Confession is the first of Foster's corporate disciplines. While you can effectively practice the inward disciplines alone, and you can practice the outward disciplines without support from your community, you can't practice the corporate disciplines without being intentionally aligned with those around you.
Here's a sports analogy: You've read the rule book, you've run your miles, and you've trained your body, but why go to all that trouble? Some people exercise just to feel good or for personal health (which is a very good thing to do!), but there's much, much more joy to be had when you're part of a larger group with a common goal.
God didn't leave us with an individualistic system of "spirituality" or "mindfulness." In fact, he taught us that to "Love God and love others" is the summary of all the moral and legal portions of the Bible. This presupposes a relationship. You can study, meditate, and fast all day and night, but if you never find or create a community with common goals, you'll likely find that you hit a developmental wall and that your motivation wanes rapidly.
what is confession?
We do not have to make God willing to forgive. In fact, it is God who is working to make us willing to seek his forgiveness.
Confession is simply telling someone about the things you've done. You could definitely confess only the good things, but that's probably not where you'll experience the benefits of confession. The good things you've done in secret don't eat you from the inside out. Good things, when brought to the light, don't lose their grip of fear on your life.
This is why when we discuss confession, we only mean confessing the things we've done that harm us—the things that reduce our ability to flourish in loving God and others. These are the things that keep you from sleeping at night, or the things that, every time you're reminded about them, make a rock in your stomach.
Confessing these things helps us to accept the forgiveness that God's already given us. It helps us feel the grace and love that God's already extended to us. Without confession, we can claim to believe that God has removed sin's power to harm us, but confession really proves it to ourselves and to others.
Foster reminds us that, "We do not have to make God willing to forgive. In fact, it is God who is working to make us willing to seek his forgiveness." Confession is a natural part of the process of healing from the wounds that sin causes. Christians philosophers claim that sin isn't bad because God says it's bad. Sin is bad because it reduces our ability to flourish as humans, to love God, and to love others.
For example, telling lies limits our ability to live a life aligned with reality. This makes every interaction and life choice more difficult, more stressful, and more incongruous with how we'd like to live. Lies make us choose between true reality—a reality where our loving God is constantly near us, redeeming the world by redeeming our hearts—and lies that tell us we're less valuable as people and that we're not worthy of love.
I bring up lies because avoiding confession is a type of lying. It denies the simultaneous realities that we are forgiven and that sin is horrendously harmful. If we believe that we are forgiven, why are we reticent to confess? There's no horrendous thing we could do to separate us from that forgiveness. Further, sin causes wounds (sometimes physical, usually spiritual), and when we choose to seek healing we're admitting that we need healing. It's only once we admit that we've created a problem for ourselves and others that we can move along and start to fix it. Sin takes away our flourishing—confession is the first step in bringing it back.
This post just scratched the surface on the beautiful Christian exercise of confession. When we confess our sins, it helps us live in line with reality and begin to regain the state of flourishing that God created us for.
In subsequent posts, I'll discuss more of the mechanics of confession, specifically as Foster (a Radical, Protestant Quaker) understands them. But in the meantime, go! Confess.