“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men (Luke 15:18-19).”
The younger son is now ready to turn toward home. Aware of his deep hunger and awake to his ghastly plight, he composes the words he needs to speak to his father whom he has abandoned. “I have sinned against heaven and against you.” The Greek word we translate into English as “sin” is far more poignant than we often realize. It signifies one who has utterly missed the mark, like an arrow shot at a target that has sailed right past its goal altogether. What a tragic confession! The younger son now understands and admits that the cumulative effect of his many decisions is that he has missed the mark, the goal, the target of his life. His is a heartrending admission of failure. At the very same moment, however, his confession is profoundly hopeful. It is a moment of great honesty, an occasion of admitting something that had been true for some time but that he is only now courageous enough to admit. It is the place where forgiveness, healing and a new life direction can emerge.
Think for a moment about how much energy we spend in self-justification. We are told that someone else could do our job better than we are doing it and we respond defensively. We are asked to be more helpful at home and we throw up arguments for our justification. We overlook our own faults and delight in noting those of others. Are our efforts at self-justification perhaps just masking the fear that we are missing the mark? How painful it is to recognize and admit our failings! Still, and this is the beauty of that which we remember during Lent, real turning, authentic transformation can take place only when we are able to look honestly at ourselves, become aware of how and where we are missing the mark, and then draw on the courage to confess the truth. Confession of sin does not have to be a breast-beating practice. It is not an obsession with failure or self-flagellation. Confession is a movement toward healing. It is an opening of the dark side of our lives to the forgiving and healing power of God. It is a crucial part of the journey to the heart of God.
Take a moment today to examine your attitudes and actions. Observe some of the ways you have missed the mark. Think of sins of commission and sins of omission. Confess them prayerfully, without fear. Entrust yourself to the one who justifies you through the cross of Jesus!