When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to God."
And you forgave the guilt of my sin. - Psalm 32:3-5
He sat in the church study and described a conflict with his closest friend. Not the details of the conflict, which didn't seem to interest him. He described the pain that he carried. And how it grew.
He and his friend were close. Their relationship was playful, emotionally rich, full of care. The friend had done something that hurt him. It wasn't much: a careless word, a moment of neglect. A slight so slight he let it slide. But it rankled. The silence was a kind of fertilizer for the hurt; better than the richest compost. It grew.
He made the connection before I did: "That's like sin, I suppose. A momentary lapse that grows until it affects the whole relationship."
(How apt, I thought, that the psalmist added "Selah" right here, a word that probably means "pause," as though to intensify the image of wasting away, groaning, heaviness as of summer heat.)
"What happened next?" I asked.
"I summoned all my resolve," he said, "and one day when we walked through the park I told her, 'I feel hurt and the hurt's making me angry.'"
"She just took it in," he said. "She said, 'What I said was careless and hurtful. I'm sorry.'"
Now he paused. "I've can't recall ever feeling such lightness before."
It doesn't always work that well. But healing can happen. You can be light again — the psalm says even God can be.
Restoring God, grant me the fortitude to own up when I've caused hurt, the courage to tell when I'm hurting, the grace to give and receive forgiveness. May each part bring me closer to you. Amen.
John A. Nelson is the Pastor of the Niantic Community Church (UCC/UMC) in Niantic, Connecticut.