This past Sunday I shared the following confession with my faith community. Every year, we do a Lenten book study and this year’s focus is on the art of public confession. To guide some of our discussions we will be using Molly Phinney Baskette’s book Standing Naked Before God.
“We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” -2 Corinthians 3:12-(4:2)
Today I’m going to confess. I mean, really confess and lay bare something I am struggling with.
Earlier this week, Pastor Keith and I were sharing our thoughts and reflections during our weekly prayer call. Yes, your pastors gather at least once a week to pray together—and in these coming weeks and months I hope and pray that everyone here today would also have a prayer partner. But that is besides the point…
In our conversation, pastor Keith and I found ourselves wrestling with a verse about love. From Matthew 22:37-39, it reads:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In other words, we are to love God and love our neighbor. I am struggling to love my neighbor. Namely, my mother.
As many of you know, my mom, who struggles with alcohol, had a relapse. And I am struggling with my judgment and my anger. I don’t want to love her right now. In fact, I honestly want nothing to do with her. After several flip flops this week (that’s what I call her alcohol induced mood swings) I even considered blocking her on my phone.
I’m tired of the lies and excuses for why she hasn’t been going to AA. I’m tired of her lashing out via text, and not knowing which version of my mom I’m gonna get. I’m tired of being blamed for her drinking.
But even more than that – I’m tired of being angry. I’m angry all the time now.
When she was 60 days sober, I was less prone to anger. In fact, I rather liked my mom again. If anything throughout the day, she was the first person I would reach out to. Hey mom, guess what – this happened. Or, in a moment of crisis, I thought, “better text mom!” She was that vibrant, confident, strong, dependable woman again.
Indeed, she was my mom and I, at the ripe age of 29, finally got to be the child. However, that’s no longer the case. We’re back to where we began. I’m tip toeing around her illness. Needing to set boundaries when she blasts me at 2am. Now I’m the parent. And I must confess, I’m feeling pretty angry about it.
In the book we’ll be reading for this year’s Lenten study, Standing Naked Before God: The Art of Public Confession, Molly Phinney Baskette relies on Paul Tillich’s definition of sin. That is, anything that separates us from God, neighbor, or being our best selves.
As I was reading this week it finally hit me, I’m not just angry with my mother. I’m angry with myself. I’m angry for the part I’ve played in enabling my mother for so long. I’m angry with my lack of boundaries. I’m angry but that feels better than feeling powerless.
I’m addicted to my own anger.
Did you come here angry today?
Is your anger getting in the way of your relationship with your neighbor?
What about your relationship with God?
If not anger, then what?
I’m tired of feeling alone in my anger. I want to take it to God but something in me feels guilty and wrong for being so angry. Part of me feels ashamed. It’s getting in the way of so many of my relationships. So what’s left for me to do?
Today I come to this place to make the shameful things in my life less hidden. Today I bring my anger to God; “but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.”
Loving my mom is really hard right now. But that’s not the point. God loves her even when I can’t. And God calls me through God’s unconditional love of me, to love her too.
The point isn’t her sins. It’s mine. And I have sinned against in her my judgment, in the withholding of love because I am angry.
It’s time I trust the work God is doing in her.
Is there someone in your life you’re having a hard time loving?
Maybe it’s a family member? Your neighbor? Maybe it’s even you.
Today, I confess to struggling with all three. But more importantly, I struggle with loving someone who is addicted. Especially when that person is me. Will you pray with me?
Prayer of Confession:
Loving Creator, we come to you to renounce the shameful things that we hide. Forgive us for the ways we have not loved our neighbors – some of who are our very own family members. Help us to love like you and to trust the work that you are doing within each and every one of us. Transform us. Make us living testaments of your love. In the name of Jesus, love incarnate, we pray. Amen.