“Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
In the 80s, we had Al Franken as Stuart Smalley, and his daily affirmation: “I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, and Gosh darn it, people like me.” Stuart Smalley was satire, but he articulated the cult of self-satisfied cheap grace that was widespread at the time.
In the 90s and Oughts, we had Dr. Phil, who regularly called people on the carpet for their behaviors, challenging them to understand how they might be responsible for the situation in which they found themselves. People were attracted to Dr. Phil because even though he could be direct to the point of pain, all those daily affirmations hadn’t really done much for their bottom line.
And in the current decade we have Brené Brown, the Vulnerability Guru, she who said, “only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Our Christian tradition offers us a hybrid of Dr. Phil and Brené Brown: the ancient practice of confession, a chance to own up to our collaboration in our own calamities, to acknowledge our imperfection, and instead be co-conspirators with God in the changing of our lives.
The benefit of confession is that, by admitting our weaknesses, to our God and to ourselves, we come into our strength. My church goes one further: we also admit our sins and frailties publicly, and it has made our community juicy, vigorous and real.
The drinking problem, the marital tension, the rage issue, the untreated anxiety: each of these, brought out of the darkness, inevitably draws us into the Light. Vulnerability is the new strength, and taking responsibility is a power position—the ultimate power position.
God, give me the courage to tell the truth to myself and one other person, today, so I can receive the gift of Your grace and power. Amen.
Molly Baskette is lead pastor of the quirky, loveable and truth-telling First Church Somerville UCC in Somerville, MA. Read their personal testimonies in her latest book, Standing Naked Before God: The Art of Public Confession.