I know I’ve talked before about the benefits of the sacrament of Confession. Sometimes, it becomes part of a routine, like taking your vitamins, knowing they’ll keep you healthy.
But then there are other Confessions that are especially nourishing and productive. They heal parts of your soul you weren’t even aware were hurting until the ache is gone and you feel light as a feather.
Last night was one such time for me. In the last few weeks, I’ve developed a lot of fears about motherhood and what that’s going to mean. I’m not worried about the toll it will take on me and my life– that’s part of the beautiful but necessary sacrifice of what it means to bring another human being into the world. I’m more afraid of inadequacy. Of accidents that I’m helpless to prevent.
I put two and two together just a few days ago. The reason I’m becoming so aware and protective of my environment is because it’s suddenly hit me that once Gregory is born, I’ll no longer be able to protect and control his environment. I keep asking myself all of the ways in which I could possibly make my home safer, cleaner, although with Claire’s bad potty habits, I’m pretty sure Gregory will have his first taste of dog poo within the year. But it does force me to ask myself– what kind of world am I bringing this kid into?
And then, there’s the part of me that’s become really selfish of our resources. This is probably because I feel like I am so exhausted, just making it through the day in one piece. If anything else comes up, I feel like I have nothing left to give.
Much of this is predictable, given 3rd Trimester pregnancy hormones. I can firmly attest to the fact that pregnant woman don’t choose to be this anal and crazy– there’s something weird that takes place where every.little.thing.matters. It’s the Don’t-EVEN-TRY-and-make-light-of-the-situation-or-say-I’m-taking-it-too-seriously-or-I-will-bite-your-head-off-and-use-it-to-nourish-my-baby Syndrome.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve decided to give in. All day Friday and Saturday, I self-examined, trying to determine ways in which I’ve gone crazy or changed, for better or worse, since becoming pregnant. I was running out of ideas though, and despair was quickly taking hold.
And then, Jesse suggested that we make it to church on Saturday night, if only to go to Confession. We were both exhausted– in the morning, I had my Trivium class and he had a Birth Orientation at the Birth Center in Dallas. From there, we both went straight to our 3 hour Birth Class, finishing in the late afternoon. So we were TIRED.
But we still made it. We had to wait in line for a while, even though we were there an hour before the service. But it was worth it.
God grants so much peace to us when we are willing to face our fears and our sins head on, even when we don’t know what the heck to do about it. Just hearing myself say that I was afraid of these things (as opposed to just thinking or talking with Jesse about them) in front of Jesus was therapeutic in and of itself. But to have a priest, who has earned my trust time and time again when he gives advice that is so right on and insightful it could only be given to him by God, increased the benefits exponentially. It was like taking a huge mental mess of emotions before Christ, breathing a sigh of relief, and then having someone gently help untangle it all.
One of the things I’m comfortable sharing about the whole thing is how Fr. Joe pointed out that a lot of my productive “planning” actually isn’t responsible, or making me a better mother. Instead, it’s a crutch, keeping me from trusting God’s provision and plan for these next couple months. It comes from a feeling that Jesse and I are all alone, and we have to act responsibly or we’ll crash and burn. Fr. Joe pointed out what could seem like the obvious, but it needed to be said boldly to my face– it’s not profitable or commendable to take from God what’s His. He also pointed out that if we demonstrate our inevitable love for Gregory and provide him with a roof over his head, food on the table and a place where he can be instructed and nourished spiritually, we will be doing far more for him than most parents ever can. He brought up examples (not by name) of people in our parish who grew up dirt poor but never even knew it or cared, mostly because they were loved by their parents and community. When one has the love of friends, family and church, the rest seems kinda worthless. I can already attest to that in my own life– I only feel the need to buy things or invest in the material aspects of this world when I feel lonely. The minute I’m surrounded by the people I love, not a whole lot else matters.
I’ll leave you with a beautiful selection that I’ve been meaning to post for sometime, from that book, “Touching Heaven” I posted from back in July.
Preparing to confess is almost as important as the confession itself. When confronted with the sobering question, “What have you done with My image within you?” one might feel like a proud child who eagerly raises his hand because he thinks he has the right answer, or like a shamed child who shoves his hands in his pockets, looks to the ground, and kicks a few stones.
I usually feel like hiding. But when we hear that question, it is in the preparation—the thoughtful, prayerful reflection that yields our most honest and penetrating responses—that we discover much of who we are and much of who God is.
Much, not all. The Prophet Jeremiah reminds us that “[our] heart is…desperately wicked;/ Who can know it?” (17:9) and Isaiah affirms that “as the heavens are higher than the earth,/ So are My ways higher than your ways,/ And My thoughts than your thoughts” (55:9). That mystery of unknowing, then, invites humility. A penetrating preparation for confession reminds us that our need is infinitely greater than we know for a God who is infinitely greater than we can comprehend.