Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about confession, but not necessarily the type done in a confessional. I’ve thought about that type of confession too, but only by extension. I think about how painfully vulnerable it makes us, how it opens us up and leaves us wide open on a metaphorical operating table.
Let’s face it, we all have something from our past that we aren’t proud of, something we don’t want anyone to know in the light of day, or even in the dark of night. Now imagine confessing that thing to the person you love and care most about in the world. Does that sound at all exciting?
Probably not. You know that whatever that thing is (which I won’t even dare to guess at), it will probably hurt the person you care most about. You don’t know want them to know it, and yet in order for them to really know you, they should get to know all of you. You could dream up the perfect situation to let this deep, dark secret out of the bag, but we all know that reality and our dreams are different. In reality, what do you think is going to happen? When I think about confessing my past to someone I care deeply about, I’m never able to look them in the eyes. I don’t want them to look me in the eyes. If I’m really honest I don’t even want them to hold me. I fully expect them to look at me with nothing but shame, disappointment and even digust in their eyes. I expect that because, all too often, that’s how I’ve looked at myself knowing what I’ve done. I want to give them an out, “If you never want to see me again, I totally understand…” Why do I want that, why would I (and I suspect others as well) not want to be held and comforted? Because I don’t think I deserve it. I’ve sinned. I’ve messed up and done something horrible, something that I can never take back and never apologize for enough. I want them (whoever I’m confessing to outside of the confessional) to shun me because that shunning serves as my punishment, my penance for the wrongs I’ve done.
But that’s not how it is with God.
He looks me in the eye and waits for me to gaze back at Him, and with nothing but love and mercy in His eyes, He tells me that He forgives me. He holds me close in the Sacraments and gives me comfort and peace as I mourn my failures. God doesn’t need my out, because He is so crazy in love with me that all He wants is to hold me close. He can’t stand the thought of leaving me for even a single second. He couldn’t shun me, He never will. He will never shun or ignore you no matter what you’ve done. He washes me clean with mercy, which only serves as a beautiful reminder of His love for me. It is through His mercy poured out on me that I fall even more in love with Him because I know that without His mercy and tenderness that I am unworthy of His love. There is nothing I could do to merit His love, and there are an infinite number of things I could do to lose His love. And yet, He never stops loving.
When I go to confession (of the Sacramental variety) I never go behind a screen. I need to look the priest in the eye because that intimacy of confessing all of my crap is real. I need to look him in the eye, know that he is acting in the person of Christ, and see and hear that I am forgiven. Sometimes that look is painful. I’d rather look away than meet His gaze, but it is in that gaze that I see the face of God. The intimacy of my worst sins meets the intimacy of the boundless love of God. And the boundless love of God triumphs over my sins.
My point, then, is two-fold: (1) Go to confession. Seriously, go. It is the best thing you can do for your soul, for your self, for the good of the people in your future, and it REALLY pisses Satan off. (2) When people confess their sins, their baggage, their dark secrets to you, show them the same mercy you received in confession. Isn’t that what we all want? To encounter and be swept up by the love and mercy of God? Be His hands and feet. Imitate His love to others. Standing naked before Him, with all of our sins before us, He looks upon us with love, and by His invitation of love (not of shame and disgust) we are invited to fall deeper in love with Him.
What I’m Listening To:
“What Do I Know Of Holy” by Addison Road
“A Place Only You Can Go” by NeedToBreathe
“Creepin'” by Eric Church
“Restless” by Audrey Assad