Defending How it Was
In his wonderful new lenten devotional, A Way Other Than Our Own, Walter Brueggemann has this to say about the work of Lent and the mission of church:
The invitation is to get so involved in the emergence of humanness, human persons in all their delicacy, human institutions in all their effectiveness, human relationships in all their mystery, humanness, wholeness, that we don’t have to be defending how it was, worried about what will happen to the things to which we have given our lives.
There is so much to unpack there, but the line that I can’t seem to let go of is there at the end: that we don’t have to be defending how it was.
How much of our lives and our energies—our daily thoughts and conversations—do we spend “defending how it was?”
We do this in so many countless ways in our personal lives; playing that painful encounter with a friend or co-worker over and over in our minds, wanting so badly to prove to ourselves and anyone who will listen why we acted the way we did. I'm thinking right now of a conversation I had with a friend two weeks ago that I'm still processing, still rationalizing.
More and more I've been considering the ways we do this as communities or even societies; how we feel the need to justify or defend "the way things were." Why must so many, for instance, feel the need to defend resistance to the de-segregation of schools, or the Civil Rights Movement in general? Why must so many feel the need to defend our country's painfully slow journey toward equal protection under the law, and the accompanying history of violence? Why must so many in the "white" church defend our silence through in the face of so much?
The Christian invitation, Brueggemann says, is to let this go.
This Sunday, as part of our Learning How to Love lenten emphasis, we will focus on the act of “confession.” We’ll consider how confession is among the most counter-cultural things we can do as people of faith. To freely admit our failings and wrongs is unheard of in the world at large, and unfortunately, not so common a thing in most churches.
Confession is hard and at times painful, but the promise is that in the end it gives us life by freeing our souls.
In confession we free ourselves from “defending how it was,” and thus open ourselves to a future of reconciliation. A future impossible without confronting wrongs committed. In confessing our own sins we inevitably open our hearts to others, acknowledging how our lives intersect with others, how we cannot and should not live unto ourselves.
Learning how to love involves learning how to confess; learning to put aside our own “obsession with ourselves,” as Brueggemann puts it, “long enough to care for others.” Long enough to trust in a God who longs to bring all things and all people back together as one.