I prefer meaningful conversation to small talk. I imagine most of us do. And while not everyone is up for a soul-baring session, it’s nice to get to know people on a level that goes deeper than “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?”
The other night, a group of parishioners did just that. It was our first “Third Thursday” — a new offering following Candlelight Communion on the third Thursday of the month. After a little music and mingling, we sat around tables and picked up stacks of cards with discussion prompts:
- Which Bible character would you most want to have a drink with?
- Do I seem like an Old Testament person or a New Testament person?
- What is your earliest recollection of God?
- Draw a picture together of a Bible scene. (Each person adds to the picture for 30 seconds.)
The people at my table happily answered the questions posed and had a blast with the drawing exercise. Our rendition of the Last Supper was actually recognizable!
Then came this card: “Admit something.”
Everyone’s eyes got big. Someone let out a nervous laugh. There were a few seconds of hesitation during which I considered leading the charge. But just as I was ready to come clean about a bad parenting moment, someone else broke the silence. After that, everyone was ready to chime in. We spilled the tea quite eagerly in fact. Our admissions were a mix of guilt, regret, embarrassment and humor.
I remember the same thing happening a few years ago. A group of us were having coffee after the weekly service of Tuesday Morning Prayer. Somehow we ended up in the metaphoric confessional booth. The admissions included road rage, snarky comments made to family members, and a hilarious sidewalk altercation over umbrella etiquette. This woman’s umbrella kept poking me, and she clearly didn’t care. I had to say SOMETHING!
We’ve all experienced the unburdening that comes with confessing a sin or simply admitting a point of pain. At our table on Third Thursday, there were plenty of head nods, expressions of empathy, and moments of identifying with one another’s experiences. We were “bear[ing] one another’s burdens” in the manner of Galatians 6:2, which resulted in a felt sense of hope and connection.
Doesn’t that type of honesty feel good? Bringing a secret, however deep and dark, into the light often leads to growth. It gives us added courage to make changes in our lives and ways of thinking and, where needed, to make amends. Most importantly, it allows us to receive God’s grace more fully and, in turn, show that grace to ourselves and others.
Is there something you need to admit? To yourself, to God, to another person if you’re so bold? Go for it. Give yourself permission to own the mistake, the setback or the suffering. Because you know who else bears those burdens? Jesus.
He is always there with grace on offer and always ready lighten the load. This is a truth so important that we include it in our services of Holy Eucharist. And it’s no coincidence that it follows the confession and absolution. So, dear friends:
Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.
Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heaven laden, and I will refresh you. (Matthew 11:28)