Ash Wednesday: Confession, Responsibility, and New Life

I love being a parent. It is one of my favorite things in life. But one of the worst parts of being a parent is watching your own faults play out in your children.

My son is incredibly smart, and willing to argue. So whenever he gets in trouble, he has a gift of either using my best parenting techniques against me, or coming up with a sound, well-reasoned argument for why whatever happened is not really his fault. So we have a lot of conversations about taking responsibility for screwing up, rather than trying to talk your way out of it.

I began to notice him doing this during Advent as we were walking through the Jesse tree stories. The thing he connected with in the Story of Adam and Eve was the fact that blame was the first reaction to God finding out what they had done. The initial response of the first humans was to blame others or try to justify their actions.

FullSizeRenderThe unwillingness to accept responsibility for the way we have mucked it up is not just a problem in my son or in me, it is a problem at the root of humanity. It is a human problem.

Ash Wednesday enters into our lives to offer a solution.

Because the solution to this deeply rooted human problem is confession. As Miroslov Volf says, confession is the first step in any journey for truth and reconciliation is confession.

Even in the most oppressive situations – the places where we have legitimately been wrong, wounded, and hurt – we need to start by confession. We need to recognize the way evil and sin take hold of us. How someone else’s wrong can take hold of our own hearts and spawn resentment and hate.

We always start with confession.

Now, I have to admit, posts like this are often difficult for me to write. There has been so much harm done by Christians playing the guilt card. Systems of Christian practice and thought are built on the idea that God is mad at you and you need to feel sufficiently horrible about what a worthless piece of trash you are….and that is what we term “salvation.”

Confession is not about piling on guilt. It is about a reflective, honest look at the things in your life which keep you from joining in the life of Christ.

Ash-WednesdayAsh Wednesday is the beginning of a journey and a reminder that true transformation starts with confession. We have the Ashes put on our forehead to remind us of the ways we need to repent. Ash Wednesday is when we confess. We claim our responsibility for our dysfunction, bad relationships, suffering, and evil in the world. Ash Wednesday is hard work. When we take it seriously, this may be the hardest part of Lent. Fasts are easy compared to taking a good, long look in the mirror and accept responsibility for the things we would rather avoid.

But Lent reminds us that God shows up at night.

We do the hard work of confession and accepting responsibility because this is what creates room for God to work. Lent is a time where we enter the darkness rather than avoid it. And as we do so, we open ourselves up to repentance.

We open our hearts and minds for God to come in and work and do a new thing in our life.

But the journey of Lent starts with confession. Just as the process of the fall starts with blame and avoidance, the process of Resurrection begins with acceptance and confession. We reject the guilt and shame that comes with this hard work and we simply confess and make room for God.

So today we confess, and over the next few weeks we make space. We enter the darkness and we wait for God. As Allen mentioned, we are walking through Sarah’s book as part of our Lenten journey. Sometimes as faith evolves, we tend to blame others for the wounds and hurts and bumps in our faith. Confession allows us to own our part in the process. We admit the ways we have fallen short. We admit to how the wrongs of other people have set us off track. We confess the things we need to hold on to and the things we need to throw away. We admit that we don’t have it all figured out. And it is in this confession that God shows up and begins to bring new life.

We hope you will join us on this journey.

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