Removing Veils - revealing leprosy
There's a fascinating little story in Exodus 4, where Moses asks God a question about how, if he agrees to lead Israel, people will know that God has sent him. The surprising answer from God comes when He tells Moses to put his hand in his coat. He does so, and when he pulls it out, it's leprous - diseased. Then he puts it back in his coat, and pulls it out again and it's whole - pure - baby soft. And then God says: "that they may believe that the Lord has appeared to you..." In other words: "Your credibility comes from people seeing your ongoing transformation from that which is diseased to that which is healthy and life giving."
Somewhere along the way, it became conventional wisdom to believe that our strength and credibility come from presenting ourselves as perfect. Thus do we go to great lengths to hide our weaknesses, even to the point where it becomes tragically ridiculous. Consider Bill Clinton's denial of his sexual misconduct, and the classic statement: "it depends on what you mean by the word 'is'". Or, consider the current adminstration's refusal to address their gross failures in the Iraq war (too many to mention, including blatant neglect of the rule of law w/ respect to torture, under-equipping of soldiers, mis-leading statements to the press, a general failure to understand the complexities of centuries old Islamic divisions between Sunnis and Shiites, and corruption among subcontractors). In spite of all this, things are "going according to plan." Such absurd declarations remove what vestiges of credibility remained. This kind of pride isn't the sole property of any single party.
And politicians aren't the only ones guilty of 'cover up'. We're told in II Corinthian 3 that Moses did the very same thing, wearing a veil to hide the fact that God's glory was 'fading away'. The man who was told that the progressive healing of the leprosy of sin in his life would be his credibility, became guilty of pretending he had no sin, by hiding behind a veil.
I think the point here is that we all need confession, and we all need to be less fearful of being authentic, open about our failures and weaknesses, struggles and doubts. When we brings our weaknesses out into the light, people are then able to see, over time, God's transforming work. But if we begin by presenting a posture of perfect health to others, we've nowhere to go but down, as our true selves come into the light. The story is told of a man who went to a one of the early church "desert fathers" to confess his sin, but was told by the ancient sage that he must first listen to the father's confession of his own sins, so that there would be a sense of mutuality and humility in the conversation. This is needed more than we realize, for it is only when others see us for who we really are, that they are able to see, support, and celebrate the journey of transformation that is intended to be the Christian life.
This being the case... why do we tend to hide our sins? How can the church create a more supportive environment, a safe place for confession and authenticity?