Wasteland Prevention (and so much more): My True Feelings About Confession

 

I’m joining up with the CWBN blog hop’s topic this month – “My True Feelings about Confession.” As it happens, this is a favorite topic of mine. So, grab your coffee and settle in, because I’ve got a story to go along with my outpouring of emotion over this particular sacrament!

Here goes…

When I was in high school, my best friend – an Episcopalian – did a once in a lifetime “confession” to her priest as part of her confirmation process. I had never contemplated such a thing, but what she described sounded wonderful. I found myself wishing that I was Episcopalian, rather than Methodist, so that I could partake of this strange but marvelous ritual, and wondering: Why does she only get to do it once? 

I was even – dare I say it? – a tad bit jealous that Heather got to unburden all of her sins and hear those special words of absolution.

In the years to come, the niggling sense of “missing out” remained, and got stronger when I began to study the Catholic Church. While I had heard many Christians protest the Catholic need to confess their sins to a man, I, personally, had never had a problem with it, romanced as I was by hearing about Heather’s experience years before. Now, as I began to learn and appreciate the Biblical roots for the Sacrament, the seed of desire that had been planted so many years before took root, and blossomed.

I’m pretty sure that most people who approach their first Reconciliation at the age of thirty-one do so with a solid dose of trepidation and foot-dragging. I, on the other hand, couldn’t get to the confessional quickly enough. My sins were no less egregious than any other thirty-one-year-old’s. In fact, there were quite a few of them that were very serious indeed. But if sixteen-year-old me could appreciate the value of a good confession, then properly evangelized and catechized thirty-one-year-old me knew it to be more precious than any gem. Was I nervous? Of course. But my excitement far outweighed my nervousness.

My first Reconciliation was not a disappointment, but rather an experience that far exceeded any expectations I had set. Does everyone experience a physical sensation of weight being lifted from their shoulders? I’ve often wondered that, but never really had the courage to ask. Regardless, I love that feeling, and it plays a big roll in the frequency of my visits to the confessional.

Regardless, there have been times, since that First Reconciliation, when I have approached the Sacrament with a fair amount of foot dragging. It was one thing during my first confession to tell the priest, in the person of Christ, every sin I’d perpetrated over the course of my life. There was no perspective of timeline. I had committed this sin, but – for all he knew – that was five years ago, and I’d been near-perfect ever since. Now, I have to start with the admission that it’s only been “X” number of weeks since my last confession and I – who should know better, do better, and be better – have done…. thatAgain. 

But that’s part of the beauty of the Sacrament, right? The very dread of having to tell our sins to a priest helps prevent us from committing the sin, even when the dread of disappointing God isn’t enough.

Interestingly, I noticed in the first several years of my Catholicism that I seemed to come under attack shortly after receiving Reconciliation. Almost immediately upon returning home, someone in the house would start acting out. In fact, saying they went bat-poo crazy would not really be an exaggeration. This tempted me where I was most likely to fail – and I inevitably did. It wasn’t the family member, directly, of course, but – without trying to sound like the Church Lady – Satan did seem to love bringing me down within hours of being cleansed. I’m also quite certain that he took great joy in showing my as-yet-non-Catholic husband just how holy I wasn’t. I learned to pray against those attacks on my way home from the church, and found that the attacks ended.

Matthew Kelly compares confession to cleaning out your car. For several days afterward, you’re crazy about keeping the thing clean. The kids aren’t allowed to eat in it, you’re a total freak about emptying it every time you get home, and you would never, ever dream of putting so much as a gum wrapper in the door. But then one day you’re rushing from one appointment to the next. You grab fast food and a few fries fall on the floor as you’re eating. The next day you chew gum and, for lack of a better spot, mar the cleanliness of that preciously door compartment. Next thing you know, your once immaculate car has become a rolling trash can.

So it is with our souls. We get them all sparkly clean through Confession, and for a few hours – or days, if we’re working really super hard – we keep them pretty spotless. But then you tell the kids seven gazillion times to pick up their dirty socks and finally – on the seven gazillion and first time – scream at them that they’d better put down their devices, get off their rear-ends, and actually do something to help around here! Next thing you know, you’re yelling like a shrew over the wet towel on the wooden floor and having your own personal pity party about how over-worked and under-appreciated you are.

