformation. The relationship is simple in that regard…honesty means growth, and secrecy means no growth. There is not a healthy relationship in your life which operates any differently than that.
But here is where the metaphor leaves us short in fully embracing God’s grace. There is no other relationship in your life experiences, nor even in your dreams, which comes with a completely limitless supply of forgiveness and grace. None, but this one. When scripture says God “…is faithful and just to forgive”…when Jeremiah says God will “…remember your sins no more…” and when David says “…you forgave the guilt of my sin…”, we have a picture of a relationship which is unlike any relationship we can ever experience otherwise. It does not compute. It does not make sense. It does not match up with any of our life experience. It is as impossible for us to grasp as infinity itself.
And THAT, I believe, is why we often have trouble confessing and being open and honest with God. It is why we hide. It is why Adam and Eve hid. It is why David hid. We just have a hard time believing any relationship can be utterly bottomless in terms of grace and mercy and forgiveness. Oh, how we want the love relationship! We genuinely desire it! But we don’t completely trust it…not completely. Because, as relationships go, it is different from anything else we have ever known.
Unfortunately, all our human examples fail us on this point. Our metaphors for God fail us as well. When all the words are done and all the illustrations have fallen short, we are then left with a rather large gap to fill in order to truly believe in and embrace God’s forgiveness. We are left with…[gulp!]…a step of faith. Faith that God is who he says he is and that he will do what his word says he will do.
I’m OK with that. How about you? Do you have the faith to be open and honest with God about that sin in your life? It is the only way forward.