For most of my adult life, I have avoided confession at all costs. I came up with hundreds of excuses why I didn’t need to go, despite a nagging feeling that it was the right thing to do. I’d get so worked up about it, I would get a stomach ache.
I often thought, ‘I’m mostly a good person and God can forgive me via a direct prayer if he chooses. Why should I tell anyone else, right?’
I was wrong and I know many others share that line of thinking, so I’d like to share my most recent experience of going to confession in hopes that it inspires others to receive the healing and grace associated with the sacrament.
My Confession Experience
I have been holding on to sins I confessed directly via prayer years ago, along with all the guilt and baggage that comes with them. After listening to a segment on Relevant Radio about the “free” feeling that many people experience after going to confession, I came to the conclusion that like it or not, I needed to go. These unconfessed sins have obviously not been resolved or they wouldn’t bother me so frequently. They were preventing me from moving on and realizing the fullness of my faith.
There was one sin in particular that has been haunting me, but I was honestly afraid of what the priest would say if I confessed it. Would he call in a psychiatrist to take me away? Or maybe the morality police? I had all but decided I would instead confess a generic version of the sin and hope that it would be covered when I had a dramatic change of heart.
The woman in line in front of me took about thirty minutes in the confessional, so I had ample time to prepare. As I waited, my anxiety manifested itself in the usual ways: upset stomach, sweaty palms, fidgeting, you get the picture. All the while I was praying and trying to rationalize why I couldn’t confess my sin in its entirety. I knew what I should do, but I really didn’t want to do it. I prayed to the Blessed Mother for her intercession and to Jesus for the strength and courage to do what was right. As I concluded one of my prayers, I looked up at the crucifix hanging at the front of the church and I realized, or maybe God whispered to my heart,
“There is nothing, no earthly punishment or embarrassment that is worth an eternity of separation from God. Nothing in this life is worth sacrificing eternal life.”
I’ve always known this logically, but at that moment I felt a sharp pain in my heart at the thought of being separated from God forever. (Even as I recall that moment now, my heart aches.) I looked up to the front of the church at the beautiful wooden crucifix and realized that loving and serving God is a choice that requires sacrifice, even for his own son. Jesus sacrificed his life. I could surely handle whatever consequences may come of my confession. I resolved to confess my sin in detail.
I was extremely nervous as I went into the confessional. The people behind me in line could probably hear my heart beating. Thankfully, it was an older traditional church with a confessional that didn’t require me to look the priest in the eye. My voice was shaky, but with God’s grace I managed to get it all out. The priest was compassionate and rather than judgment, I heard love in his voice. I don’t think I will ever hide from or fear confession the way I did before.
The opportunity to acknowledge your shortcomings, to look yourself square in the eyes and resolve to change is such a blessing. God could have written all of us off because we fall so short of his infinite perfection. Instead, he lets the remorseful come to his mercy through Jesus, the sacraments and prayer.
Confession is a gift, not a burden to be feared.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
Check out this new app for reviewing/keeping track of your sins. Don’t worry, it lets you set a pass code, so not just anyone can pick up your phone or iPod and review your queue of sins waiting to be confessed!