As you can tell, I’ve found Matthew Kelly’s analogy to be all too true. I’m just a better person when I receive the Sacrament regularly! The further I get away from it, the further I grow from Christ, the more I sin, and the harder it becomes to face the priest again. Much better to clean out the car soul frequently, in order to prevent it from growing into a virtual wasteland of pride, arrogance, self-pity, anger, self-indulgence, and… so much more!

With such a wide array of sins to struggle against, I do get a little nervous everytime. It is by know means a comfortable experience, stating your sins to another person! But, while I can’t claim the same excitement with which I anticipated that first Reconciliation, when the words of absolution wash over me, and I feel the physical weight of my sins lift from my shoulders, I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

How do you really feel about Confession? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments, below!

To learn how other Catholic bloggers really feel about Confession, visit the CWBN Blog Hop!

12 comments on “Wasteland Prevention (and so much more): My True Feelings About Confession
  1. Sarah Damm says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Stephanie! I love the car washing analogy, too! And like you, I find that I am a much better person when I make it a point to frequent the sacrament of confession regularly. When too much time goes by, my heart is more restless, I’m more irritable, and it is actually harder to get there. I am trying to make it every first Friday. It is just easier for me to keep track that way 😉 Blessings!

    • stephanie says:

      I aim for first Friday as well – or sometime in that “first” week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. I missed it this month and still haven’t gone. But, since I was late last month, too, I think I’m just now at the four week mark!

  2. Jill says:

    Stephanie–I was raised Methodist, too, and remember that forgiveness was all the time alluded to, but I never (or rarely) said out loud. When I was in 5th grade, I went to a friend´s Lutheran church (their services are ALMOST word for word mirror mass), and after corporate confession at the beginning of the service, the pastor told us all, “you ARE forgiven”–it was such an uplifting feeling!

    While I´m a confessional-foot-dragger, it is so nice to have that time and space set aside for us to regularly confess and then hear those words again. Would that we all could relive that giddy feeling of your first time! 😉

    • stephanie says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jill! Yes, I agree that, as a Methodist, forgiveness wasn’t really discussed, but generally just assumed. The concrete-ness of Reconciliation is such a blessing!

  3. Anni says:

    I loved your insights that you have shared from your teenage years! This is awesome!!

    Sometimes, I do feel a weight lifted after I hear the words of absolution. But, our chaplain recently advised me to not put too much stock in the “feelings” part of it, because the devil could try to dampen the feelings in an effort to get us to say, “hey, I don’t feel anything, so why bother going?”

    Also, I, too, have noticed “something” tries to get me down after Confession. I didn’t think of it being Satan inspired, but I am going to need to pray for strength and fortitude to withstand those attacks! Thank you for that insight… it’s most likely such a true point!

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing!!

    • stephanie says:

      Excellent point, Anni. We can’t get attached to any of those “good feelings” for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is just what you said. Thanks so much for commenting!

  4. KalleyC says:

    This post made me smile.

    “Next thing you know, you’re yelling like a shrew over the wet towel on the wooden floor and having your own personal pity party about how over-worked and under-appreciated you are.”

    For a moment there I thought you had an insight to my life. Hahaha. When I get like this, I know I need to get back to Confession, ASAP!

  5. Sean says:

    “The very dread of having to tell our sins to a priest (again) helps prevent us from committing the sin, even when the dread of disappointing God isn’t enough.”

    SPOT ON.

    Yet another example of the absolute genius of Catholicism. He knows us better than we know us.

  6. “I – who should know better, do better, and be better – have done…. that. Again. ”
    This is so me! I was raised Catholic but never understood the depth or seriousness of our beliefs. I might be able to excuse some of that old stuff because of that, but now, NOW, ugh! Why am I still doing the same darn things!? Grrr…

    “But that’s part of the beauty of the Sacrament, right? The very dread of having to tell our sins to a priest helps prevent us from committing the sin, even when the dread of disappointing God isn’t enough.”
    YES! I’m a single Mom of five boys (4 teenagers and a little Blessing!) Some days, I think this is the only thing to keep me from going off the deep end! 😉

    This was a beautiful post. Thanks Stephanie!

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