I am not entirely comfortable in unfamiliar situations or in situations where I don’t know exactly what is going to happen.
I was recently on a train, which I had only ridden once before, and suddenly, upon discovering I was hungry, I realized I was going to have to walk through two train cars to the dining car before I could get anything to eat. I did not feel very comfortable walking on the train nor did I want to have other passengers on the train witness my shaky attempts to move about, so I continued to sit and fiddle with my purse letting pride and my intellect get in the way of my physical hunger. Finally, the desire to have something to eat prevailed and I managed to get out of my seat in order to return with a sandwich and hot cup of tea. Sure, I almost fell over and I noticed other passengers were watching me, but it was worth swallowing my pride just to be able to eat.
The first time I went to private confession, I felt exactly the same way that I felt on that train. I knew that if I went to confession I could receive the forgiveness of God which would relieve my stricken conscience, but right up until the pastor showed up I was fighting the urge to turn and run back out the door. I knew I was going to feel a bit uncomfortable talking to the pastor about what was bothering me, and I nearly let that feeling get in the way of receiving God’s free and relieving grace.
The Old Adam has a tremendous sense of pride and shame and constantly uses those against us to drive us away from those very things we need. Those feelings such as “Well, that sin wasn’t really that bad so I just wait until I have a bigger problem,” or “I am much too embarrassed to tell Pastor this,” are feelings the Old Adam uses to keep us from hearing the Gospel of forgiveness. Yet at the same time, our New, baptized Adam pokes our conscience and says, “It’s not about how you feel! It’s about letting the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ heal you and cleanse you of your guilt.”
That constant fight between the Old and New Adam will never go away until Jesus comes again, or until we pass from the earth. The Old Adam will continue to try and keep us away from the Gospel and away from the promises of Jesus. He will never stop trying to keep himself from being drowned in the baptismal font, and will grab hold of anything he can use to keep us looking inward at our sins. He builds up shame and pride in our hearts and tries to convince us that the last thing we want to do is confess our sins.
But countering his attempts to triumph, there stands the promise of Jesus: baptism! The Old Adam has already been drowned and the New Adam turns our eyes away from our pride and shame and points us back to our baptism and to the cross. God knows all our sins, and yet in Jesus, He has graciously forgiven us all things. He has given us confession and absolution as a wonderful remedy for the guilt that plagues our consciences and He invites us to come and hear His Gospel: the forgiveness of sins.
When the pastor showed up and I sat down in a chair and read the order of private confession, I was nervous and a bit scared. Yet in that order, there are some wonderful words: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.” In confession, God Himself comes to us through the words of the pastor to give us peace and forgiveness for everything we have committed against Him. He gives us relief-true spiritual relief-of the conscience. It may not feel comfortable or easy at first because the Old Adam still kicks and sputters inside of us, but because we are God’s children in our Baptism that drowned the Old Adam, we can rest assured in the grace of God. Thanks be to God for His mercy!
Monica Berndt is a member of Christ the Savior in George, WA and studies music at the University of Washington. She can be reached at email@example.com.