If you’ve ever been on a long trip, whether as a parent or a child, “Are we there yet,” is a common question. So common that some people can time when the next time the question will be asked. The “are we there yet” question is an event- and time-based question with an answer.
“Are we there yet,” when asked as a spiritual question is something completely different. In a performance-based culture, such as ours, there are often attempts to assess and evaluation the successfulness of our holiness.
If we are not careful, this can become overwhelming, and even deadly to our spiritual growth. If we are so concerned about how we are evaluated and what the measure is, we are often tempted to meet the “requirement” of action without the heart-change that we seek.
When we perform “holiness” through tasks and checkboxes we become as overburdened as the Jews had been for so long with their Law. Thus our “holiness” becomes an act of will. So, when we are tired, discouraged, down, or something else, our holiness house of cards comes tumbling down.
Paul wasn’t there yet. In Romans, he expresses his grief/frustration/reality that he keeps missing the mark of things. He recognizes a conflict between our human nature bent towards its own gratification, and our God-nature desiring to be in God’s grace, mercy, and love.
He also writes to the Philippians much the same way. He knows he is “there” yet. That doesn’t stop him from reaching toward the “goal” with all his might. In many respects, Paul’s “forgetting” is key to moving forward. We are all inclined to remember our failures (especially when they are painful). It is especially important to have someone to confess to and be held accountable by. Oddly, that seems to help us move on.
Then there is the “confession” that has been used for generations in some traditions regarding confession and redemption. The sin is an issue. The unconfessed, unrepented, and unreconciled (can be read as unforgiven, but not entirely accurate) sin is the bigger issue. When John talks about not being in fellowship, it is the unconfessed, unrepented, and unreconciled sin that “shows” we are walking in darkness.
Paul and John (and others) know full well that we have an advocate who is looking to judge us but to forgive us.
※Prayer of Confession from the Book of Common Prayer (2019)※
Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy laws
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
and apart from your grace, there is no health in us.
O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Spare all those who confess their faults.
Restore all those who are penitent,
according to your promises declared to all people in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may now live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.