Confession is an integral part of what it mean to be human. Everyone screws up, and people work better together if they realize that they are in an iterative process – in other words, we admit our mistakes to help us grow. Confession is a place where we can seek forgiveness and be reconciled or seek healing in our brokenness.
I’m not trying to get around the role of guilt in confession or making confession for the purpose of reconciliation. Guilt just does not offer the some total to understanding the role and purpose of confession. Human beings are dynamic and growing creatures. Confession is the fruitful soil where we recognize the parts of our personality, thoughts, actions, and feelings that restrain us from growth and affording thus the opportunity to move.
This movement comes from the work of grace and causes true growth.
Confessions come in all shapes and sizes. You could be admitting a great truth, admitting fault or flaw, or just praying. All fit within the paradigm of growth in a way that simply looking at guilt wouldn’t really allow. St. Francis and Thomas Aquinas and St. Patrick and John Wesley and Walter Bruggeman all the saints have left great prayers of confession and words to inspire us to examination, conviction, and growth.
But I’m going to deviate from them. Even my personal favorite of Thomas Aquinas is getting a second line today, because I want something different. Those prayers invoke parts of our head and our heart, but looking at verse without looking at what is coming out now misses out on works that truly engage with where we are now. Ideally, I’d reproduce some of Les Murray and some other great poets and blogs that I’ve encountered over the last few days, but I am going to stick to what I used in the workshop: Derek Web and Mumford and Sons.
Here is an excerpt from Derek Web’s song “Wedding Dress” courtesy of Metro Lyrics:
If you could love me as a wife
And for my wedding gift your life
Should that be all Ill ever need
Or is there more Im looking for
And should I read between the lines
And look for blessings in disguise
To make me handsome, rich and wise
Is that really what you want
‘Cause I am a whore, I do confess
I put you on just like a wedding dress
And I run down the aisle
I run down the aisle
Or Im a prodigal with no way home
I put you on just like a ring of gold
And I run down the aisle
I run down the aisle to you
So could you love this bastard child
Though I dont trust you to provide
With one hand in a pot of gold
And with the other in your side
‘Cause I am so easily satisfied
By the call of lovers so less wild
That I would take a little cash
Over your very flesh and blood
I remember showing this song to a person who wasn’t used to thinking in poetic imagery, and they were appropriately shocked to hear this language. After listening, they found the lyrics compelling. “Wedding Dress” is not completely recent, I’ve been listening to it since 2002 or 2003, but the impact sticks with me.
If you join in singing it, you find yourself admitting that we are not all that we are cracked up to be in the midst of easy distractions we recognize the call of the love that is still for us. Without a doubt I relate, and I think it is a confession in a modern spirit.
But I want to end with Mumford and Sons and in doing so bring culpability and guilt back into the equation. Back in 2010 these guys nearly won album of the year and in my mind they’re still better than Adele. They seem to capture the complexity and the darkness of human relationships while looking at them with a lens towards hope. Confession of sin should end in hope, and that’s why I love these guys for putting us into the darkness with an eye towards hope.
An Excerpt from Mumford & Sons’ song “Little Lion Man”:
Weep for yourself, my man,
You’ll never be what is in your heart
Weep, little lion man,
You’re not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rake yourself
Take all the courage you have left
And waste it on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head
But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear?
Didn’t I, my…
Tremble for yourself, my man,
You know that you have seen this all before
Tremble, little lion man,
You’ll never settle any of your scores
Your grace is wasted in your face,
Your boldness stands alone among the wreck
Now learn from your mother or else spend your days biting your own neck
Now this song offers us words in the times where we’ve screwed up a relationship that we want fixed. It’s in poems and songs like this that we can understand remorse and grief and allow ourselves to find hope in the midst. Now, I will admit, the hope comes from their other songs and their newer album. This song may not seem to embrace hope, but I think it’s there in the words the cry out for change to take up all the courage we have. Courage isn’t courage without hope.
I hope that these two songs will help you reimagine the fruitful ground for growth, and more than that, I hope these two songs and artists provide you with a vernacular that captures where you are and invites you into something deeper and greater or a place of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. In other words, I hope they are songs and words that make you hunger for more.