The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
whose sin is covered over, is truly happy!
The one the Lord doesn’t consider guilty—
in whose spirit there is no dishonesty—
that one is truly happy!
When I kept quiet, my bones wore out;
I was groaning all day long—
every day, every night!—
because your hand was heavy upon me.
My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought. Selah
So I admitted my sin to you;
I didn’t conceal my guilt.
“I’ll confess my sins to the Lord, ” is what I said.
Then you removed the guilt of my sin. Selah
That’s why all the faithful should pray to you during troubled times,
so that a great flood of water won’t reach them.
You are my secret hideout!
You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of rescue! Selah
I will instruct you and teach you
about the direction you should go.
I’ll advise you and keep my eye on you.
Don’t be like some senseless horse or mule,
whose movement must be controlled
with a bit and a bridle.
Don’t be anything like that!
The pain of the wicked is severe,
but faithful love surrounds the one who trusts the Lord.
You who are righteous, rejoice in the Lord and be glad!
All you whose hearts are right, sing out in joy!
I remember well the guilt. I was all of five-years-old when I committed the crime. We were visiting my paternal grandfather and his wife and they were “rich.” We weren’t particularly close but I loved going to their big home and seeing all of their beautiful things. And as I wandered into my grandfather’s office I saw it: a red Swingline stapler. Now I’ve always had great affection for office supplies! I carefully picked up the beautiful stapler and, without asking, put it in my pocket. It was mine!
I didn’t count on the guilt. Psalm 32 speaks pretty clearly about what happened next: “While I kept silence, my body wasted away…For day and night your hand was heavy upon me…” I carried the burden of guilt for a number of days. I pulled the stapler out and used it a few times but there was no joy. Finally, I carried it to our garage and hid it in the bottom of an old barrel. But the guilt stayed with me until finally I said to my mother one evening, “I need to tell you something.” And as the tears flowed I confessed my sin. I, of course, had to return the beautiful Swingline but it was worth it. My tears were gone, my body was restored to health, as though a load of bricks were removed from my shoulders.
The Church reminds us that our God is a loving and forgiving God and like the writer of Psalm 32 we are invited to dare to look at ourselves honestly and confess to God those things that prevent us from loving God and neighbor more completely. Maybe it’s a prejudice against one group or another, or an overuse of anger in the way we deal with family and friends, or the inability to trust that God is faithful. The good news we learn today from Psalm 32 is that God loves us just as we are in this moment, no matter what. And God is there, like a mother comforting a wayward child, to forgive, correct, and send us on our way to forgive others.
Take a moment this week when you are alone and consider what you might need to confess to God, trusting in God’s mercy, love, and restorative power.
God of compassion, as far as the east is from the west so far do you remove our brokenness from us. Forgive us, we pray, for all those actions and inactions that have kept us from living as you intend. Free us from all that would keep us from growing in our love of you and our fellow human beings. In the name of Jesus, the Christ, we pray. Amen.