There’s a Christian tradition of confessing your sins to someone else as a step toward freedom. We may quote James saying, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” James 5:16, NIV.
By keeping our struggles, flaws, and imperfections secret, we leave ourselves vulnerable to their attacks, the shame they generate, and the feeling that we’re inevitable failures in spirituality. I know all of this from repeated experience.
It’s hard to confess to someone else. The times I’ve stepped forward to receive prayer from someone have been agonizing. Perhaps we fear judgment or being exposed as frauds. Perhaps we fear that the prayers of the person we approach won’t help. If there’s a chance that the prayers offered won’t help, then why risk exposing ourselves?
Vulnerability feels like we’re going to trap ourselves, but more often than not, it’s quite liberating. I find that hard to believe most weeks.
I’m a begrudging believer in confessing sins to a trusted friend or mentor, but I also believe in confessing our dreams.
Aside from our flaws, I believe our hopes, callings, and dreams may be the most fragile parts of ourselves. We don’t want to appear foolish, stupid, or ridiculous. We don’t want to set out for a valiant goal only to fall on our faces. Who wants to set out in pursuit of something that carries significant personal meaning and then fail publicly and dramatically?
Mind you, a dream or goal or hope isn’t necessarily virtuous in and of itself. However, before we can even discern this, many of us will suppress these notions before they get out of hand and people find out about them.
I have gone back and forth on this stuff plenty of times. I remember sharing an idea for a book one time in a group of friends and a stone cold silence followed. Someone may have said, “Hmmmm.”
Needless to say, I never touched that idea again.
I’m learning how to manage “confessing” these ideas and dreams and callings a bit. For instance, I’ve learned that the place to start with confessing my dreams is a few trusted people. I’ll tell my wife and then follow up with an email to a few trusted friends and experts to sound things out.
Last year I bought domain name and built an entire website. I felt like I just needed to do it in order to have the experience of building a more static website from the ground up regardless of whether or not I used it. I ran the idea past some trusted people. Many gave it a thumbs up, but a few shared some reservations. Perhaps there were already websites that covered this topic. Perhaps it wouldn’t catch on as I hoped. I asked for prayer. I prayed a lot.
I followed up the feedback and discernment process with some tests on social media. I shared posts and updated related to my new website’s topic.
Silence. Zip. Nada.
I decided to scrap the idea. I’m not sure if it wasn’t my thing to do or if my approach wasn’t the most effective way forward, but I’m pretty sure it was a combination of both.
I’ve been sitting and waiting on what’s next. I wrapped up my book Write without Crushing Your Soul this past fall and have been mentally divided between three book ideas that I can’t quite choose between.
Just as the domain name for last year’s website experiment expired, a new idea popped into my mind. Once again I tested it with my wife and then, before I could talk myself out of it, I zipped off some texts and emails to friends.
I confessed that I needed them to be in the loop right from the start. I told them that I needed them to know about this idea before I bailed. Sure enough, they were encouraging, while I spent the following day picking apart all of the reasons why this website is a terrible idea.
However, once I got over the fear of launching a new website and received some helpful feedback, I started to take tentative steps forward.
This project feels big and intimidating enough that I have to trust in God’s help to make it happen. It’s true to my experiences and, dare I say, “journey” in spirituality. It’s about something that I keep asking God, “Are you sure I should do this?” And I keep getting affirmations in return.
Today I’m plugging along with this new project, and I can’t believe that I ever doubted it or needed to tell someone before I preemptively gave up on it. But the truth is that I needed my friends’ accountability. I needed them to know that at one point in time I had thought this was a good idea, and I needed their honest feedback right then and there before I blew the whole thing up.
Accountability is good for uncovering our faults and struggles, but it’s also good for keeping us pointed to our true north. Accountability helps us put both hands on a crazy idea that just may come from God and to hold onto it through the storms of doubt, exhaustion, and fear.
Confess your hopes and dreams to one another so that you may discern God’s direction. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective