I normally write about things that are finished, struggles that are far enough behind me that I can talk about them unemotionally and with some finality. Then, while I am focusing on the troubles that I no longer have I can deemphasize my present struggles. It gives the illusion that everything in my life is neat and clean—not broken and never messy. It’s mostly because–
I’m a hider.
I come from a long line of hiders, full of shame from their own sin.
“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:8-10)
Sometimes I think about how different this interaction with God must have felt for Adam and Eve. Previously, they enjoyed perfect communion with God. They were aware of His presence and His love. They knew that everything had been created in His good design, for His glory. They knew their purpose—He had created them to reflect back His glory in a way that no other part of creation could. They experienced the peace and flourishing that comes from perfect obedience and rejoicing in His character.
These same beloved children ran from him. They hid from his face and because of their sin didn’t want to be in His presence.
There are countless stories in the Bible of people who did the same thing:
Cain tried to hide the fact that he killed his brother Abel. Abraham hid the fact that Sarah was his wife, and she was almost raped as a result; Jacob dressed in goatskin and pretended to be Esau so he could get the blessing of the first born; Jacob’s wife, Rachel, stole from her father and lied about it; Judah tried to hide that he slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar; Joseph’s brothers told their father that Joseph had been tragically killed by a wild animal, but they really sold him into slavery; King David tried to hide that he had slept with another man’s wife and killed him to cover it all up; Anannias and Sapphira had greedy hearts and claimed that they sold all of their land to give to the church, but had really kept a portion of the money for themselves; Judas kissed the face of Jesus to hide his betrayal; Peter boldly proclaimed the deity of Christ, and later denied him three times and hid from him.
We are all hiders. We all are tempted to believe that hiding our sin from one another (and God, although we can’t do this!) will actually help us, make others like us more, make things easier for us and others…and so on. Perhaps it comes from a deep-seated self-preservation—the idea that if anyone really knew about our sins or the darkness of our hearts that they would abandon or reject us.
One of my deepest struggles is wanting to be good in my own eyes and in the eyes of others. There is something in my soul that longs to point to just one thing that I can do on my own. I want to be recognized as good, and I want to achieve that goodness by myself. At its deepest root this sin is calling other people to notice me—to worship me—for something that I am good at. Of course, as a Christian I would never really affirm that with my lips. However, when I look at how I function, many of my chief desires point to this sin.
One of the most prominent ways that this sin manifests itself is the desire to feel “clean” “right” or “justified” about my guilt or responsibility in situations. As a result, I am one of the most skilled blame-shifters that ever lived. I blame my bad mood on my students. I blame my fit of anger on technology issues, or I blame my disrespectful words on my husband’s actions. Notice a big distinction here: all of these circumstances certainly affect my disposition, but none of these circumstances force me to respond in sinful ways.
Instead, I am forced to understand the fact that what results in these situations is already in my heart. These situations didn’t bring about these things in me—these sins were already there.
Jesus says: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
At the thought of this, the blame shifting continues. Words like… “I’ve never “struggled” with this until I got married,” “This job brings out the worst side of me,” “I’ve always been a patient person until now”—these ideas are false! The desire to be right, clean, and good on my own has always been there (and it has been there for all of us—see the first original sin!). The selfishness and sinful nature of my heart has always been there.
God is allowing me to see how blame shifting is one of the deepest and most sinister of sins. It convinces us that we are not at fault—and if we are not at fault, we do not need God’s good grace. In Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood the protagonist, Hazel Motes observes this, “there was a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.” Hazel shows us how avoidance of sin is often a substitute for an actual Savior. Then we become the actual savior, because we are trying to prove that we no longer need a redeemer in order to be good. We are hoping to be able to rescue ourselves, but we cannot!
I long to confess my sin to others. I am grieved at how many times I have wasted the opportunity to point to God’s grace, mercy, and patience in my life, because I have either pushed my sin onto others or I have tried to hide it all together. When we do this, we are robbing others of seeing God’s glory, and we are robbing others of seeing how God continually transforms us.
John says: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I John 8-10)
James admonishes us to pray and confess our sins to one another: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5 13-16)
Life comes from it. Healing comes from it, and true repentance and obedience comes from it. Right now I am not sure how to “turn” from these sins, but I have asked God to empower me and to teach me. I pray that I can learn from godly men and women who have been putting these sins to death in their lives for longer than I have tried. I have been fostering these sinful behaviors for over twenty years and I am aware that deep sin like that takes long, difficult, consistent work. Because of that I plead for Christ’s and other’s long-suffering and patience.
For these reasons, I throw myself before the mercy of God. I know that I am only righteous in God’s sight, because of Jesus. And that—even when I am confronted with the deep, deep, darkness of my heart—is Good News indeed!