I have been quite lax about the sacrament of confession since I got out here. Partly because I miss my confessor, and partly because the available times do not work well for me at all. The thing is, going 4 months between confessions just doesn't work for me. I don't even realize much what's wrong, but I can tell things are a little off. It's like when your car is working great, but gas mileage is a little lower than usual and you start to realize things just aren't at their peak. Then you realize that you're overdue for an oil change and a filter or two. (By "you", I mean "me". I'm sure that all of you are much more on top of your car maintenance than I am.)
I started to notice myself being quite negative about some positive opportunities in my life (yes, they're great, but they mean I can't hike for a WHOLE weekend!) and started to add up that it's been about a month since the last confession, and that's about my limit. So off I take myself to a place that I've found that they do confession at much more convenient times.
First off, just hanging out in line was a story unto itself today. There was an older gentleman that came and sat down beside me to wait and struck up a conversation (in the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he's 84). He mentioned that he worked at a school district. I asked if he was a teacher, but he was the school psychologist. That was interesting, because my dad was a school psych for a number of years! I don't run into too many of those. I told him where I was from; turns out his wife was from the same state. He mentioned generally where he grew up in a different state; turns out it's the same little middle of nowhere town where my grandparents live now! Apparently he and my grandparents grew up a few miles apart. It was quite an interesting conversation, and a reminder of what a small world it was.
Then there was confession. Now, there were no bells and whistles. No special feelings or anything like that. But the priest said something very simple that I realized is my favorite part of confession. It is something that I feel few people realize, and if they did, they would probably go to confession more (if they're Catholic) or think confession is a little less crazy (if they're not Catholic).
He said, "The first thing you have to remember about confession is that it's not primarily about the past; it's primarily about the future."
We get so stuck on thoughts like "Oh my goodness, I have to tell someone what I did. What will the priest think of me." We may worry that our sins are going to be too big and shocking, or too inane and silly. But we're missing the point.
The past, those sins, are an important part of confession. But the point is not because we have to unload our Catholic guilt until the next time. The point is getting those things out in order to leave them behind. Confession is about the future. It's about where we are going from here without those sins. It's about the grace of forgiveness, but it's just as much about the grace to "Go and sin no more."
Yes, we will sin again. Ice skaters will fall in practice, and sometimes in competition. Then they learn from what they did and keep practicing. Sometimes it takes them a long time to learn the correct technique. Sometimes they always struggle with a particular element. Such is life. But they can still get out there and get better at it, even if they're not perfect. That is what confession does. It helps to take us to the next level.
There you have it. Confession is a good thing. (Btw, if you go now, you can beat the Lenten rush!:)