Lent is a time when we turn inward and look at ourselves. We may try to give up something or take something on. When we do these things we figure out something pretty quick.
We are sinners.
It is just a fact of human life. We make mistakes. We do things we know we shouldn’t do. We mess up.
Now it would be great if I could write a blog post on how to stop sinning, but frankly I haven’t figured that out yet. I sin every day. Every hour. Can’t seem to stop. Not sure its even possible to stop sinning.
But there is a remedy for sin.
It is called Confession.
The spiritual practice of confession is not something I grew up knowing much about. I pretty much got that we were supposed to confess our sins to God, but I never saw anyone confess their sins to another person as a part of their spiritual healing.
Not that anyone can forgive us except God. But sometimes it help to have someone else on the line with you and the Big One.
When we first started attending the Episcopalian church, our priest would make an announcement at the beginning of each Lenten season about the hours he would be receiving confessions.
Let me tell you this freaked me out a bit. I was just getting to know our priest and no he wanted me to come and tell him about all the horrible things I struggled with? Um, No thanks.
Now as I’ve come to understand confession in our church over the years, there is no secret booth involved. I am not even sure if there is penance given. Frankly, I’ve still never gotten up the courage to go to my priest and confess all my wrongdoings.
But I have had the great privileged of receiving someone’s confession. There were times when I was in the ministry that someone would come in and need to get something off their chest. I would listen and remind them about God’s love and grace.
Sometimes it happens with friends over dinner or a drink.
But my real role model in the practice of confessing sin is my daughter.
I’ll never forget the first time it happened. She was around eight years old. Now my daughter is a very crafty child, always cutting and coloring and making beautiful things. She usually makes these beautiful things at our old wooden coffee table. It is covered in scratches and marker marks and all kind of things. It was a hand-me-down. No biggie.
But one day our daughter commenced to crafting on our almost new ottoman. And she accidentally cut a small hole in the fabric. Honestly I never noticed. For a whole year. But my daughter noticed. Every day that hole in the ottoman ate away at her. She would fight between the guilt she felt at doing something she ought not to have done and her fear of telling me about it. She believed I would be very angry when she told me. She feared severe punishment. She feared me thinking less of her, loving her less.
Finally one day things became too much and she got up the courage to tell me. From my perspective, after hearing “Mom, I have something to tell you, but I’m afraid you’ll be REALLY mad,” hearing “I cut a hole in the ottoman” was actually a big relief.
After she told me, I smiled at her. I hugged her. I told her it was okay. We all made mistakes.I loved her still.
She immediately stated crying in relief.
She said, “You mean I’ve felt bad about this every day for over a year and now I’m not even in trouble?” And then I told her “No, you have punished yourself enough. Just try not to do it again. Crafts are for the coffee table.”
Her sweet child self did not doubt my words. She truly felt and trusted that she was forgiven. That the separation between us had been removed. That she was claimed and held close and beloved.
Apparently the relief my daughter experienced at her first confession made her a believer in letting go of her sins.
Now I get regular confessionals from her. Usually at night when I’m tucking her into bed. In that quiet time when its just me, her, and God. She pours out her heart about what she has done wrong. As she ages, it gets much more diverse than accidentally cutting a hole in the ottoman fabric. But still I listen, I tell her I still love her, I remind her there is grace for all. She is still our girl. And she always breathes such a big sigh of relief after and then settles in for a peaceful sleep.
As she moves into her teenage years it will be interesting to see how this practice of confession continues. It may get harder for the both of us.
But it will be no less important, for our souls long to be free of our sins. Long to breathe a sigh of relief. Long to be forgiven and loved in spite of it all.
And maybe one day I’ll get the courage to follow in my daughter’s footsteps. To pour out my heart to someone other than just God. To confess my guilt, my fears, my weakness. It must be a relief to have someone be the hands on messenger of God’s grace.
But for now I deal alone with the Big One, laying all my ugliness out on the line. And at night I remind myself of the assurance that in spite of it all, I am claimed as a beloved daughter. If only I could trust and believe it as deeply and truly as that young child.