‘When I was about 10 I had gorilla legs, which embarrassed me horribly.
Next to my fair-haired classmates who all had fine downy fuzz on their legs, I thought I stood out and that everyone thought I was as hideous as I considered myself to be.
That was also in the olden days when girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school, so I couldn’t hide my legs underneath a pair of jeans.
My mom had already said I was too young to shave my legs, but what do moms know? So, I swiped my dad’s razor, the one with the really, really sharp double-edged blades, and attacked my furry limbs.
Not knowing what the heck I was doing, about halfway through shaving one leg I sliced a dime-sized layer of skin from my shin and bled all over the bathroom rug, which I tried to hide, but you can’t hide bloody rugs from moms who can smell guilt 10 miles away.
I tried to lie about it, but my partially hairless, bleeding leg ratted me out. Even though I was caught “red-legged,” I refused to confess and ended up in my room, sobbing across my bed, because life at age 10 is so terribly tragic.
Eventually, probably because I had no TV or radio or fun stuff to do in my room, I confessed my sin to my mom, albeit reluctantly. I didn’t know then about the incredible, ironic joy that’s found in confession.
Back then, confession was an archaic, religious word and had no relevance to everyday life and surely couldn’t be linked with joy or happiness, only sorrow and woe and duty.
Currently, my pastor is preaching a five-part series on worship. Last week, part two, he talked about confession, using Psalm 32 as his text: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Ps. 32:1).
When you are blessed, all is well with your soul. You have no reason to hide or be ashamed. Your guilt is gone. You’re whole and free. There’s something exhilarating about having nothing to hide.
The same psalmist who wrote of the blessedness of confession also wrote of keeping his sin hidden. He had taken another man’s wife and when she got pregnant, he had her husband killed. He wrote, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Ps. 32:3).
Ask any mental health professional — guilt and shame cause all kinds of anguish and pain, physical as well as mental. Confession, on the other hand, does wonders for a person’s well-being. It may even help heal the body.
One of history’s great theologians, Augustine of Hippo who lived in the 400s, wrote a 13-book work called “Confessions.” In book two he detailed his sin as a teenager — he was quite a playboy, and a thief.
He recalled the “mists of passion (that) steamed up out of the puddly concupiscence of the flesh” and of wandering in the “barren fields of sorrow in proud dejection and restless latitude.” He “foamed in (his) wickedness” as the “thornbushes of lust grew rank about (his) head.” Such vivid terms!
When he eventually came clean and sought God’s forgiveness he discovered the utter joy of having his sin wiped away by a God who loves to forgive.
My pastor’s point was that those who make confession a regular part of their lives find joy and healing and wholeness. However, he said, that can’t happen until or unless a person feels safe.
Sadly, many churches aren’t safe places to admit your sin, although they should be. After all, the prerequisite for church membership is admitting you’re a screw up. Church is often a place where you keep your sins close to the vest — and continue to waste away.
But even if many churches and church people aren’t safe (and blessed are those who find a church or a friend who is), God is always, utterly, eternally safe. Once you’re his, there’s no sin too big that he can’t or won’t forgive. He’ll never kick you out of his family or send you away from his presence.
On the contrary, he welcomes sinners with open arms, and it’s that sense of welcomeness and safety that leads to genuine, heartfelt worship.
Blessed is he (or she) whose transgressions are forgiven!
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.