The first step in the journey from sorrow to joy is to mourn our losses (pp. 41-43).
To “mourn” a loss is to bring it out in the open, not leave it in hiding. Things left hidden only make matters worse. Things hidden become deformative rather than formative.
This is essentially what the Bible calls “confession.” The word is made up of two parts: “con” (with) and “fession” (statement). To confess essentially means to agree with the statement, whatever it happens to be.
That’s what “mourning a loss” is—agreeing that there is a loss; agreeing that something thought, said, or done (to us or by us) should not have been so.
The fallen world says, “Cut your losses and move on.” But the Christian way is to “Confess your losses and move on.” There is a great difference. The former way treats losses as inert baggage. So, just get rid of them.
But the Christian way teaches that our losses have left “holes in the soul.” The holes must be filled. And the beginning of the filling the acknowledgement that the hole is there in the first place. The holes are not merely lifeless vacuums; they are “open wounds” that, left untreated, will spew their infection all over the place.
This is why our Eastern Orthodox friends view sin as “disease.” Redemption is not only deliverance (being “cut loose”), but also healing (being “cured”).
Nouwen writes about it this way, “True healing begins the moment that we can face the reality our losses and let go of the illusions of control” (p. 43).
For Nouwen, control (the opposite of confession) is the way we deal with our losses out of fear—fear that acknowledging them will make us “less” (that is, our “image” will suffer). On the contrary, confession enables us to deal with our losses in ways that make us “more”—more than we currently are, and in some cases, more than we can ask or imagine.
Confession is the way Christians mourn losses, because confession brings us into the presence of the God who redeems—the God who delivers and heals.