My First Confession

14 Mar

Well…I’ve made my first confession.

I hadn’t been nervous about it until it was time for me to drive to the church. I got in my car and I was shaking so badly I could barely drive. I rarely drive with the radio off, but today it was grating on my nerves. I snapped it off impatiently.

When I walked into the church, the secretary said hi to me, but I couldn’t force a response out of my mouth. Father saw me and knew immediately that I was more than a little unnerved. So rather than go to the confessional he suggested we sit in his office and talk.

I pulled out my two page list of sins and glanced down at it. “There’s no way this can cover the nine years worth of sins I’ve amassed since my baptism,” I thought.

I looked at Father.

Then back at my list.

Then back at Father.

He folded his hands in front of him and said, “I don’t have anything else scheduled for this afternoon. We will take as long as you need. Even if all you need is to collect your thoughts.”

I sat for a second and took a deep breath.

“I…I…I have taken…” and that’s when the tears started. And they didn’t stop until I was two sins away from the bottom of my list.

It had been so long since I’d sat down and actually examined my conscience. I had forgotten what it feels like to ponder my own frail human nature. I had forgotten the feelings that accompany guilt – the terror of Hell, the desolation that comes from knowing you’ve hurt the One who loves you the most, the feeling of being despicable and unworthy of forgiveness – things I hadn’t felt since I gave up Protestantism.

This past week exhausted me for that reason. Ever since I had scheduled my confession with Father, I had been reflecting on the things I ought to share. And I began to feel much like I did prior to leaving the Protestant Church. I cried a lot this week, because I was afraid that I was entering into the same thing I am running away from.

Each time I remembered a sin, it felt like I was picking up an item from my room and putting it in a box. The box grew heavier and heavier as the week went on, and I carried it with me everywhere. Sometimes I would see someone or walk by a place and it would spark my memory – and then more things would go into my box. I felt myself beginning to despair because there was so much weighing me down.

“This isn’t what I want,” I thought. “I am entering the Catholic Church to get away from this. Yet here it is, following me everywhere I go.”

And then I went to Confession.

When I looked down at my list, each line seemed to taunt with evil glee, “You’ll never be able to say me,” one would say. “I’m too embarrassing to confess, you’d better hold back on me,” another would suggest.

So I started at the top, with the hardest things first. And I overcame that list, line by line. And at the end I tried to look Father in the eye, but the guilt was still there. It was almost tangible, I thought.

But then something happened that I had forgotten was going to happen.

Father absolved me.

And through Father, Jesus reminded me that He didn’t condemn. He forgave. And He will continue to forgive and to ease my guilt.

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2 Responses to “My First Confession”

  1. SR March 14, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Wonderful and beautiful! I was nervous also, on my first one. I always say, “I go into confession with my tail between my legs, and come out lighter then a feather.” I look so forward to this Blessed Sacrament! Jesus not only takes the things in our box, He takes the box away too, so we do not have to carry it around anymore! Congratulations and God Bless, SR

    • elliejaneohara March 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      That is exactly how I felt! It’s so different to have a palpable feeling of being forgiven. Before with sins it got really easy to do a “God I’m sorry, please forgive me, Amen.” number, which, while much easier, didn’t (at least for me) seem to mean much. It seems to me, that the scarier, more difficult process of confessing one’s sins aloud to a Priest is a more realistic way of both dealing with the guilt from sin, and trusting in the power of God’s grace and forgiveness.

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