I was on a wonderful Lenten retreat and one of the stories the priest told was about another woman on retreat. At the retreat, everyone was supposed to grab a stone and write on it all the difficulties and stumbling blocks they were facing. Their sins and their crosses. They were supposed to carry it to every meal and every service and talk throughout the retreat. The woman picked the largest rock that could be found, the priest said. He then noticed that she lugged this rock around everywhere.
The participants in the retreat were supposed to leave the rock at the altar once they Confessed and gave their troubles over to God. He noticed the rocks being left before the altar as the retreat went on, but he didn’t notice that very large rock there yet. He prayed for that woman, that she could stop lugging that rock around. It was the end of the retreat and finally, he noticed that large rock before the altar and happened to look out the window and noticed the woman turning cartwheels through the garden.
It feels so good to get rid of our burdens. It’s probably one of those mysteries we won’t know for a while — why do we all like to lug around that stuff with us? I do know the feelings of that woman, the feeling of doing cartwheels. I know when I was a child, I didn’t really understand Confession and equated it more to being like when I had to ‘fess up to my parents that I did something wrong. As time went on, I have realized what a blessing it is is lay to down that rock before the altar, but I still sometimes forget, or for whatever reason, like carrying that rock around with me.
Confession is a wonderful gift that we receive.
This Lent, I feel that my cross that I have been carrying is one of a lack of faith. For some that know me, that may be a surprise. I certainly have relied on my faith and it has saved me often in my life, from health crises to work crises to what seemed like perpetual singlehood (until I met my wonderful husband). I guess faith is kind of like a muscle; if you don’t use it, it grows weak. If you don’t nurture it, it can wilt. I think in my case, my philosophical and science background makes me look at the trees and not always appreciate the wonders of the forest.
Lately, with the current international climate and political divisiveness, it’s been easy to get scared, fearful and frustrated. All of these anxieties can really become almost paralyzing. One solution is try to ignore these things. Putting my head in the sand has never really been my way of dealing with things. It just makes it worse. Another solution is to try to save the world. That is exhausting and is futile. Trying to find the sense in it all and trying to find God’s presence in it all is difficult for all of us.
After my confession, I shared with the priest a gift I had received earlier in the week. While talking with my young son at dinner, he, on his own, said, “I want Jesus to come to my house.” He then kept going with his desires: “I want Jesus to rock me.” We told him that Jesus is in our house; Jesus is always with him, when he sleeps and has a bad dream, Jesus is still with him.
We told him, “Jesus is at our house; he is with Mommy and Daddy when they receive Communion and he is there in our love for one another.” He was happy to hear all of this, and as we shared, sticking to honest simple truths, the honest, simple truth spoke to us.
The priest was touched by this, (I’m sure he hears a lot in Confession) and then said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
As he said that, I told him, “So I guess my son’s faith is better off than mine, huh? Well, that’s the way I want it to be and I guess I have a lot to learn from him.”
We will all have our crosses and even boulders to carry. No matter how much spiritual reading or effort I put in my relationship with God, the only thing I need to put my faith in is the gift he has given us, the truth of the Cross and Resurrection. By his wounds, we are free from bondage.
Copyright 2018 Meg Herriot