I had one of those moment today when I bought something thinking, ‘I hope no one sees me’. The offending item? A Josh Groban CD. Why oh why does someone with such a lovely voice allow such backing tracks?? I blame Classic FM.

But, it has been worth it.

One of the hardest hardest things to communicate positively to young people is a concept of repentance and confession. It can so easily play into the stereotypes of church being obsessed with sin and negativity.

So, how’s this for a starter? From a song called ‘Confession’:

I have been wrong about you
I thought I was strong without you
For so long
Nothing could move me
For so long
Nothing could change me

Now I feel myself surrender
Each time I see your face
I am captured by your beauty
You unassuming grace
and I feel my heart is turning
falling into place

12 thoughts on “conversion”

  1. Just catching up with your blog today. humph!! didn’t want to be seen in public with a Josh Groban CD eh? why would you feel like that?

  2. Momisa, I love his voice and hate his arrangements (which I suspect are due more to marketing demands than musical integrity). Less is often more.

    His eyes on the other hand…

  3. Just to take the conversation down to a lower level….repetence and confession….I agree with you Kimberly that managing an open discussion about the notion of such key theological consolations is difficult.

    Even if folk do feel ‘cut off’ from their spirituality because they have an insight that suggests they’ve done something that isn’t right for them, it is hard to find a way through the historically generated fear that’s been caused by confession as ‘surviellance of one’s private sphere’. The joke is that our conscience’s do have the power to isolate us. Without some sort of conversation with either God or another trustworthy person whose ears are, for want of a better description, acting as God’s empathy, how can we feel part of a community?
    The trouble is that saying we’re sorry often also requires that we accept that just because we do things that hurt other people/God? doesn’t mean that we are inherently bad.
    And now I am beginning to waffle…sorry….have many thoughts on the resolving aspects of confession and repentence…..

  4. Actually, Vicky, despite forgiveness being at the heart of the gospel, I think that the church (and certainly many congregations and individual Christians) do it very badly.

    British culture seems to have a deep instinct to avoid admitting error (largely down to the schooling system that emphasises ‘right answers’), a fear of conflict, and a tendency therefore to ‘carry on as before’ rather than acknowledging real hurt or wrongdoing. That makes repentance hard, and forgiveness harder.

    Which is not to say that Americans are any better at it, but the blocks might be somewhat different.

    I think friendship has a lot to teach in terms of the dynamics of forgiveness, but the sort of friendship that can teach it is itself rare.

  5. Perhaps then friendship in youth is a key starting point for our understanding of forgiveness? Yet I do wonder how much longevity of friendship is a critical aspect of the confessional relationship?

  6. Do you think it is more often a blocking of an overly large sense of guilt, or having no sense at all?

    Is it an inability to forgive oneself, or having no model of what repentance and forgiveness looks like, or simply not experiencing the need till later in life?

    Is it a problem with the idea of confession to God, to oneself, or a sacramental face-to-face sort of confession?

    I made my first sacramental confession when I was eleven. No one made me – they taught us about it at diocesan camp and I signed up. I did, however, arrange to see a priest who was not my school chaplain since one of the things weighing heavily on my conscience involved kids at school. That, and not practicing my violin… I remember just bounding down the hill from the outdoor chapel afterwards, feeling 50 pounds lighter.

    That didn’t mean I went again soon.

    These days, I only go to a priest I fully trust (one in particular), and then not often. But it can be very helpful. I usually set aside a whole hour if possible so we can talk through things. I think it’s good for me not only in the sense of getting things off my chest, but also in getting me to look at things I don’t want to look at – mostly they aren’t as bad as I think they are, but sometimes they’re more so. Good to have someone to face it all with, the sort of person who will speak truth, but with love and acceptance.

    I’d be interested in hearing what people do to help themselves and others to forgive (self and others).

    Vicky – I bet quality of friendship is more important than longevity, although longevity helps with trust, of course. I don’t think my friends and I were very good at forgiveness when we were young, but I wasn’t very mature, either. It was my little sisters, if anyone, who taught me about that. And maybe my parents.

  7. Hi Sarah. Yes I think quality of friendship is critical, but I also think that longevity allows for a historical perspective on shared experiences. Sometimes that historical perspective can make light of repeating patterns or challenge them.

    I see this as particularly relevant to people who feel guilty because of their sexuality, especially those who find themselves excluded from a church and for whom reconciliation will only come through a fundamental rejection of the self. This seems to me such a rupture in relationship that having a friendship that goes beyond the simple ecclesial boundaries can be critical. Of course, I tend not to see the clergy as the best source of reconciliation in these circumstances, but sometimes they are the only ones to help someone overcome the split.

    Also you asked about whether the blocking is due to an overly large sense of guilt or having no sense of it. If studies on the nature and experience of ‘shame’ are any kind of barometer of guilt, then they would suggest that except for some unusual cases most of us have a sense of guilt often attached to a more nebulous ‘ashamed’-of-self experience and that this develops at a young age, is heightened within and through adolescence (hence our difficulties with forgiveness then)….ut oh, I’ve started a lecture, sorry. Not the place for a belly rumble.

    Actually, I too go to a priest irregularly (normally once every couple of years) and find that his knowledge of me and my situation yet his detachment from it both geographically and socially mixed with his beliefs and faith are a very potent force for helping me forgive myself.

  8. No, no, lectures are good! I asked!

    Say more about friendship “that goes beyond the simple ecclesial boundaries, ” if you would.

    I do agree that historical perspective on shared experiences helps.

  9. And if we are talking about friendship that helps forge a deeper understanding of forgiveness, hurt and betrayal help too. But only if you make it past them.

    It’s a fine balancing line — I think maybe you catch a glimmer of God’s forgiveness first, then are forced to reckon with it in human terms, but till you’ve faced it in human terms, you have no sense of scale for what God is really doing.

  10. Yes, I think that is true. I think it is true of the whole of Christian life – live a bit, learn a bit, live a bit more. Slow slow process.

    I think also it is important to learn what needs forgiveness and what does not. Oddly enough, following conversations today, I spent a good deal of time thinking about this. About the fact that evil so often seems to have certain hall marks: dishonesty and disinformation, secrecy, selfishness, and passing on hurt. The older I become, and some days it does feel pretty old, let me tell you – the more I become convinced that absorbing hurt and not passing it on is central to the work of being Christ’s body in the world.

  11. I realise I’ve not made evident the sub-text. I don’t think one’s sexuality is something one needs forgiveness for. However in all human relationships of what kind so ever we give hurt, do harm and constantly need forgiveness. That is how we learn.

    It is when we are tempted to dishonest actions, ways of life, and selfish relief of one’s own hurts at cost to others that the real alarm bells should sound. (been there, done that, got the T shirt….)

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