Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Confession is Good for the Soul

As I discerned becoming Catholic, I was very concerned with the notion of confession. To be frank, it scared me. I didn't want to have to confess anything to a priest or anyone else. It is bad enough admitting to myself that I've sinned, but it seems so much worse to have to say it out loud and to someone else. Coming from a perfectionist, this is a very troubling situation.
As I studied the faith I understood the concept of confession - what it is, what it does, and why it's necessary. Despite my "knowledge" of the subject, I still didn't want to do it. Before my first confession, I spent time writing down absolutely everything in as much of an abbreviated version as I could so that I wouldn't have to spend an hour pouring out my sins for the past 27 years (that time since my Baptism). I focused on the "biggies" that were really bad and those things that I often struggled with. I took my list with me - I didn't want to overlook anything. I still make "confessional" lists when I go to this day. I feel better having written it all down. But I digress. My first confession wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Surprisingly, the sense of relief I felt was truly amazing. To know that at that time I had truly been forgiven of all my sins, brought immense joy. Despite that feeling, I had no desire to go back any time soon. The fear of confession is what "kept me in line" for a good long while. After that, I would go for my "yearly" necessity at Easter.
The first time I had to go to "regular" confession as opposed to a penance service, I spent days and hours, beforehand reading up on everything because I wasn't sure if I would do it right. I took a copy of the act of contrition with me because I certainly didn't have it memorized. I had "notes" on what order everything was supposed happen. And I had my handy list of sins. Thankfully, in the confessional there is a laminated sheet with full instructions of what you're supposed to say and do. I survived the confession and once again felt better afterward and realized it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. But then again... I still didn't like it and didn't want to have to go again anytime soon.
About a week and a half ago, it was time for me to go again. This time I had a lot more sins that I was dealing with - let's just say there were some biggies. I had been seeking my own will was going through a dry spell of sorts when it came to my faith. Oh, sure, I still went to Mass weekly and played the part, but I was falling deeper into my own self-absorbed life that my relationship with God was mostly non-existent. In hindsight it is so obvious that once you start heading down the wrong path, it is easy to stray from everything - and my problem was that I tried to justify my actions and downplay their seriousness. But thankfully, God didn't abandon me. I found myself in a moment where I knew I needed to get back on track. I knew the only way that was possible was through total and complete forgiveness that I could only get through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So I made myself go. Once again, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be (though it was still difficult). Once again, the relief of receiving full forgiveness was incredible.
As much as I still ultimately fear the confrontation, contemplation, and confession of my sins, I realize that there is great joy in having this sacrament available to me. When I was involved in the Baptist church, there was no true repentance for me when I would pray to God and confess my sins to him. It was so easy to slip back into a sinful nature because of this. I could only "hope" that I was forgiven by God - but I never had that certainty. For me, this Sacrament has made all the difference in my spiritual relationship. Yes, I still sin. I still have dry spells, but knowing that when I do fall, that I can confess, repent, and truly be forgiven is a wonderful blessing.
As I renew my faith and work on building my relationship with God again, I pray that I will make a regular practice of participating in confession. After all - can we ever receive too much Grace from God?