Monday, July 6, 2009

Camping and Confession

I am not a big fan of camping.  I will do it in the right circumstances, but it's usually not my first choice.  Give me a hotel with a shower and someone to clean up after me.  Or better yet, my own bed, so I'm not imagining all the people that have slept there before me.  But sometimes, you have to camp.  Either that, or cut the trip in half so you can afford it.  So camping it was.  We had the most awesome tent ever.

 This view has you looking at the door, which we couldn't use because it was sewn shut.  Apparently the zipper had broken, and it was either permanently open or permanently closed.  Since the big back window had a perfectly good zipper, we went with permanently closed.

Now you would think, knowing that, I would have realized that this tent had a few issues.  I knew it was old, but I thought that it was some poles and some fabric, so how much could go wrong (other than the zipper)?  Well, fabric might get holes.  You could start out a few stakes short.  And perhaps the elastic on the rain fly could be completely useless.  Ahem, in theory, mind you.  I will say that I'm glad we didn't have to try to face the rain in this thing.  Although, perhaps if it had failed as bad in the rain as it seems like it would have, we could have pitched it (haha, yeah I know it's an awful pun).  We tried to convince my mom that it had worked hard enough and should be retired to a better place, but she insisted that we bring it back.  Maybe she thought we were exaggerating?  I appreciate my parents' willingness to share their old tent while they took their good one elsewhere, but next time I'll just cough up the dough to buy my own.

About the only place that I will camp is in the national parks.  I can't stand the in town campgrounds where you can share your neighbors' tent stakes (though that might have solved a few problems for us this time around).  Also, if I have to be in a tent, I at least like the feeling of wilderness around me, and this way I don't have to hike somewhere with a tent on my back.  Those packs look ridiculously heavy!  Most national park restrooms do have running water and flushing toilets, but few have showers.  That's a bit of an issue if you are camping from Monday to Thursday in national parks.  And if you put on a lot of sunscreen while you're hiking.  And if you hike in the hot, hot sun on dusty trails and the dust sticks to the sunscreen and your sweat.  And if you glop on more sunscreen over the top of the whole mess.

Yuck.  Just yuck.

We did what we could to clean up using the sinks in the bathroom and wet wipes, but it leaves a lot to be desired.  The wet wipes themselves tended to leave a bit of a residue.  Let me say that I forgot how salty sweat can be until this trip.  Another reason that I'm not a huge fan of camping. (Still wouldn't trade it for the city campground with showers though.  Look at the picture above.  If you can see past the sorry, lopsided affair that tried to pass for a tent, you'll see why I'll complain, but continue to book national park campgrounds.)


Now let's shift gears for a moment to confession. If I had to pick one thing about Catholicism that people understand the least (besides Mary) it would be confession.  Or reconciliation, or whatever you want to call it. My Baptist friend (MBF) thinks I'm an anomaly as a Catholic because I read the Bible and because I know Jesus.  I think she gets really confused as to why I would choose to remain Catholic if I'm otherwise apparently somewhat enlightened to a more real Christian faith.  She really doesn't get it when I tell her that my relationship with Jesus and my understanding of the Bible is because of my Catholic faith and not in spite of it.

MBF has asked me several times if I believed in this or that that the Catholic Church teaches.  I think she keeps hoping that I will not have blindly fallen for everything that comes from Rome, since I've read a little of the Bible myself. I keep telling her that I believe it all.  (Again, because I read the Bible.  She still doesn't get it.)

One day, she asked me: "You don't go to confession do you?"  There was a definite distaste in her tone and expression when she spit that word out.  Surely I understood that only Jesus forgives sins and you don't need to jump through hoops in front of a priest in order to be forgiven.

I smiled and I said, "Yes, yes I do."  Not only that, but I love it.  I don't really get excited to go and humble myself in confession, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  Many stem from the drawbacks themselves.  I can round up biblical answers if you want.  I can pull evidence from the early Church fathers that shows that there was some form of confession from the beginning.  Someday I'll be happy to, if you're interested, but for now I want to share my own experience.

Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins.  The wounds of His sufferings pour out more grace than they do drops of blood.  The grace that spills forth from His sacrifice covers the earth and only waits for me to accept it. 

I can and I do ask Jesus to forgive my sins as I commit them.  I try to take a moment at night to consider the places that I have fallen short, so that I can ask for forgiveness.  I know that He can and does forgive me in that moment.  As far as I'm concerned, it feels like the spiritual equivalent of a sponge bath or using the wet wipes.  It helps, but it leaves some residue.  It doesn't quite get it all off.  The first day or two it's not so bad, but after a while the residue has a tendency to outpace the cleaning.  It gets to the point where you can't decide whether or not to put on clean clothes or not, because you know whatever you put on will be dirty the second it touches you.  You keep going, because it's better than nothing, but you start to get more and more desperate for the shower.

Confession!  Now that's the spiritual equivalent to the long awaited shower.  Graces pouring over you, washing away the grit and the grime, refreshing and cleaning all at once.  It is not an unnecessary hoop to jump through to get grace, but a channel of grace beyond what is available without it.  That's how I feel when I leave confession.  Just like that shower left me feeling like a whole new person, that's confession.

Jesus always forgives a repentant heart, with or without confession.  As for me, I choose confession, because I need it.  I have learned to depend on showers and I have learned to depend on confession.

Ha!  I bet you didn't think that I could make any connection between camping and confession. There is also a connection between the national parks and the Church.  I'll let you think on that for a while.  Yes, my brain really does go there, even while I'm on vacation.  I didn't try to come up with these thoughts, but now that I've had them,  I'm going to inflict them on any and all unwary readers as well.

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