About once a month we drag our six children to Confession at a local parish. I use the word drag because that’s how it feels. The kids complain about dressing in appropriate church attire, the imposition of abandoning their neighborhood play dates in lieu of a Saturday afternoon sacrament, and their perpetual state of “starvation.” Their objections are sandwiched between rhetorical statements like “Why should I go to confession again? I just went last week!”
On top of the basic challenge of getting everyone out the door, if we don’t arrive by a certain time, we won’t have any face-to-face time with the priest. Punctuality is of the essence and the narrow timeline adds to the burden of receiving the sacrament.
By the time we arrive, I’m tense, snappy and issuing threats through gritted teeth. At least once during the preparation and drive to church, I offer an impassioned State Of The Union about the inherent weaknesses of all my family members — including their chronic lateness, disobedience, and general spiritual lassitude — and absolutely no one is convicted by my diatribe.
A few months ago, my husband and I decided early one Saturday morning we would bring the family to Reconciliation that afternoon. We didn’t factor our crazy packed day into the equation, however, so when we finally assembled everyone to leave for Confession, we were 30 minutes late. The likelihood we would make it was practically nonexistent.
There were 40 reasons to skip the commotion and try again next weekend.
I wanted to rant to my husband. I wanted to crank up my usual sermons about the ineffectiveness of the people around me. Instead, I looked at John and said, “Let’s go.”
We loaded scraggly-looking children into the van.
While we drove, I did something different than I usually do. Instead of lecturing my husband and children, I prayed:
“Lord, every time we bring the family to Confession I try to control–the kids’ behavior, my husband, even the timeline in which we see the priest. If there is something I think I can control, I try.
I’m tired, Lord.
I don’t want to control. If you want us to receive the sacrament, I trust you to make it happen.”
When we arrived, I hustled everyone into church. We ran to secure a spot in line but it was unusually long.
There’s no way we will ever make it before Mass begins, I thought.
“I surrender, Lord. You know what is best for us,” I prayed.
Every time I began worrying or felt the temptation to control creep in, I prayed,
“I surrender, Lord.”
The line moved quickly. After about 20 minutes, I realized I would be the last person to receive Confession, which meant the other members of my family would miss out.
I was grateful I would get to go, but disappointed the others wouldn’t.
I went to Confession and once I received absolution, I went to look for my family. I expected them to be sitting in a pew waiting for Mass to begin, but instead I noticed most of them were still in line. I looked to my left and realized another priest had unexpectedly arrived and opened a confessional.
In the year we’ve attended Confession at this particular church, this had never happened. But on this particular day, one random priest appeared and heard Confessions, just because.
I knelt down in the pew and wept.
In a moment of grace, I realized how much energy I expend trying to control situations outside of my purview. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s important to do the footwork — to honor my obligation of bringing my family to the sacraments — but trying to control how my kids receive Jesus or the time it takes to go to the sacrament or any of the other factors over which I’m powerless in life is exhausting.
Jesus loves my husband and my kids more than I do.
While I think I know what’s best for each of them, the truth is, Jesus knows better.
He wants to offer his grace and forgiveness to us, and I don’t have to live in fear nor do I have to wield a mighty sword to make it happen.
Jesus has us covered and he showed me on that Saturday afternoon.
I just needed to let go and trust him to make it happen.
And he did.
Copyright 2018 Colleen Duggan