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December 26, 2020

Facing Unconfessed Sin

By Jeanne Harrison

Once when I was in college, I took a massive dose of cold medicine and woke up so disoriented that I fell out of bed. My bed was lofted about six feet in the air, so it was quite the wake-up call! I was vaguely aware that I’d scraped my shin on the way down, but it seemed like the least of my problems, so I just ignored it. After all, it was only a small cut. 

A few days later it was sore. Then painful. Then oozing. By the time I visited the campus nurse, she winced at the sight of it. “That’s infected,” she said. I remember being surprised. I didn’t realize I had let it get so bad until I saw it through someone else’s (rather disgusted) eyes. 

So it goes with the unconfessed sin in our lives. At first, it’s easily dismissed. Brushed off and forgotten. At times we wonder why it hurts so much, but we just keep going. Ignore the ache – the symptoms of our own soul sickness – until one day we can’t ignore it any longer. 

For me, that moment came late one night when my household was fast asleep. For several weeks (months maybe?), I’d been aware that something was off. My patience was onion skin thin. I was angry at everyone and everything – from the overly friendly receptionist to the mountain of shoes piled right beside the shoe rack. It seemed irritation was my default emotion. And there was very little joy in my life, only temporary distractions: Pinterest, TV, peach gummy rings. 

The truth is, I was afraid to sit with God and look inward. I had a feeling there was some really ugly stuff in there. And then one day, Pastor Mike was talking about Jesus’s heart toward sinners, and it struck me: No matter how much sin is festering beneath the surface of my heart, Jesus has never been disgusted by sinners

Not once in all of Scripture does Jesus turn away a sinner who comes to Him. Not once does He recoil and say, “Yuck! That’s a lot of sin. How did you let things get so bad?”

Not once.

Heartened by that realization, I sat on the couch with Jesus late one night and dared to look inward. Sometimes repentance feels like untangling a giant knot of sin – pulling it apart piece by piece, acknowledging each strand with sorrow and contrition – until finally you get to the very last tangle and you realize, this is where it all began. With this lie. This idol. This moment of compromise. 

For me, it was worldliness and love of self. I’d become enamored with the world and everything it values – all its subtle strategies for inflating ego. That was the impetus, my “tumble out of bed,” if you will. And all of the “infection” that followed was the natural bondage, sorrow, and death that comes from loving the world and listening to its lies.

By the time I got up from the couch, I felt like I had a new lease on life. It was like coming up from water and taking that first gulp of fresh air. It tasted like freedom. Healing. 

Wholeness. 

There was still change that needed to happen on a daily basis. I had to break some bad habits and rebuild nourishing ones. During that process, I noticed a shift in my perspective of obedience. Where once obedience felt like an external pressure to do the right thing, I was now consumed with an internal desire to cling to Jesus. Obedience became less about an action and more about a Person. “Please, Jesus,” I’d whisper into the night, “Don’t let me stray from You. Your way is life and everything else is death.” 

To this day, if you look at my shin, there is a small scar – an ancient reminder of my Nyquil-induced stupor. It doesn’t hurt, but I suppose it might not even exist if I’d tended to my wound immediately. But then, would I even be writing this article? Isn’t that the beauty of the gospel? Not even the scars are wasted. All of it – the broken and the beautiful – points to redemption. 

Today, if you’ve been avoiding sin in your life, take heart and be brave. Dare to look inward with Christ. There’s no sin too great for Jesus to heal. No bondage too deep for Him to save. No sinner too fallen for Him to love. 

 

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