We all have bad days is probably a universal understatement. It’s an idea that we know in our heads, but have little concept of what that looks like in life. Kind of like believing that other people do laundry, because when you go over there you never find 4 clothes baskets piled full in the middle of their living room. They say they drown in the chore, but somewhere in the back of your mind you think, “well, sure… but not really.” Logically, they must wash clothes because they’re wearing them. But our perceptions of others’ realities never quite compute.
So it goes without saying that when you spend a day moping around because you’re soooo pregnant yada yada and your kids refuse to listen blah blah and life is so hard bur bah bur bah bur… it’s hard to recognize that anyone else would have ever cried the same tears. We know in theory that people struggle the way we do. But on the couch, tucked between pillows, it’s simply theory.
Which is why James tells us (5:16) to confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. I hear the whole sin-confession part and I shudder a bit. It’s not like I’m a teenager caught in the backseat of a car or a closet alcoholic that requires intervention. Something in that verse (really, in the connotation I attach to the phrase “confess your sins”) makes me think it has little to do with my emotional upheaval*.
“Sin” has become a picket line word, something haters put on signs. And, if you ask me, we’ve spent a tad too much of our religious energy pointing toward it rather than redemption. So, in my tendency to overreact, I shirk away from the notion. I don’t like to deal with it – in my own life or in others’. I’d really rather ignore that naming piece and focus on what we can do about it. My approach takes on a motherly tone, saying “I don’t care who started it, everyone can end it!”
I remember learning that sin is simply “missing the mark”, something we’re all prone to do. So we can acknowledge that we aren’t perfect, and some of us look to Jesus to make that all okay again. But James’ recommendation isn’t about conversion – it’s about the process of refinement.
Tuesday night I came to the point where I realized I just needed prayer. The practice of prayer is not my strong suit and I decided that perhaps things would get better, quicker, if I enlisted the help of others. Jesus would hear my cry, but surely if enough of us make enough racket, He’d realize this should move to the top of the list. (Sorry for any of you with a sick mother-in-law that I just cut in front of**….). So I sent a message to a list of ladies whom I know would understand, not judge and even follow through with a word to God on my behalf.
When James says we should confess and pray for each other, I’m not sure which has more power to heal. For me, I took great comfort in knowing I had a list of ladies asking on my behalf, but even more so, I felt a new freedom simply by sending the message. By acknowledging, in a specific way, that indeed I’m coming up short. The dirty laundry went from theoretical to the middle of the living room.
The next morning I awoke to encouraging texts, messages and phone calls – not just confirming that each did her part to move me up the priority list, but also to share expressions of love and remarks of solidarity. No one showed concern because they were afraid I wouldn’t crawl out of the dark hole – they cared because they knew it was important to hear “you are not alone.”
One of the biggest lies we believe in the darkness is that we’re the first and only to encounter the particular struggle. That grace only extends as far as the “normal” stuff, but this – this – is new and different and probably not okay. We label ourselves other and outside.
Loneliness and unhealthy solitude breeds shame, which is not the language of God. But a community of flawed and loving people, partnered with the Spirit of God, brings conviction – and that’s where healing can begin.
*We can discuss my specific sin in a different post. I know some are saying, “you’re allowed to be overwhelmed and tired and not feel like you’re “sinning.” But for me, it was – I can acknowledge it. I’ll tell you all about it if you’d like.
**Wow, I’m definitely throwing out some awful theology just for giggles.