I was rebuked for a sin today, via email. In the sting of rebuke, my soul was like the raccoons I have seen caught in my father's traps-panicking, darting from one side of the cage to the other, slamming against the narrow walls in a fruitless attempt to get free.
I knew I was guilty but that was unbearable, so I dashed fitfully to the left and to the right of truth, one second hating the messenger, the next second choosing a sulking posture, the next second donning a cocky attitude. It is a well-worn rut, and I jumped into it instantly.
After a while I decided I needed to repent and confess. (That was the sheer grace of God.)
Now that I have extricated myself from the darkness and come into some measure of light, I am getting a better look at what this thing is we call sulking. Sulking, I see now, is actually a form of manipulation. What the sulker gets out of her sulking is that she turns the situation around to deflect attention from her sin and onto her own neediness. She works self-pity to her advantage. She sulks to the person who rebuked her, trying to extract assurance from him of her worthiness. Thus, the rebuker is now put in the strange position of having to reassure the offender that she is not so bad after all, that she may even be too hard on herself. So while her blubbering over her sin may look outwardly like repentance, it is by no means clean.
Repentance that is clean is sober and clear-headed and not cloying. It is only once we have broken out of the darkness that we see how dark it was down there, and how sickly and unhealthy. James calls it "demonic" thinking (James 3:15).
Repentance that is clean is also free. While we are still running from repentance, we are actually controlled by fear of the worst hypotheticals happening to us. Once we lay all our cards on the table and confess, we find that nothing more can hurt us. There is nothing left to jump out of the shadows on us when we least expect it. This is liberating.
But what scares the wits out of me, in hindsight, is to see how instant my reflex is to dive into the darkness. Nevertheless, Ephesians 4:22 says to "put off your old self," so I know it can be done; Jesus doesn't give a command without giving the grace. The old self died and was buried, and its only power now is the power of the bluff. If we refuse its mastery, it will not be our master (Romans 6). By the available grace, we can make the time lag from dodging to confessing a shorter and shorter trip all the time.