Confessing Who I Really Am

19

My palms were already sweaty. I had only been in line for 10 minutes. All day I had agonized about this moment. I prayed, searched, reflected and managed to make a meager list. Surely, I had more sins than these. What was I leaving out? The line moved forward. It is hard to look at the people leaving confession. Why were they crying? What was going on in that room? My mouth was starting to get dry.

Of all the things I love about the Catholic faith, confession is not one of them. Now, don’t get me wrong. Theologically, the sacrament is beautiful. It is amazing. And I am fully aware that it is commanded of us by our Lord. However, it is not easy. It is somewhat messy. And it turns me into a nervous wreck. In fact, I feared it so much that I stayed away from the sacrament for a number of years. So, I know how un-confessed sin can eat away at one’s soul. The brick walls I built between me and the Lord were thick and cold. But all it took was one confession, and the bricks started to crumble. I remember that feeling of freedom as the mercy and love of the Lord washed over me in that confessional.

So, why does getting in this line still create such waves of anxiety? Why does the idea of saying my sins out loud to a priest send me straight for the Xanax? I know the consequences of staying out of the line. And I know the wonderful benefits of staying in the line. But it doesn’t seem to help me choose the line.

I could blame it on past experience. I could blame it on the ministers that were happy to see me leave their church all those years ago. Maybe that is why I don’t want to trust the Priest with who I really am. But, I feel like I am past that. I confronted those demons years ago. I took those burdensome rocks out of my back pack and I have moved on. I made peace with the fact that if they didn’t do what they did, I wouldn’t have found the Catholic faith. My past seems to be my excuse rather than the true issue. Besides, I now work in the Church. I work alongside the priests, deacons and other ministry staff and I am perfectly comfortable in their presence.
The line inches forward again and I am now just three people away from the door. I look at my list. It seems silly and laughable. I don’t know why I am even here. I am not good at this. A child could come up with a better list. I would like to get out of line and get some water, but there are at least 50 people behind me. I know I wouldn’t get back in line.

I didn’t grow up in the Catholic faith. Maybe that is why this is so difficult for me. I never had to do this in the Baptist church. In fact, because we believed that your sins were forgiven when you invited Jesus to live in your heart, sin was never really talked about or focused on. We never examined our lives for sin but rather tried to live the life of a good Christian. We focused on making the right choices for that morally upstanding, charitable life and we did not focus on the mistakes we made. Searching for sin in my soul is a foreign concept. Even after 14 years of being a confirmed Catholic, I am still epically bad at it. Why can’t I figure this out?
There is now only one person in front of me. I feel my heart beating faster. The adrenaline is reaching atomic levels. Why do I get so worked up? Why do I let the anxiety capture me is such a way? What do I fear?

As I stand here thinking about the reason for the fear, an image of a mirror enters my mind. Yep, that is what I fear. I fear that mirror. I don’t want to see who I really am. I don’t want to see my soul the way Christ sees it. In this world, I can hide my sins pretty well. I can be the person others admire and look up to. I can act the part eloquently. But the picture I paint of who I am is not reflected in the mirror. In order to examine my conscience, I have to take a long look at myself in that mirror.

I am such a fallen human. I would make the same choice as Eve. I would throw the first stone at the adulterous woman. I would be in the crowd calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. Why do I know this? Because I possess the same sin as this crowd- pride. I don’t want to look in that mirror because of pride. I am too proud to admit what I have done because it reflects who I really am. Pride is the root of this anxiety. Pride keeps me from the confessional.

It’s my turn. I walk into the dimly lit room like a bull in a china shop. I almost knock over the plant as I trip and pretty much fall into the chair across from the Priest. He smiles. He knows I get myself undone over this experience. It is a little humorous that a confident woman who enjoys speaking to large groups of teens and adults about the love of Christ can get so undone in this small room with and audience of one. I smile back as we both find humor in the irony. He knows me well, and the shared smile sets me at ease.

Recently, in prayer experience, I had a vision of myself wearing a black, ugly coat. I looked horrid. The coat was heavy with dirt, ragged and torn. I really hated the coat and I wanted to take it off. I tried and I couldn’t figure it out. I quickly gave up. I looked up, and I saw Jesus in all of his splendor walking towards me. He was radiant and beautiful. As he got closer, I realized I was still wearing the coat. I tried again to get it off. I couldn’t do it. I started to panic as Jesus approached me. I wanted to hide, but there was nowhere to go. Jesus was now standing in front of me. He lifted me chin so that he could look in my eyes. I was pulling at the coat, trying to get it off. I apologized that he had to seem me this way. I told him I couldn’t get it off and that I was sorry I had let my coat get so horrible. He smiled and to my amazement, he took the coat off of me. He threw it on the ground. Then, he took off his white, spotless coat and put it over my shoulders. I told him that I couldn’t accept it because I was going to get it dirty. It was much too nice for me to wear. He looked in my eyes and said, “If you get it dirty, just come back to me, and I’ll make it clean again. I love you very much and I want you to look your best when I finally present you to my father.”

