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A Confession of Sorts
The entire church was silent, so I just sat there alone with my thoughts. The room was big enough -- and our class is small enough -- that they could sit us one person to a pew, and under constant supervision so that any communication was virtually impossible. But that’s fine by me. I tend to enjoy being alone with my thoughts, and this was no different.
We each had journals in which we could write whatever we want. I noticed the person in front of me writing what looked like a story. I tried, without much success to write poetry. As people were ready, they stood up and walked to an open priest in order to confess their sins.
I was raised a Catholic, so the act of Reconciliation was really nothing new to me. A lot of people I know really actually take it seriously and get something out of it. I was never really like that. I’ve always been the type to rattle of the generics -- “I lie, I’m mean to my siblings,... ummm... I disobey my parents,... I cuss, …um ... that’s it.” -- that sort of thing. But I really respect those people that do get something out of it. I think it’s cool that they can. I just can’t.
As I’ve become more cynical in my recent years, confessing sins has become even more difficult. The Catholic Church and I just don’t really get along the way we used to. That may be most evident in the fact that instead of using my journal to reflect as expected, I was using it to attempt haikus like:
The fork in my foot
Really f***ing hurts. A lot.
Remove it, will ya?
(Haikus go 5-7-5, right?)
After a while, I started to feel guilty for not going to confession (this seems like a good time to say that we aren’t actually forced to, it’s just highly recommended). Like I said, I grew up a Catholic. I could just imagine my Grandpa chewing me out if he ever heard I opted out of a sacrament. But I didn’t want to give my usual lines of s***. I mean, that’s basically the same thing as opting out, right?
So I spent a lot of time sitting on the pew, scribbling in a notebook (I heard once that people think better if they’re moving a pen), trying to think of something I could actually tell the priest. There was nothing I was legitimately sorry for. I mean, I’ve definitely sinned, but I couldn’t say I was seeking forgiveness, and that’s what it’s all about, right?
After some time, I convinced myself that I felt guilty for skipping mass on occasion. So I reckon -- reckon? Do I suddenly think I’m Shane? -- that if I throw that in with the usual bullsh*t, I’ll have a halfway decent confession. Then I’ll say my prayers or whatever penance and hopefully I’ll feel better about myself.
I stood up to walk over to an open priest and I started walking toward one in the corner, some f***er cut me off and jumped in front of me (add that to the list: cussing in church). Anywho, I spotted another across the church so I started walking toward him. As I walked, I was overcome with a weird sort of confidence / inspiration that you really only see in movies (or for those intellectuals -- books).
My walk became a stride became a strut. H*ll, by the time I reached the priest, I was practically skipping. I sat down and said, “Forgive me Father, for I’m about to sin. It’s been forever since my last confession. To be quite honest, I don’t even want to confess anything. I just want to talk.”
“Of course, my son. We can talk about anything on your mind,” the priest said back to me. He had an unnaturally smooth, deep voice. Like one you’d hear on the radio.
“Well I sort of have a problem with this whole confession thing. I’ve been a Catholic all my life, so I understand what is and is not a sin. And believe me, I’ve sinned with the best of them.”
“God will forgive you if you are sorry for what you did -”
“See, that’s just the thing, Father. I’m not sorry. I realize that what I did may have been wrong. I may even have hurt others worse than they deserve. But without all of those things, I wouldn’t be me. You see, Father, I haven’t always liked who I am. In fact, I used to have a really sh*tty self-esteem -- forgive my language there.
“For the first time in basically forever, I can honestly say I like who I am. I love my friends, I love the relationships I am capable of building, and I love the way I see the world. Are there things about me that maybe I would change? Sure. Who doesn’t want to change something about themselves? But I won’t accomplish that by being forgiven for anything.
“You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, right? How every little thing ends up having a profound effect that changes everything later on. Well, if I understand that right, that means that everything I’ve done has changed me in some way. Maybe if something didn’t happen, it wouldn’t have a profound enough effect on me to alter who I am today, but I have no way of truly knowing that, so I can’t truly wish anything in my past didn’t happen.”
“My son,” the priest finally cut in, raising one hand to quiet me, ”I think you misunderstand. You can be sorry for something and still be grateful it happened. God can forgive you without changing you.”
“God d*mn -- sorry, gosh d*mn -- I must not be explaining myself right. I am not sorry for anything in my past because it has made me who I am. I will not be sorry for being me, and I will not be sorry for that which made me me. Like I said, I actually like myself right now, and I don’t seem to understand why God would consider things sins if they led to improvement.”
“But how can you be sure you didn’t hurt others?”
“I can’t. But even the best acts have a chance of hurting others. You don’t say Jesus sinned, even though he openly walked into death. That undoubtedly hurt his mother, right?”
The priest gave me a look of shock and near repulsion. “To even begin to compare yourself to the Messiah is just beyond -”
“No that’s not what I meant. My point is that just because someone is hurt by something, it doesn’t make that thing a sin, unless you’re willing to tell me that Jesus sinned in his death. But this is a tangent I’m really not interested in. I just need to tell you that I shan’t be confessing anything. And I thought maybe you could pass it along to the big man upstairs as to why.” With that, I stood up and walked out of the Church.
I felt oddly as if a weight was lifted off of me. Not like I was suddenly cured of anything, but like when you have a secret that you’ve kept for weeks and when you finally tell someone it just feels good. I felt good after that. I got in my car, turned up the music so that it was just barely uncomfortably loud, and began the drive home.