As the sun went down today, the season of Advent began. An hour before I went to confession. I admit to an almost superstitious desire to start the new church year with an unsullied soul. I want a clean slate on which to write new stories. Yesterday's news is always at least a little bit bad.
Daily I can examine my conscience, and daily I will encounter my own sin. What I recount in the presence of God is distressingly familiar. It's the same old song, and its tune is guilt. Why did I eat that? I want what she has. How much time did I waste?
It's unfashionable to believe in sin. Sin and judgment are relegated to the reliquary of the past. Patriarchy and hierarchy and thearchy have kept us down. Freedom means doing as I like as long as everybody consents and nobody gets hurt.
Unfortunately my own soul isn't sure she consents. What I want or don't want isn't clear. I want to lay on the couch scrolling through Facebook, and I want my basement cleaned. I want money to pay my kids' college tuition and to feed the poor, and I want another $5 latte.
If I'm not careful, before I am fully aware, it is not a day but a week and a month and a year and a season and a lifetime and where am I? Sliding into a crevasse of my own making.Those daily sins, the drip, drip, drip of envy and covetousness, of sloth and gluttony, start to wear ruts and gullies in the solid rock of my good intentions.
I sure don't feel free.
So I slink back to the confessional, not as often as feel I ought to, because in 47 years I've still only availed myself of this sacrament a couple of handfuls of times. I feel awkward. I'm not sure what to say. Is it enough? Is it too much? I am uncomfortably self-conscious as I confess my self-absorption. But I still go, because I want to feel free.
My eleven year old joined me in the confessional queue today. He said afterwards, "Mom, when I'm done with confession, I can't stop smiling." He's happy, because he's free.
I am, perhaps, too aware that before the day is over, I will have sinned again in some of those same old ways. I will speak before I think. I will open a catalog and want things I do not have and do not need. I will let a dirty bathroom sit unattended while I watch Netflix. But in those precious moments as I exit the little room with the kneeler and the chair and the lamp and walk into the sanctuary to pray three Our Father's for those who have fallen away from the faith I can't stop smiling, because I am free.