What on earth were you thinking Mike? Why would you do that? What an idiot. There it was again, that familiar inner voice. At one time those words, that voice, were about what I had done. Now they were about having scheduled an appointment with Fr. Kelly to confess what I had done.
Those words, that voice – I knew them well. I had heard them for as long as I could remember. It wasn’t someone else’s voice that spoke. It was mine. I don’t know where I learned to speak like that. I don’t know who taught me that language but I was fluent. It was that critical, second-guessing, you-should-know-better (and do better) voice. I was a house divided. I was Legion, fragmented and broken.
That voice was the reason I had decided to make a confession and the reason I really didn’t want to.
“Confession is good for the soul,” they say. Maybe so. But the thought of confessing, professing, undressing – baring it all – had my stomach churning and the voices in my head screaming. What would he think of me? Would he see or treat me differently? Would he recall all the things I had done and left undone every time he saw me? Would he see me, or my sins?
Those were never really his questions to answer. They were my questions to me, mine to answer. As I walked to my appointment with Fr. Kelly the voice grew louder with each step. What on earth were you thinking Mike? Why would you do that? What an idiot.
I didn’t have to do this. I was on retreat. I could have stayed in my little dwelling reading, daydreaming, napping. I could have gone for a walk. But I didn’t. I chose to waive my fifth amendment right and take the stand, a stand that a softer, quieter voice said would be a stand for my life.
I turned a five minute walk to Fr. Kelly’s place into fifteen minutes of coming up with excuses for why I could not make a confession today.
It’s difficult to face ourselves, to see and tell the truth about who we are and are not. I wasn’t so much afraid of being found out by Fr. Kelly as I was of being found out by myself. It’s one thing to keep the things you’ve done and left undone neatly stacked and packed away, hidden and out of sight. It’s another to name and number them out loud, to open the closet door of your soul for another to see your hidden clutter and junk.
“Come in,” he said as I reached for the screen door on his porch. The porch was simple and plain, furnished with thirty-five years of his presence, silence, prayer, and gentleness. He was reading when I arrived. A plastic glass with water, no ice, sat on the table next to him. It was a hot South Texas summer afternoon and his dwelling was not air conditioned. Maybe there would be a breeze. It didn’t matter, I would have been sweating if it had been January.
He set his book on the table and said, “Have a seat.” I remained standing. I didn’t intend to stay long. I began to speak, “Fr. Kelly, I’m not Catholic so maybe I shouldn’t….” He interrupted before I could finish. “That doesn’t matter, have a seat.” “Oh,” I said with feigned relief and a fake smile. I thanked him for his openness and willingness to meet with me. Was that a lie, something else to be confessed?
“It’s been a long time since I’ve made a confession and I don’t want to take up too much of your time so maybe….” He interrupted me again. “I have all afternoon. Have a seat.” “Oh, that’s great. Thank you,” I said half-heartedly as I moved toward my chair offering another fake smile.
We sat together in silence. What on earth were you thinking Mike? Why did you think you wanted to do this? More silence.
“Fr. Kelly, I don’t know what to say or where to begin,” I said. “Just tell me where it hurts,” he said.
Where it hurts. As soon as he said that tears fell and words flowed. My watery words filled his porch. Hurting and healing mingled. Was I swimming or was I drowning? Yes, yes I was.
I have no idea what I said or what he said. I no longer remember. I’ve tried to recall my words of things done and left undone but they’re not there. I suspect that’s how it should be with a confession. It was never about the words, or the things done and left undone. They were not the point or purpose of my confession. I was. I still am.