Book Club Channel
Sanctuary of the Soul: A Book Excerpt
You may wonder if the Lord really needs to hear our confession since God already knows all things. Indeed, but as Søren Kierkegaard observed, "Not God, but you, the maker of the confession, get to know something by your act of confession." And what is it that we get to know? Well, for one thing we learn a little more about our own heart. One reason we cannot program our own heart is because we simply do not understand the depths of the human heart, most especially our own. But as we make confession, God is able then to peel back a few more layers of our heart and give us a glimpse into things we did not know about ourselves. This is all part of the process of heart transformation.
I hasten to add that not only are sin and evil and wickedness revealed in our confession but also goodness and light and life that we never knew about ourselves. Gordon Cosby, the well-known pastor of the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., wrote, "Confession has to do with the facing and naming before God the darkness within us; it is also concerned with facing and naming before God the light within as it breaks forth with ever-increasing brilliance. Without a preparatory time of confession no real silence is possible."
To help us in our confession we may want to picture a path littered with many rocks. Some are small pebbles, others are quite large, and still others are almost completely buried so that we cannot know their size. With compunction of heart we invite the Lord to remove each stone, for they do indeed represent the many sins and sor- rows littering our lives. One by one our loving Lord picks them up, revealing to us their true character and offensiveness. To our eyes some look big and others small, but the Lord helps us to understand that when lifted the smallest pebble has the same weight as the largest boulder. Some rocks that represent sins committed against us need to be dug out of the ground. While this is painful, it also brings healing. When we see the path completely clear, we rejoice in this gracious work of the Lord.
Accepting the Ways of God
A third reality that works its way into our hearts as we experience recollection is an acceptance of the ways of God with human beings. You see, it is one thing to love God; it is quite another to love God's ways. The Bible is clear that God's ways are not our ways, that God's thoughts are not our thoughts (Is 55:8). This passage goes on to explain God's ways:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
God's ways are like the rain and snow that gently fall and sink into the earth . . . and up comes the life. What a contrast with our ways, which involve wanting to open up another person's head and tinker around in there a bit! But, you see, God's ways are all patience and love, all grace and mercy. Our ways are all domination and control, all manipulation and guile.
With an inner knowing born out of friendship with Jesus, we begin to see that God's ways are altogether good. Our impatience, our rebellion, our nonacceptance give way to a gentle receptiveness to holy impulses. This is not some stoic resignation to "the will of God." It is an entering into the rhythm of the Spirit. It is a recognition that God's commandments are "for our good always" (Deut 6:24). It is a letting go of our way and a saying yes to God's way, not grudgingly but because we know it is the better way. To aid our sense of accepting God's ways, we might want to imagine ourselves on a lovely beach observing the footprints of God in the sand. Slowly we begin to place our feet into the prints. At some places the stride looks far too long for our small frame; at other places it looks so short that it appears childlike. In infinite wisdom God is stretch- ing us where we need to be on the edge of adventure, restraining us where we need greater attentiveness and stillness. As we follow God's lead, we enter more and more into the divine Stride, turning where God turns, accepting God's ways and finding them altogether good.
Are we present where we are? Sadly, we have to admit that often we are far removed from where we are. Perhaps our mind is stewing over a problem at the office when we should be attentive to our kids. Or we are mentally and emotionally off on a fishing trip when we should be attending to the people around us. Or when we start to pray, we are anywhere but in the presence of God. Recollection is that aspect of meditative prayer that can help draw us more fully into the place where we are. As this becomes a pattern of life, we will find ourselves more fully alive, more united and whole.
For more conversation on the new book Sanctuary of the Soul, visit the Patheos Book Club here.