February 14, 2013
Here’s the deal. My brother is a physical therapist and my sister-in-law is a dentist. Yeah. Top that. Me? I’m a walking tax write-off. As a future pastor, I may not be rolling in the dough later in life but I’ll always be able to play the tax card. It’s my ace in the hole. *sigh* But I digress—having doctors for siblings isn’t so bad. It’s kind of fun to say “Oh, Dr. Norton? I’m his/her little brother…Why yes he/she is wonderful!...Yes, I’m terribly proud of them…What procedure are you seeing them for?...Oh wow!...Funny that you mention it, I think that’s the class he/she had to repeat a few times. Hopefully they get it right this time!...I’m sure it’ll be fine…Besides, that classroom case was bogus. There’s no way to prove that amputation was the his/her fault…Take care!”
Ah yes. The joys of being a little brother. So, this Christmas, my sister-in-law discovered it had been a little bit since I had been to a dentist. And by a little bit, I mean three years. It went down like this.
Me: I know, I know. It’s bad. But I didn’t have dental insurance for a while so I didn’t want to go.
Sister-in-law: Tim, you were only out of insurance for a year.
Sister-in-law: What’d you do the two years after that?
Me: …um. Well… um… you see…
Family. They have an uncanny way of seeing right through you. Gotta love ‘em for it. Truth was that I didn’t go to the dentist for the first year because of insurance. I didn’t go the second year because I was lazy. I didn’t go the third year because I was too embarrassed. And now my whole family knew, which made me even more embarrassed! At this point I had no choice but to schedule an appointment with none other than Norton DMD herself. I tried to warn her that it was probably gonna be bad. She assured me everything was going to be fine…
I don’t want to talk about how many cavities I had. It was gross. Not only that, my top two wisdom teeth grew in and my bottom two decided they wanted to do a rendition cirque-de-inside-Tim’s-mouth by impacting, twisting inward, and bullying my molars. Poor molars. So, what started as a routine visit to the dentist became a 6-hour appointment across two visits. 6 hours in the same chair gives you a lot of time to think. And you know what I realized? My pride kept me from doing the very thing that I knew I needed to do. Exposing my teeth to my sister-in-law hurt my ego more than anything. It was ego that kept me from getting an appointment sooner.
I don’t wanna project on anyone (ok let’s be real, I really do love projecting) but I’m pretty sure we can all relate. Somewhere deep down there is a part of us that wants to manage our less favorable, even sinful parts of our life. We want to run a good PR campaign for ourselves. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the very people who can help us get better. I think that’s why confession is such a big deal. Confession is a pride killer. Confession is the opposite of sin management. Confession sucks. But confession is important. To be sure, I’m not saying you need to post a Facebook status about your every shortcoming. Please don’t be that person. (Seriously, don’t be that person.) But I challenge you to have someone in your life that really knows you, someone that you can expose some of the things lurking beneath the surface. From my experience, it’s much easier to experience God’s grace and forgiveness after confiding in someone and hearing their grace and truth-filled response.
This isn’t anything new. After committing the first sin ever, Adam and Eve were more interested in sin management than confession:
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.””
(Genesis 3:8–10 NIV emphasis mine)
Don’t miss this. Adam and Eve’s first reaction after sinning is to attempt to hide the nakedness. The shame of nakedness is overwhelming. They try and hide who they are in their fallen and broken state. They can’t undo what they’ve done and, rather than confess it, they attempt to “fix” themselves without letting anyone (in this case God) know about it. However many millions/billions of years later (or thousands depending on your point of view), I’m doing the same thing.
I have a wardrobe full of sewn-together leaves designed to hide my nakedness from God, myself and others. Though I cognitively know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I still am inclined to hide my sin rather than confess it. I desperately try and manage a carefully crafted public image at the expensive of receiving the help I need.
After exposing the fullness of their sins, God explains to Adam and Eve the consequences of their actions. Notice, though, that God is also very gracious in the scenario. Yes, there are natural consequences, but God also makes clothes to cover their nakedness.
Now, you may say to yourself, “Psh! I privately confess my sins to God. I don’t need to tell anyone else about it.” Guess what? That’s pride. We are designed to function relationally. We experience the grace of God relationally. We experience the forgiveness of God relationally. Suck it up and try it. Try it in the next 2 weeks. Grab a trusted friend or mentor and have a difficult conversation. It may be about as fun as sitting in a dentist chair for 6 hours. Truth be told, it may be worse than that for a time. But there is nothing that compares to the freedom of being known fully and loved anyway.
Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.