Confess Your Dreams to Each Other

call-accountability-confess-prayer

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

Where Was God Last Week?

Family home destroyed in Gaza.

Let’s not mince words here. There were quite a few moments last week where a direct intervention by God would have been really timely:

  • Israeli bombs falling on children playing soccer on the beach in Gaza, to say nothing of the homes being demolished and the civilians who are losing their lives in the current conflict.
  • A civilian airliner was shot down over Ukraine.
  • Children from Central America are fleeing gang violence and rape, seeking refuge across the U.S. border.
  • Not to mention the communities in Africa struggling to find clean drinking water and viable farm land, human trafficking that’s destroying lives throughout Southeast Asia, and the civil war sweeping through Iraq.

Where is God right now?

When I wrote about this particular issue for my Christian Survival Guide, I had other tragedies in mind. However, we don’t have to look long before we find particular moments that punch us in the gut and leave us speechless. Perhaps one of these events from last week did that to you. I know they did that to me.

As I wrestled with these events and the place of God, I confess that I can’t line up certain ways of reading the Bible with what I’m observing. I can’t say that God is predestines every event according to a precise plan.

Also, throughout scripture, God routinely offers people choices, saying their actions will determine what kind of future they have.

I would rather have no God than a God who mysteriously orchestrates the death of children for a higher purpose.

I know that some people join me in that assessment, while others can handle that tension better (I only use the word tension to be charitable to their perspective). I also admit that my point of view doesn’t resolve every question or problem. Nevertheless, we are left with these pressing questions:

What should we make of a God who doesn’t always deliver us from evil?

Where is God when great acts of evil are unleashed in our world?

It’s not enough to say that Jesus bore evil on the cross. That’s a good starting point, but it comes up empty from my perspective. Yes, he didn’t fight back. Yes, he bore evil and defeated it by rising again. There is some comfort in that, but it doesn’t resolve the role of God right now. What is God actually doing about the problem of evil in our world?

I don’t think I can resolve this in a single blog post. And even my chapter on God and the problem of evil in A Christian Survival Guide is more of an overview, but let me offer a direction to explore.

What if part of the resolution to the problem of evil is Pentecost?

There is a trajectory throughout scripture of God desiring to dwell among his people, of renewing their hearts and minds, and even guiding them. “God among us” strikes me as the goal throughout the Old Testament prophets. When Jesus came, he wasn’t setting up a one-time, God among us event that ended with the cross and resurrection. He was leading us to something bigger: Pentecost.

The point on which everything in the ministry of Jesus turns for me is Pentecost. The cross and resurrection established God’s take on suffering—suffering alongside us, overcoming evil with resurrection. However, the power of God was released into our world through Pentecost.

Pentecost establishes God’s new way of interacting with our world—his Spirit working through us. Jesus reminded his followers that he would not leave them as orphans because the Spirit would come to dwell among us. That isn’t to say God’s presence in the world is limited to the Holy Spirit, but if we’re wondering “how” God interacts with our world, part of the answer may be found by looking at the indwelling Spirit.

Is God present in the world? Yes. In many ways and places.

However, one of God’s chosen ways of interacting with our world is incarnational and relational, guiding those who have received the Spirit and are willing to let him guide them. How is the Spirit leading us to interact with the pain and suffering in the world? How can God use us to bring redemption and restoration?

This isn’t the efficient, lightening strike resolution I’m personally longing for. I’d still like God to step in and shield the innocent from artillery and missiles. I can’t resolve the problem of a powerful God stepping back as these tragedies unfold. However, I don’t see God working behind the scenes to make these things happen.

I see God dwelling among us, mourning with those who mourn, and empowering those willing to change things.

If we want to find God in the midst of suffering, we should no doubt look to the cross, but don’t stop there. Look at Pentecost. God is bearing our pain alongside us. God is here to help us bring peace and redemption.

Pentecost means that God may well be right here alongside us, encouraging us to ask all of the same tough questions and to never settle for a trite answer.