ruthless exposure: i.e., confession

Last week I had a dream, and it was not so nice. It had things in it, that five years ago, I would have been ashamed to tell anyone. When I woke up, I knew that this particular dream was not the substance of some kind of inner conflict but what I call a “warfare” or “warning” dream. I told Derek about it, because I’m starting to learn that bringing weird things into the light forces you to get past shame or embarrassment, and exposes it out to the light so it can be seen for what it is. There is much more safety in this than hiding something, which can fester and fracture us.

Whether it’s something we struggle with, or an area that the enemy of our souls is trying to insinuate something in a subtle way (which was the case with my dream), there is within us a constant tendency to hide what is dark. But we are really going to have to learn to be ruthless about exposing ourselves to each other–and likewise more merciful in our responses to those that exposure–if we are going to overcome the dark.

This is why we confess! Last week, after reading about Ted Haggard, I wondered how many of my male friends struggle with secret thoughts, images, dreams–many of them not from their own pursuing of it, but the enemy’s temptation. For women, I wondered how many of us struggled with secret lust or desire to be looked at, that caused us to hide our true intentions. How many women also keep their hurts toward others unexposed and instead reiterated in gossip. All of these things will end up kicking us in the butt if we are not ruthless in exposing them.

We need to welcome this exposure. The nature of darkness is that it works to create shame and then an endless cycle of trying to suppress those desires with religious actions or just plain busy-ness, instead of letting the simple blood of Jesus forgive us. How different things would have been if Adam and Eve didn’t hide! Yes, they sinned, but then they hid from grace. Men for example feel ashamed if they are even tempted to look at pornography, and this is where things start to get trapped. I personally believe that the temptation is not a sin, because pornography has what I consider a “demonic anointing” that pulls people to look at it, even if they didn’t intend to. The minute most people look at it, they feel slightly guilty, shameful, lustful, and then this causes them to hide it, and that’s where the inner conflict (sin) begins. A wife might feel threatened if her man exposes this but women need to welcome the exposure, because it stops the cycle of shame and guilt.

Likewise, Christians need to welcome confessions from even their most visible leaders, or else the person is going to get subject to the ruthless mocking of the world, which is what happened with Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, etc. We still are shocked and surprised that people struggle with things, but why? The temptations are only going to increase, and we can’t hide from them anymore, but we must keep exposing them to the light.

I keep coming back to Ephesians 5–

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

I never read this as a command to expose others. It’s shameful to mention even what *we* think in secret, and we have to be gutsy enough to expose what *we* do or think in secret. We are going to have to be very, very wise–innocent as doves, but clever as snakes. There will be times that you are innocently going about, and some image will present itself without your looking for it. It may come in a dream, as mine did, or come as a person, and you suddenly shameful or icky. You must get very discerning and wise as a snake about the insinuations of guilt. I have learned that any time I feel the slightest amount of shame or guilt about something, it is time to expose. We are not supposed to live in shame, even about our own flaws and sins.

Anyhow, as I was thinking about all this stuff, I read an amazing piece by the founder of Desert Stream Ministries about this very topic. I think it is the best response I’ve read so far on the Ted Haggard subject: the haggard truth. As some of you may know, Desert Stream is a ministry to people coming out of sexual brokenness. These people have learned how to be ruthless confessors, and I feel they will have much to say to us in the coming times about what we hide.

We are going to get exposed one way or another. Do we want it to be public and abused by the rest of the world? The courts of the world will never forgive us, they will perpetually wave our flaws in front of us. Or do we want to practice it with each other so that the enemy has no room to wreak havoc? One thing I am learning, if you expose something hurtful to people, it may hurt, and it may even wreck a relationship. But the healing and forgiveness will happen a lot faster–lightning surgery–than if we are exposed by others.

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