Fifteen-year-old Simeon had a problem. He felt guilty all the time. Even while watching his father’s sheep, he felt that God couldn’t possibly love him. So he asked a preacher what he should do.
«God is angry at you,» the parson pontificated. «The only way you can be saved is to live in a monastery and spend all your time doing religious things.» That was common advice 1,500 years ago.
Simeon said goodbye to his family and friends. At the monastery, he obeyed all the rules, read piles of holy books, sang boring hymns, and starved himself often.
Still, he felt that his sins weren’t forgiven, so he found a high desert rock and lived on top of it for a few years. People came from miles around to look up at the holy man and ask him questions.
When he got so busy advising others that he didn’t have time for his prayers, he built a pillar to lift him «closer to God.» The crowds still came.
So he erected a tall pole with a platform on top and stayed up there in all kinds of weather, fasting and praying, begging God for forgiveness, for thirty-six years. Yes, years! Then, like everyone else, he died.
«What a faithful, wonderful man was Simeon,» the people cried.
Faithful? Wonderful? Or foolish? God doesn’t require anyone to sit on a pole before He’ll forgive him or her. «If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness» (1 John 1:9, KW).
The world needs more confessors and fewer pole-sitters.