Booksmart: Grounds for Confession


I spend a lot of time reading and listening to good stuff—wise words from teachers I respect. I’ve done this my entire adult life. Generally, I’m eager to learn new insight, ways I can be a better human, more at peace, closer to God, etc. I use this wise stuff I believe to be true—in my daily life.


And sometimes I don’t use it. Sometimes I operate like I know nothing good about being good, or doing good, or feeling good. Sometimes all that knowledge I have accumulated over the years seems useless. I can’t apply a thing.


This is devastatingly disappointing and frustrating.


I know better.


But I just.






I have an older washing machine. I don’t know if that’s germane, but perhaps it should be noted.


Sometimes now, my washing machine will allow me to open the lid when it’s in the spin cycle. Up until recently, It never would.  Before, if it’s spinning, it’s locked. I couldn’t override it. And most times, I still can’t. I can’t manually force it open. And the dial doesn’t work. After it’s stubbornly done what “it needs to do,” it gradually slows to a stop and I can hear a “click” as though it’s saying under a satisfied smile, “Okay. I’m good and ready; open me.” There is that rare occasion when it’s spinning and I want to open it for various reasons (ie. I realized I had accidentally washed a garment meant only for hand wash and want to pull it out before it gets damaged) and it opens easily and the spinning will then slow to a stop and I can pull out that piece of clothing. Or maybe I’m impatient, in a rush and want to expedite getting that load into the dryer. Point is, occasionally my machine, now, will permit me to intervene–pausing or stopping the spin cycle.


Brooke Castillo is a teacher I respect. I’ve learned a great deal from her. Wise stuff. Brooke talks about getting caught in a “spin cycle.” This is when your thoughts/feelings/emotions are in a continuous negative loop and you just can’t get out; you just can’t stop it. You may have some awareness that you’re in it, but you just can’t get that lid open. Or, as I have experienced, I am so out of control under its force, I don’t even want to try. That willful, blatant rebellion is a dark place in that barrel, my friends. Is it just me, or can you relate?


I hope so. I mean, I don’t, but I do, if I’m honest.  Just so I’m not alone.


So, oftentimes, the barrel spins until it’s good and ready to stop. Meanwhile that “hand wash only garment” in the blurry spin is getting a beating.


A couple of days after Christmas, John and I headed to Portland to spend some time with our daughter, Cassie and our grandson, Brooks. Cassie suggested we visit a festival of lights nearby. I didn’t know what to expect other than a cool light show, and that I wanted to stay warm. We arrived at the event, which was held on the grounds of “The Grotto,” a Catholic botanical garden and sanctuary (complete with a jaw-dropping cave carved out of a110-foot basalt cliff which displays a statue of Mary holding Jesus). We strolled down the aisles lined with spectacular, colorful lights. It was an impressive sight and I loved seeing the reflection in Brooks’ eyes and watching his excited, bouncy footsteps running ahead.


But it wasn’t until we stopped to listen to carolers on a small, outdoor stage that it “clicked.” All bundled up in fourteen REI layers and a down jacket sitting on that bench, I heard the words to the song being sung, “Mary did you know?” and I began to cry.  My “light bulb” flickered and grew to overwhelming—to a glaring brilliance surpassing any of the glorious lighting around me, and even that dramatic cave.


Returning to our washing machine metaphor, I realized:


I was in a spin cycle the entire Christmas season. I was oblivious. I realized up until that point, I had missed the point. As a Christian, the point of Christmas is the birth of Christ. I admit to myself—confessed—I hadn’t thought about the birth of Christ, like, at all. I couldn’t remember ever missing Christmas this badly, so utterly clueless.


I felt great remorse.


The question posed in the song is “Mary, did you know?” Through the previous weeks, I was living like I didn’t know at all. I was so distracted by everything else—stressed by my spinning world, applying none of what I believe to be true.


And I did know better.


On my own power, I couldn’t get out of the spin. I had awareness of the uncontrollable negative spin, but no awareness that because of that spin, I was missing the Christ in Christmas—I wasn’t living as though I knew—know—that He is the savior of my spinning, out-of-control world, vicious-cycle world.


Applying humble knowledge and ultimate wisdom that He can do all the things the lyrics claim, that He can do for me what I cannot do for myself.


Even that.


As this machine of mine gets older, I will keep reading, listening, learning, applying, and perhaps most key and best of all, confessing. Maybe that key will open the lid a little sooner and more often—the light let in, the garments found all intact, clean.