It’s amazing the things you’ll tell a girlfriend or post on social media or write about in a secret diary your kids might find one day that you won’t say aloud in the confessional. Maybe this post should be titled, “Things a Catholic Single Mom Won’t Say in Confession!”
I wasn’t a big fan of confession. It isn’t fun to head to Church almost an hour before Mass on a Saturday evening after running to kids’ games and stuff all day. I have laundry to do, bills to pay, life coaching clients to schedule, a house to clean, groceries to shop for, meals to cook, and…oh, did I mention massive amounts of laundry?
Then there are my five boys! Dragging five boys to Church forty-five minutes early for confession ought to prequalify me for sainthood!
Except sainthood doesn’t work that way
and just going to Confession doesn’t help much either.
I saw Confession as one of those things we had to do. I did it – occasionally – with a grin and bear it attitude that was far more bear it than grin it.
I treated confession like I treated a lot of my faith. I did the minimum I could do to call myself Catholic. I figured I did more than most – which was true – so I’d look better than most – which was true and false.
I may have looked better than some I hung around with. I had more faith than many. I went to church more regularly than a lot. I tried to be kinder than average.
I never thought that if this were all true, I should widen my circles. Instead, I thought that if this were all true, Confession didn’t really apply to me.
Besides, I mean really…how bad could I be? I usually said the same stupid things every single time.
Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It’s been a year since my last confession. I have yelled at my kids, been disrespectful toward my mom, stollen paperclips from work…”
I have a thing for paperclips.
I didn’t cheat on my husband. I didn’t sleep around after he left. Other than excitement that comes from having five boys, I’ve lived a pretty boring life.
Sometimes I pictured God rolling His eyes. I’d picture Jesus and His Father sitting together watching my Confession the way we watch sporting events at my house. There’d be a big bowl of chips between them. They’d look down at the “Big Game,” which was me as I walked out of the dark team tunnel, crossed the threshold, and went into the light of the Confession Zone. Sometimes I pictured Jesus and God elbowing each other as if waiting for the big play.
They’d sit on the edge of their seats as if hoping, this, THIS, would be the day their team would win!
Then I’d picture them throwing up the bowl with a shout in disappointment like I’d dropped the ball in the end zone, missed the final free throw that would have won the NCAA Championship, or had blown the biggest play of my career – or my life. I might have giggled at my imaginings except that, like God after my big game, I wasn’t generally thrilled with my performance.
I pictured God and Jesus disappointed even though they were all knowing, even though they knew ahead of time what I’d say and do in the confessional – and what I’d said and done outside of it.
After many months (or has it been years!) of feeling I needed to do more in Confession without knowing what more was, I realized quite suddenly that Jesus and God were not disappointed in the stupid little things I’d confessed each time. They understood human nature and knew I’d repeat mistakes. They were most disappointed in what I confessed.
Some will have read the title of this post and think, “Now we’re getting to the good stuff!” They will want to know exactly what a Catholic single Mom says in Confession. Their minds are already imagining illicit behavior. They will be hoping for something which rouses the imagination and plays on illustrations this world presents of single moms.
I believe that is a bit of what God and Jesus hoped for too.
Jesus and God know everything about me. They know all my petty thoughts. They know every negative beat of the heart they gave me to Love others with. They know the things I do and say and think in private when no one else is around. They know the most shameful, horrid, ugly sides of me and they love me anyway.
Just as they know all about you and love you too.
What they don’t love is our holding onto shameful, horrid, ugly things. They don’t love us keeping our sins close to our hearts. They don’t love us saying the same stupid things in confession every time when we have much greater things weighing us down. They don’t love us making our sins more than the pain of Judas’ betraying kiss or Jesus’ hanging on the Cross.
In my Confession, they wanted to hear less about things I already knew were wrong and more about the things I told my girlfriends or things I was so ashamed of that I told no one about – ever. They wanted me to turn myself, ALL of myself, including the parts I think no one can ever understand or forgive or love, over to them so that I could experience the Beauty of selfless understanding, forgiveness, Mercy, and Love.
Perhaps the biggest sin I needed to confess was my difficulty believing I needed a full confession. I believed that if I went to confession and thought the sins I wanted no one else to know about, pretended my sins weren’t so bad, or excused my sinfulness by comparing it to others who had done worse, God would still forgive me. I wanted His forgiveness yet, I didn’t trust Him to cover my spoken words or keep them from becoming common gossip.
I wanted God’s forgiveness on my terms.
I didn’t want to believe the Bible’s words, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23) I wanted to believe that, because God knows what is in my heart, He doesn’t need to hear my sorrow expressed aloud to another.
When I am wronged, I want an apology and retribution. Sometimes I want a public statement. However, when I, who is made in the image and likeness of God, wrong God, I want my pleasant thoughts and private prayers to be better than the humility of Confession. I never stopped to thank God for not demanding a public confession of private sin. Instead I doubted the use of a private Confession to erase things that affected thoughts I carried into the public. I wanted to lean on my own understanding and believe I can express my sins to God and be good enough.
I did a lot of “good enough” Catholic things. The thing is though, when I started coming away from “good enough” and started trusting, I discovered “good enough” wasn’t really so good enough after all. I discovered by not settling for good enough but by pushing myself through good enough gets left in the dust almost unviewable from where the Lord takes me.
I discovered I was the woman at the well, Zacchaeus in the tree, Saint Matthew the tax collector, and Saint Paul persecutor of the faith. I discovered that it is only when we make a real Confession, when we hold nothing back, and humbly trust our Lord to take from us what we clutch close to our hearts, that our hearts are truly free. I discovered that I may never be as pure as Saint Faustina, as sacrificing as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, as selfless as Saint Maximilian Kolbe, as strong as Saint Joseph, or as unstained as My Mary, but that’s not who I am called to be.
I am called to be me but closer to God than I thought I could be. Once I truly confessed what had held me back, I discovered what all those who had gone before me and done the same discovered. I discovered it didn’t matter who I had been or what I had done.
It did matter who I turned to and who I let Him turn me into.
Sainthood works by trusting God over ourselves.
Confession frees us only when we fully Confess.
Do I love Confession? I know many devout Catholics will say they do. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to that point. In some ways, I hope Confession always makes me a little uncomfortable. I hope I always dread going for reasons that extend beyond my busy schedule and five boys. No, I definitely don’t love Confession, but I do Love its results. I love humility Confession teaches me, the Graces I receive and the Graces I can give all because of My Savior and His forgiveness. I love knowing that when I push myself to embrace what is difficult but Good, God always rewards my efforts in ways the world won’t understand and in ways that don’t wait for the vague somedayness of Heaven but begin right away.
It was only after making a full Confession that I realized a depth of faith I’d never known. I now believe it was this full Confession that led me to my agonizing journey and unexplainable Light in Consecration to Jesus through My Mary, to praying for others rather than for myself, to increasing the depth of prayer for those who ask for it and for myself as well, and to Graces I could not have recognized never mind embraced when my hands and heart were still carrying my burdens.
It was only after fully Confessing, that I saw my addiction to private sin battled as surely as any addiction is battled and saw My Mary cradle me close as My Savior came to check on me.
But that story is for another day.
Join me later for my post on my first Full Confession.
Other Posts About Confession:
- Confession After Annulment
- Taking My Boys to Confession – One Way of Another!
- X is for Confession in an eXamination of Conscience
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