(Today I get to share with you the foreword I wrote for my friend’s excellent book Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Friendships. Make sure to check out the trailer and links to learn more about Catherine Parks and her new book. )
I’ve always had a sensitive conscience: even before I became a Christian, I would confess wrongdoing to my parents. Vulnerability was never difficult for me when I was younger.
Oddly, once I became a Christian, I started to become more aware of how I would be viewed by others, and that vulnerability all of a sudden felt much more risky. I was 22 and wanted to be accepted. But God was gracious to me and gave me two friends, two accountability partners, two people serious about God and eager for true and honest fellowship.
My two close friends and I did accountability consistently for several years (and even to this day, one of them and I will catch up as if those college and single years aren’t long gone). We would meet every other Friday afternoon. Our times together would consist of eating spaghetti, confession, encouragement, and prayers. We cried and laughed and shared the most intimate parts of ourselves. We were honest and open, often sharing things that might even make one blush with embarrassment.
Those formative years in my Christian walk were priceless. I learned the gift that is repentance and that I could bring anything before my heavenly Father. God was and remains incredibly approachable to me, because I know that if I confess my sin, he is faithful and just to forgive me and purify me (1 John 1 v 9). I know that I can come before his throne of grace and receive mercy and help in my time of need (Hebrews 4 v 16).
God also used those relationships to solidify my view of the church as a family. I knew that my friends and I weren’t simply three girls pouring out our hearts to one another. We were, and still are, sisters—co-heirs with Christ! Relationships in the church are essential for our walk with him. I know this because there were times when I wasn’t sure if I could walk the walk of faith. God used those relationships to keep me from wandering off course. Those sisters were in the race, in the fight, or—as my friend Catherine Parks has written here—on my team.
Those college friendships expanded beyond college into our single years and then through the beginning of our marriages. But as many of our stories go, two of us ended up moving away, beginning a search for new, deep relationships in our new homes.
When I moved to the Nashville area, I knew that the only way for me to truly settle in and make our new location feel like home was to (1) find a church and commit to it and (2) find some friends and begin to build deep and true relationships. The Lord was faithful in both cases. I had known of Catherine Parks via her online articles and book. I reached out to her to see if we could meet up, and it was one of the best decisions I could have made.
Catherine and I hit it off quickly and easily. I don’t remember all that we talked about, but I do remember going from “Nice to meet you” to “Let’s confess our sins” within a matter of a few hangouts (it may have even been our first!). I’m not good with surface-level conversations, so I dove right in. It was something I was used to; but it wasn’t necessarily Catherine’s default. Yet she made sure to let me know that for her, it was good and challenging to think beyond the surface and resist the urge to give coined answers of “I’m fine.”
I share this with you because I am both a reader and an author. As a reader, I want to know that the author is authentic and can write with at least a measure of authority on the topic; and as I’m a Christian reader, it’s even more assuring when I know that the author has integrity. Catherine has walked out and wrestled with the truth that she writes about in Real. She isn’t writing from a place of superiority or as someone who has arrived. Rather, Catherine is a fellow sojourner in the faith, on a mission to finish the race well. Confession, repentance, and being real are essential in that goal.
In Real you will find wise counsel, biblical exposition, and personal stories that will inspire, encourage, and challenge you as you seek to be honest with yourself and with those around you. We will learn the futility of chasing after what we think we want versus the value of chasing after what is right. We will learn to face our sin for what it is. No excuses. No defending.
But Catherine doesn’t leave us to wallow in condemnation and self-pity. That isn’t the point of confession, nor is it the goal of repentance. It is indeed God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2 v 4). God’s word tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1 v 9). We can trust that God will do as he says—he meets our sin with forgiveness and grace. As Catherine has written, “When we’re assured of our Father’s forgiveness, instead of covering up in front of others, we can confess—be honest about our sin” (p 31).
We will never outgrow this message of grace and repentance. And we will never outgrow our need for one another. Whether you have a core group of friends who are thriving and already committed to seeking Jesus together, or the concept of confession is absolutely new to you, this book is for you. Anyone at any stage will benefit from the pages ahead.
Visit Catherine at her site: http://www.cathparks.com/