I guess that is the funny thing about us as humans. Now that I think about it, over the last few decades of going to confession, I have had so many great confessional experiences yet the one that really made me question whether to return or not was the one and only (so far) bad experience I had a few years ago. It always seems that the negative experiences outweigh the positive, that the bad memories are recalled more often than the good. How strange we humans are!
Anyway, I digress. Back to my original story. Preparing for this Lenten season I wanted to be ready to receive and share whatever graces with which the Lord is willing to bless me. Therefore, I thought what better preparation than to begin with a clean slate?
So I again mustered the courage (yes I still have to muster it b/c of my previously bad experience)to head on over to confession early one Saturday morning. Now there were a million and a half reasons NOT to go to confession that morning. One, it was so cold outside and I just wanted to stay in my pjs in the nice warm house and snuggle with my kids. Two, the time confession was to start my son was still nursing. Three, by the time I arrived there was a LONG line for the confessional. I debated leaving and returning another time when it was less busy. But I knew in my heart all of these things were just reasons I was creating to postpone my need to walk into that confessional door and ever so humbly lay out my sins to the world (or at least to the priest and Jesus). So, I did it anyway!
It's not like I had these terrible sins to confess. I mean, I'm pretty sure, most people who went into the confessional that day said the same sorts of things. But there I was once again, waiting, anxiously fearfully waiting. Waiting for what? Judgment. THAT'S why we dislike confession so much I think. We humbly hang our heads in shame in front of that privacy screen or for the very brave, sitting across from the priest, and wait for the judgment that is to inevitably come upon us. The irony is that am I so fearful of the judgment here on earth but think so little of the judgment that will most definitely come upon me in the next life! I mean seriously, who wants to see the face of God with a mortal sin on their souls, but telling a priest how I yelled at my husband and lost patience with my kids seems too much to emotionally bare? Sheesh, I HAVE to put this confession thing into perspective!
Eventually my turn in line came and I took the long walk down the hall to the confessional. Dead man walking! yelled a voice in my mind. I turned the knob and pushed open the heaviest door I'd ever had to open. Seriously, what did they make this door out of, steel? I knelt down. Screech, bang, click! Was that a jail cell or the confessional door closing?
Out of breath and with sweaty palms, I launched into "Forgive me father for I have sinned...". Oh my gosh, did my voice just crack? Quickly, quickly like pulling a band-aid off skin. Let's get this pain over with. And before I knew it, I has shared all my offenses. Whew! Surprisingly, the priest did not scream and run from the room in terror, nor did he begin to bless me with holy water and in the name of Jesus Christ "compel" me. Ever so softly and sweetly, this tender confessor encouraged me on my faith journey, counseled me on other ways to handle various situations, absolved me from my sins, blessed me, and told me to "go in peace". Wow, it was over! Sweet relief!
Then the most extraodinary thing happened. He thanked me. The priest thanked ME for coming to confession! He was truly GRATEFUL that I came that day to the confessional to reunite myself with Christ. This priest, who was already running almost 15 mins late from all the confessions previously heard, took the time to THANK ME! Of course, I started to cry! And no the irony does not escape me that both my worst and best reconciliation experiences ended in tears.
It was an amazing moment b/c I finally realized something. After all these years of going to confession, I finally understood something that I never even thought about before. Not only do I receive the amazing graces the Lord bestows on me during this beautiful sacrament, but so does the priest if he is open to receiving this grace. We both are ACTIVE participants and therefore also RECIPIENTS of this grace! Yes, he is here to judge me with the Lord's prudence, compassion and love, but he also receives the fruitfulness that comes from me being present confessing my sins. Together we are helping each other become more Christ-like!
I never thought of confession this way. I saw it as something I must do to repair my relationship with God. But what if I didn't go? What if NO ONE went? How could our earthly shepherds, our priests, fulfill their vocations? I single handedly (well maybe not single handedly since it takes more than just me), am helping this priest fulfill his duties here on earth. I am not only receiving pardon and peace but I'm granting him to opportunity to GIVE pardon and peace to another; to fill the need to lead others to the Lord.
I was as light as a feather and as happy as a clam (which I suppose must be really happy because many people use this expression)! I jumped up and opened that door with one hand. Whoa! That door was so light it almost got away from me. What was it made of, styrofoam? I was joyous. Deeply emotional, yes. But joyous none the less. I practically skipped to my car. All is right with the world! I have been forgiven AND I have been thanked which means I have been valued.
Dare I say it? I do indeed dare. I can't wait to go to confession next week!!!!
Blessings to You and Yours,