Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I have to make my first confession.
Confession (also known as Reconciliation, or Penance) is one of the sacraments of the Church. The very idea is one of the "weirder" sacraments of the Church, but it is Biblically, historically, and practically sound. James 5:16 commands confession of sins to other Christians. Jesus in John 20:20-23 gives the disciples the power to bind and loose, and to forgive and retain sins. Jesus sends them forth as the Father sent him, suggesting they acted and spoke by Jesus' authority, as Jesus spoke by the Father's authority.
Confession is one of the times when the priest acts "in the person of Christ". The priest acting as a man cannot forgive sins; he's just a man. But acting in persona Christi, the priest can say, "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Historically, the Church has practiced Confession since at least the beginning of the 100's A.D., as explained in the Didache, chapters 4 and 14.
But knowing this, I am still more afraid of Confession than of anything I've walked into voluntarily in my life. I will be confessing things everyone knows (such as how unforgiving I can be), as well as things no one on earth knows about me.
So I am compiling a list of every mortal sin I've ever committed. The magnitude of my sin is overwhelming. Combing through my life bit by bit has been humbling. My sinful nature is truly sinful, and truly my nature.
But most of my sins have not been done with full knowledge of their sinfulness, which is one of the criteria for a "mortal sin". Most of my sins were done out of laziness or ignorance.
But they still hurt God and wounded me.
Sin is sin.
Jen Fulwiler said that ten minutes in the confessional were worth ten years of psychotherapy. For me, I keep hearing the words "I absolve you of your sins..." in my head and wondering how I'll feel.
I have a couple of very old sins that have eaten at my soul since I was a child. At times, the sheer magnitude of the guilt I felt over a couple of specific sins drove me into deep depression. No one told me I had done wrong. No one had to.
I've mostly moved on, because I simply don't think about it. But it lingers, driving my oddest actions, motivating me in little ways.
I never speak of these things. But I'll be telling the priest even about these darkest parts of myself. This is why Confession feels to me like the next step in the long story of how I've dealt with the reality of my own depravity.
Lord willing, I'll let you know how the story goes after this. Thanks be to God.