As a child, and all through my growing up years in my home church (United Baptist), forgiveness was a big deal. As it should be. To talk directly to God, confess my sins to him, and be forgiven (and of course to pledge to try very hard not to do it again). Imagine. What a gift we have been given. I had no problem with asking for forgiveness. I have no problem saying I'm sorry. I don't mind facing myself and all my flaws. To ask for another chance. To try again to be the person that Christ would have me be. To live a life that would glorify God. I know that I am a sinner. I am grateful for any hope He might have for me.
When I was in my early 20s, I moved to Toronto (our nation's biggest city) to get a job. I was there for two years. For the second year there I lived with my boyfriend. I felt really bad about that. That wasn't the way it was supposed to be. He came to visit from NS and was supposed to get a job and find his own place. I didn't want to live with him. Anyway, the visit lasted for a year and we became an old married couple before our time. When we moved back, I told him to get his own place, I was moving in with a girlfriend - but I digress. I did a lot of traveling with my job and went through many towns, large and small. As I was working in one town I was compelled to go to the Catholic Church to confess my living arrangement. So I just walked in and spoke to the priest. He didn't seem to have a problem with hearing the confession of a Baptist girl, so I stayed and confessed and he understood and absolved. Of course, asking for forgiveness always makes me feel better.
I stayed five years too long in my first marriage, mostly because of the vows I made before God. I didn't want to break my promise to Him. I didn't want to be a failure. I didn't think He would ever forgive me.
I did divorce and years later, three days before my second marriage (I couldn't even get married in a church, we got married at the Law Courts) I had crisis of conscious. Although I had asked for forgiveness many times for the end of my first marriage, I just felt that it didn't "take". I called a minister from my home town. This lady was the mother of a childhood friend who had always given me sound, spiritual advice. I went to see her when my first marriage was failing. She is a gentle, soft-spoken lady who I can listen to. She became a minister. So I called her out of the blue, late at night, three days before my second marriage and talked and talked. She told me that I was forgiven, but sometimes, as humans, we need to hear it being said, out loud. So she told me that God forgave me.
When I became a Catholic in 2000, I embraced going to confession. I know there is great controversy over general absolution vs private confession. That there are scores of bad priests who have scarred generations of kids. That how could saying the Our Father ten times be penance? Confession has a troubled past, I get that. But none of it applies to me. I like to go. I believe that God is reaching me through that priest. And when that priest sees me outside of the Confessional, he is not seeing my sins AKA dirty laundry so I'm not worried about that. I like going and I want my daughter to not mind it so she will continue.
Last night, was the Reconciliation Service before Easter. We went. And I am going to tell you about it.
Had the service, stood in line and waited my turn.
This is a priest I don't know. I have seen him in meetings. He's the only priest I have ever heard curse and he calls our priest "Jimmy" (we call him Father Jim). So I'm waiting and wondering...and preparing what I'm going to say of course.
The coolest thing ever about confession is I hardly ever end up talking about what I had planned to talk about - talk about God's plan.
Last week I was at church five nights in a row. Sat was mass, Sun/Mon/Tues was the Lenten Mission and Wed was a study on the catechism. The following weekend Marly had a cold and the weather was sunny and I just didn't want to go to mass. I didn't want to, that's my reason. I have lots of excuses of why that was OK, but I didn't want to so I didn't. And I felt bad about it until I confessed it.
The priest was really good. He talked about why he goes to mass. What he gets out of it. How he needs to go, not that God needs him to go. That he needs the eucharist (communion). That God wants us to be there, not out of blind obedience but because there are graces received through the eucharist that we cannot receive if we don't partake. And that I would miss something if I wasn't there. Something that God may have wanted to give me, but couldn't because I wasn't there, in His house, with His people. Then he talked about how God knows all this. That we aren't going to always go. God exposes our frailty, to help us grow. I said I can't hear Him. I listen and listen but I'm not hearing Him. He said sometimes you have to stop listening so hard and just BE. BE in the presence of God.
I cried...I always cry at confession. It's like God seeing me naked and we both know "this is it, this is all I have to show for myself". But relief follows. And new resolve. So that's good. It's especially good because my tears upset my daughter a little and I don't want her to worry about me. The mother crying in church. Just tears mind you, not sobbing or anything like that.
So for penance. The next morning when everyone was gone, I was to say my morning prayers, ask God to help me see when and where He is revealing Himself to me and then stop talking and just BE in the presence of God for ten minutes. What a great and merciful God. That he will forgive my sins and my penance for sinning against Him is to be in His presence for ten minutes.
It was hard. I get very distracted. It's like praying. I'm not a very good disciplined prayer. My mind wanders. I figure I'm going to have to try it many times today.
It's like at Weight Watchers when you re-learn what it's like to be hungry. We are hardly ever hungry so sometimes it is hard to remember what it feels like, what it sounds like, what the circumstances are, etc.
I need to re-learn (or maybe just learn AGAIN) what it feels like to be in the presence of God, what it sounds like, what the circumstances are, where do I find Him, what are the activities, who are the people, etc.
I spend a HUGE amount of time studying God, being with my Christian community, doing, doing, doing. Learning over and over because the lessons seem to come so slowly, piece by piece. An enormous jigsaw puzzle that I'm OK knowing I will never finish it.
I think that for the rest of Lent I will just try to BE with God. I know He is revealing Himself to me, maybe I will learn how to see and hear what he is trying to tell me.