Yesterday, I was once again listening to NPR on my Worldspace satellite radio, when I heard about something called “PostSecrets” It seems that someone has started a service where people are encouraged to send in their secrets on anonymous, handmade postcards. Many of these are available in a book, and some are posted on the PostSecrets blog.

Most of the secrets that are shared are actually confessions. As the radio played in the background, the one that really caught my attention was from someone who worked at Starbucks. “Whenever a customer is rude to me,” the server confessed, “I give them decaf.” I’ll be sure to be nice the next time I order coffee, especially if it’s first thing in the morning.

Other confessions are much more serious, and some even tragic.

“When I was 4, I told my grandpa I hated him. He died before I could apologize. I’m still sorry.”

“I suspect my religious upbringing is the reason I can’t get turned on without breaking the rules.” This confession was written around a portrait of Jesus that had been decorated with a rather comic mustache.

You’ve heard that there are no atheists in foxholes. Two confessions, which take quite opposite approaches, might make us wonder if there are really atheists anywhere. One person wrote, “I always say that I don’t believe in God. No one knows that I pray to him every night, ‘Dear God, don’t let me die alone.’” Another wrote, “I tell people I’m an atheist, but I believe I’m going to hell.”

Others, through this service, have begun to learn something of the power of confession. The radio program reported about one woman who wrote that she had originally written her six secrets that she was afraid to tell to anyone on postcards and had intended to mail them. Then she decided to share them with the person whose rejection she most feared. She placed them on the pillow beside the head of her sleeping boyfriend, and headed off to work. That day, her boyfriend showed up at her work place and asked her to marry him.

I thought that this was a marvelous illustration of God’s love toward us. The only thing that hinders from fully experiencing his love is those dark spots on our soul that we try to keep him or anyone else from seeing. We want everyone, including God, to think that we have it all together, when really we are torn apart inside. All God is waiting for is for us to bring those dark secrets into the light and release them to him. He will never spurn those who cry out for his love.

It should be the same way in the church. The flip side of confession is called absolution. I used to think that meant some kind of human “binding and loosing” of God’s forgiveness. It may have something to do with that, but much more simply, it simply means helping one another accept the forgiveness that has already been granted in Christ. When God says that he will forgive our confessed sins, we sometimes have trouble believing that simple promise. We need brothers and sisters to come alongside us, not only to say, “I forgive you,” but also to say “You are forgiven.” They help us believe God’s promise.

When James says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed,” I think he had a holistic view of healing—it has physical, spiritual, emotional, and social dimensions. Confession is good for the soul. True healing, however, doesn’t come through an anonymous postcard (though that could be a good beginning), but, like the girlfriend learned, through personal encounter—an encounter with the living God and the community of his people.

So…what’s your secret?