“Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.” Psalm 32
Just a week or so ago, a woman came up to me at a conference and told me how much she’d enjoyed reading a novel of mine titled Touches the Sky. I’m thankful for any readers, but the ones who sing praises bring real delight. It’s an ego thing.
“The last chapter,” she told me, “—when I finished it, I cried.”
I can’t tell you how much that comment meant because the most indelible memory I have of having written that novel is the moment of its completion. I’d never felt exactly that way about anything I’d written, but when I finished the final chapter and wrote those last words—“please do, please do,” I was struck with the feeling that I had poured every last ounce of who I am into the novel.
It’s embarrassing, in a way, to say that. The person you might meet on the street—the man you speak to when you talk to me—me: I'm not so much the human being I am as the voice you hear in the words of that final chapter. It’s scary to say that, as if what I am normally doesn't show.
I used to tell my students that writers need to be flashers, willing to don and doff raincoats. It’s a lousy metaphor, (especially in a Christian school), but it gets their attention—and it’s not all wrong.
But then, of course, nakedness isn’t easy. Physically, it is to some people—hence nude beaches and colonies, not to mention gentlemen's clubs. But metaphorically it isn’t easy for any of us; even those who may well consider themselves most transparent can engineer pseudo-openness to cover their own precious nakedness.
I’m not sure any of us really know much about our nakedness because not many of us really know who we are. Some of us know we belong, body and soul, to our faithful Savior, and that’s an identity, a real identity. But who, really, are we? Who am I? That’s an essay question requiring a lifetime—actually, more—to answer.
When David retells the story he’s telling in Psalm 32, and when he gets to very heart of the action—“I acknowledge my sin and dropped the cover-up”—it’s amazing, isn’t it?--to remember that what he's saying is more than a little silly, that literally there was no cover up in the first place? Before God almighty, there are no flashers. There was nothing about the sordid Bathsheeba affair that God didn’t know while it was happening, even before—not the adultery or the premeditated murder of her husband Uriah. God saw it all. David, I got news--there never were any secrets.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fascination with secret sin is fascinating in itself, but, in a way, silly because God is not a TV detective. He doesn’t need clues or even confessions to know what happened. He knows where we’ve been, who we’ve seen, what we’ve done. Before his face, there are no secrets.
The really painful part of our coming to Him in confession is the injury, the pain which accrues when our precious will shatters like our pride, when we come to know we can’t do it on our own, when must crawl or be dragged before him.
When we give up, he smiles and nods and heals. When we come before him naked, he gives us a whole new wardrobe. What he wants, simply, is our human pride buckled before him. We have to get naked, even if there are no cover-ups.
That’s the song David is singing in Psalm 34.