God Loves a Tattle Tale
My husband does shift work, so often he’s at work at night. He loves it when our daughters send him text messages to say goodnight. It’s something that makes him feel loved and remembered while he’s gone. The other night, while my husband was working, I let one of my daughters stay up to get some homework done. She assured me that she wouldn’t be up much longer, so I went to bed. She’d had plenty of chances to get the homework done over the weekend, but she didn’t. She really didn’t use her time very well, and she knew it—and I knew it. (But, alas, teaching your teenage daughter how to manage her time in the age of cell phones and Instagram is a topic for another time.)
The next morning, my husband came home and told me that he had gotten a text message from our daughter at 11:30 p.m. Boy, was she going to get the time-management lecture when she got home from school! During their conversation, my husband mentioned to her that he wouldn’t have known how late she had been up if she hadn’t texted him. Her reply surprised me. She said, “Dad, I knew that I would get caught, but it didn’t change the fact that I wanted to tell you goodnight and that I love you.” Was she trying to butter her old dad up? Get the sentence reduced? Maybe. But I know the way I operate is to make sure I don’t get caught in the first place, not tattle on myself and hope I can manipulate things later.
Two important truths struck me about my daughter’s response. First, she knew that it would be ok for her dad to know about her failure. How many of us feel that way about God—that it is ok for him to know? In fact, he already does. But my usual response is to see if I can hide it anyway. My daughter, however, was so confident in how much her daddy loves her that she knew that she could tattle on herself. She knew there might be a hard conversation; she knew there might be consequences. Yet, she ratted herself out anyway. Why? Because she knew it would be ok. She knew the discipline would be in love (Heb 12:6). How often do I avoid God because I just don’t want to deal with my sin? Because I’m afraid I’ll somehow let him down? Because it’s just easier for me to pretend it didn’t happen? How confident am I in God’s love for me?
Second, she was more driven by her love for her daddy than by her own comfort or desire to hide her sin. My daughter knows how much her daddy loves her, and she knows how much he loves being thought of while he’s at work. When we are assured that God loves us, we are compelled to love him in return. And that drives us to set aside our own comfort and selfish agenda. It drives us to want to get our sin out of the way of the relationship. What if we loved God every day in such a way that we weren’t willing to let our sin or our failures keep us from saying, “I love you, daddy?” For the Christian, there is no reason we can’t do that. Because of Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection, there is no wall between us and our Father—there is nothing that we can’t bring to his feet (Heb 4:16). He longs to show us mercy and compassion (Isa 30:18) and he loves us with a great and steadfast love (Ps 103:11).
These two truths are what’s at the heart of confession. Confession is trusting God with our sin. It is giving up control of our sin, ceasing from trying to manage it on our own, and humbly speaking it to him. Confession is saying to God, “I know I’ve sinned. You know I’ve sinned. Here is my sin. I trust that Jesus’ work has paid my debt. I trust that you forgive me. And I trust that any consequences have been lovingly sifted through your hands.” When we confess, God stands ready to forgive. He loves us, and he delights in being loved by us—so much so that we can tattle on ourselves.