Thursday, May 14, 2009

Forgive me, Father, for I hath sinned

Those of you who are or have been Catholic will recognize this as the traditional opening line for confession. That’s the thing where you go into the little Superman booth with the voice box that lets you hear, but not see, the priest in the adjacent little Superman booth who will listen to you spill your guts about all of your most horrific, guilt-inducing sins, then tell you what prayers to say how many times before granting you divine absolution from The Things Of Which You’re Most Ashamed.

I grew up Catholic. And I can honestly say I’m thankful for the fact that my parents raised me that way, because it provided me with at least two vital components of my adult life. The first one is an ever-present belief that God is real, though my version of who He is has changed many times during my life and is still evolving even now. The second, and equally important, reason is that it gives me great blog material.

For example, the other night, as my husband and I were on our way to marriage counseling, I made a confession.

“I feel like I’m going to confession.”

He was puzzled. “Confession?”

I frequently have to remind myself that his dad is Anglican (not that I know what that means), so he does not share my childhood images of priests, tabernacles, and altar boys of whom I was always envious because why on earth is it fair that I don’t get to wear the ridiculous white garb and stand up in front of everybody and be on the Holy Altar and ring a bell just because I’m a girl?

So I explained that I was experiencing the same feeling I always had as a child going to confession, the one about trying to remember all your faults and flaws and things that make you feel like crap about yourself before admitting them to somebody else with the hopes that your life will somehow be better for it in the end.

Turns out, I was wrong. Compared to marriage counseling, confession is a cake walk. “So, you pulled the dog’s tail, talked back to your mother, and didn’t do your math homework, again? Those things are not good. You should stop that. That’s ten Our Fathers and five Hail Marys. Now go in peace, and sin no more.”

But somehow, the admonition to “sin no more” never worked, because I would inevitably do something else for which I was ashamed and then feel guilty about walking around with the resulting black mark on my soul while I avoided the little Superman booth in back of the church for a few more weeks.

Marriage counseling, at least the kind I am getting, is a totally different experience. It starts in a similar manner, where you have to admit that you didn’t do all of the things you knew you should have been doing since the last time you met and vow to do better. But then you have to sit there, look at the face of the person to whom you just spilled your guts, and listen to them tell you why that’s wrong and what you must do to improve upon it. What makes that much worse is when you’re telling them about something that you are positive is your husband’s fault and not yours, and then they point out to you that had you responded with a tad less attitude, you might have been able to avoid fighting about it.

And when you leave, there’s no Insta-Cure involving a rosary and some uncomfortable kneeling in a pew. You can’t make things better by reciting anything from memory over and over. But you still get that sense that you are to “sin no more,” except that this time, you actually have to work at the avoidance of said sin, in a way that involves a monumental amount of effort every day and not ten minutes of quiet meditation in the back of a church.

Because when you go back there again, if you haven’t put forth any of that monumental effort, there will be no virtual slap on the hand followed by a series of Hail Marys as a consequence. Instead, you will be further along the road towards the disintegration of something that you swore would last until death do you part. And instead of living with the guilt-inducing image of little black marks on your soul, you could end up living alone.

I think I want to go back to confession.

1 comment:

Rebeccalynn_dj said...

Aww We are a work in progress at all times. I hope that things pick up soon at home.