As I tell Father all about my pride once again, I can feel the coat coming off. I can see the sins being washed away. The coat is becoming beautiful as the day Jesus gave it to me. Jesus puts it back over my shoulders and Father sends me on my way with a clean coat- a clean soul. All the anxiety is worth this experience. It is incredibly awesome to show Jesus who I really am and to hear him say, “It’s alright. I love you anyway. Keep trying. I am making you a beautiful gift for my Father.” Yep, that is much better than Xanax.

Copyright 2012 Lori Miller

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19 Comments

  1. This past Wednesday I made my first confession in 28 yrs. It was the hardest thing I have had to do to date. Before I went I was so tormented I had to get in bed and lay with my Bible on my chest and pray out loud. I paced in my house, I cried, I tried to rationalize backing out of going.
    It was nice to find this article. I can completely relate.

  2. Wow Gina! How awesome! Congratulations. I let myself stay away from the confessional for about 10 years. That first confession was a truly remarkable experience. And, I have to tell you that every confession I’ve had since then as equaled it. I just got to let go of my pride and be honest with myself and what is really reflected in that mirror. I hang on to the verse “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Keep me in your prayers! Tomorrow, I hit the line again.

  3. Oh, I will share my scripture that got me through on Wednesday before confession.
    1Peter 5:6-11

    Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded;be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered for a little while,the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

  4. that was a wonderful article, I can fully relate to that, even to this day. my problem, even after confession, I feel like I have not made a good confession.. then my doubts come in full force.. I remember reading what St Faustina said what Jesus said about thoes who doubt his forgivness. that it hurts him more then the sin we committed in the 1st place. I try to remember that, and be at peace.. we have read were it was said he learned obdience thru suffering. and we really learn obdience thru the suffering of our sins

    JC

  5. Lori,

    Cradle Catholic, here. I go to confession once a month, or try to. I still feel the same way you do, just about every time. But like you, I still go anyway. Thanks for your post. It reminds me of the Truths, that I know deep down inside. And it’s also nice to know that I’m not alone.

  6. As a cradle Catholic who loves my faith, I really appreciate the analogy of the dirty coat/clean coat. I still struggle with “wanting to go because I KNOW I need to”! As a family, we try to go to reconciliation on a regular basis (bi-monthtly, and as necessary!), and I take great reassurance from my children in going. At her last confession, my 10 year old came bouncing back, just beaming, and exclaimed, “wow, THAT feels much better!”…..(kinda wonder what she had to confess…. lol)
    I think your explanation will make it easier for non-Catholics to “get” why we go to confession; hopefully, anyway!!
    Thanks for sharing!

  7. These are great comments! Thanks for the encouragement and please know that all of you are in my prayers. I was thinking that tomorrow would be the day to look in that mirror and get my palms all sweaty once again. Ironically, all of a sudden everyone is reading this old post- and commenting. Okay, Okay, Holy Spirit. I get it. Off to confession I go!

  8. Joyous In Jesus Christ on

    Christ is Risen!!! For all those reading this. Never let shame or guilt keep you from confession. These are the 2 things that keep people from the sacrament of confession. God is merciful and is waiting to forgive you and fill you with His grace no matter what sin you have committed. There is no sin greater than God’s mercy. The joy one feels after confession is a feeling beyond words, just ask anyone who has experienced that joy. It is like a weight removed from your back and replaced with a feeling of inexpressible joy. A joy only God can give.
    Glory to Jesus Christ!!!

  9. Thank you for your beautiful article, Lori. I would like to share something that has helped me to overcome a lot of my anxiety about going to the sacrament of confession. Since I started beginning my daily examination of conscience with thanking God in an unhurried day for the times when I was loving, patient, peaceful, etc., through His grace, I do not get so discouraged about my continuing sins. I experience confession a little more like an encounter with my loving Father, who has infinite patience with His little child.

    Still I feel some embarrassment about bringing the same sins yet again to confession, but it sometimes helps me to say that I’ve been working on “this area,” but I still have more work to do to overcome this sin.

    After all, we do not look at our children as the sum total of their sins, so why should we think that our infinitely loving, patient Heavenly Father looks at us in that way.

    God bless you for your perseverance and honesty!

    Cami Murphy

  10. This is absolutely beautiful. May I copy this and send it to some friends? I have a few who do not understand confession. I must admit that you described my feelings every time I go. I am a convert as well and this has been the hardest part for me even though the clean feeling I get after going makes me feel so wonderful.

    Thank you for putting into words the feelings I have experienced.

  11. So glad Kelly posted this! Had no idea it was you as I read it !!! Thank you for posting this ! I sit here weeping as I read it , heart heavy !!! Lots on and in my heart! Guess when I get back I should go! Thank you frOm one of your own!

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