A first confession, part II

Click here for Part I

One of the things I never understood about Christianity was the concept of accepting people who embraced the religion late in life. It struck me as unfair and hypocritical that someone could have all the fun they want then decide at the last minute that they’re a Christian. When I first started reading Christian authors, this was actually something that nagged at the back of my mind. Not that I would ever fall into this mostly silly belief system, I thought, but if hypothetically I did decide to become a Christian, it would just seem so unfair that I could get to be in heaven right alongside a devout lifetime church-goer who had lived her whole life following all the “rules”.

I was starting to think that religion, Christianity in particular, offered some interesting insights about the meaning of life and might be worth looking into. But then I thought of my years making (and spending) lots of money, living only for myself, indulging in vanity and greed and whatever else I felt like doing, staying all night at wild parties, not being confined by anyone’s oppressive rules, etc. and felt sorry for people who never got a chance to live a little like I had before getting mixed up in all the religion stuff.

But as my reading and soul-searching drew me closer to God and the Church, I began to see it all so differently. What I used to think of as rules of oppression created by power-hungry people, I now saw as a prescription for healing given by the perfect Doctor. And when I actually followed the prescription and took the Doctor’s advice, I knew that this was something rooted in divine goodness.

I was reminded of all this during my confession last night.

As I described for the priest all the “fun” that I’d had, my old life of decadence and selfishness, I was overcome with sorrow. In part because I’d offended God, the source of all goodness, but also in part because I felt sad for me. It was sickening to think of all the years I threw away in pursuit of a fragile happiness, the kind of surface-level contentment that goes away pretty quickly when things like money or looks or health start to fade. My life without meaning, without purpose, without a belief in objective truth, seemed like a desolate wasteland when I looked back on it. I cried that night in confession because I was sorry to God, and also because I was sorry to me.

And now, as with so many other things that used to seem hypocritical or restrictive, I finally get it. Those of us who come to faith late in life are not getting a better deal than those who believed all along. We’re getting a far worse deal. When you finally experience the peace of Christ, you realize that every day without it is a day to be regretted.

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4 Responses to “A first confession, part II”
  1. John Tyner says:

    Why did nobody comment on this? I’m beginning to wonder if my own words are even being received by anyone. So please email me at anon10110@live.com because it’s important that we speak on this. You no doubt feel differently about these things now that it’s been three years, but I have to know, do you still feel regrets? You really shouldn’t. God’s love for us is beyond reason or understanding.

  2. Cléo says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I’ve been reading all of your posts (and all the responses too, so interesting) chronologically, once every few days in between editorial work at my workdesk.

    Coming from a very anti-catholic but still very religious (Belgian calvinist-evangelical) background, reading about your journey of discovering the Catholic faith has been like reading a ‘how to start on catholicism’-book for me, lots of posts falling like a drop of water on my every thirsty sould (and mind!) My parents were both raised as typical (Belgian)’culture catholics’ post Vatican II and ‘converted’ to evangicalism in their twenties, out of frustration with the Church and out of mere hunger for God and ‘sincere personal belief’. 30 or so years later, they still read their bible and they still believe in God, but they’re still hungry… and I with them. Now their eldest child (that’s me) will proceed to do the unthinkable: return to their home Church, together with her (also protestant raised) husband, on Pentecost 2011 (Our christian baptism is recognised) My best friend – Ciska from thisjourneyofmylife – got to the same conclusions on her own seperate journey and felt the same longings to be in full Communion with the Church, a bit ahead of me. (She’ll be recieved on the Easter Vigil this year) I can’t fully describe the change/transformation I’ve felt since I’ve been attending Mass regularly and decided (half a year ago) to become catholic, yet. This Lent, me and my husband will (seperately and together) be preparing for our Confirmation, First Eucharistic Communion, and… first Confession. I’m not quite sure what to expect. A bit nervous, too (a lot!) It’s strange for someone who’s been ‘confessing’ her whole life, alone, silently, without reassurance (‘Are we okay now, God? Did you hear me? Did I say enough?’) or actial absolution. Your posts about first confession kinda calms me and assures me it’ll be okay, whatever happens. I expect it to be a bit different from your experience though, since I’ll be the only one coming to confession on a certain day (the habit of confessing is almost completely extinct in catholic Belgium these days – what a pity!) and the priest and I will be sitting in his office at a desk, ‘talking’ about the things that kept (and still keeps) me from God the most.’ Being a perfectionist and controllfreak as you are (were?), I’m already thinking about how to ‘deliver’ a ‘good’ confession. Wrong Cléo! But I do think about that. Afraid to ‘fail’ in confessing ‘the good way’ = not as I have always done as a protestant youngster. Would you pray for my first confession? I’m pretty excited about our Confirmation and recieving the Eucharist, but man, that first confession gets me anxious! Not that I’m afraid to actually tell a priest the wrong things I did/thought (and still remember) or do, I’m a very open person who likes to get ‘things out in the open’. I think I’m afraid of the feeling you describe in your post, about the regret and sadness of ‘years wasted’ in anger, resentment, apathy, rebellion and hopelesness, without seeking consolation or meaning at the roots of life: Christ and his Church.

    But maybe I actually already got a taste of that feeling a few weeks ago.
    My husband and I watched the bio-epic of Pope John Paul II (portrayed by John Voight) one night. I cried my eyes out for the entire lenght of the miniseries. (quite a while…) I certainly didn’t expect that to happen! But the guilt I felt for once disregarding/mocking and thinking ill of this wonderful man/leader/Father and his Church, was overwhelming. How did I not know all this back then when he was still alive? I felt such remorse for my prejudices against the Church…

    My husband and I will be the only new catholics in our diocese this year (!), since the Church in Belgium faces quite a crisis at the moment (and never before seen gratuit media-attacks), and a lot of people are ‘leaving’ the Church (getting ‘de-baptised’, crazy) instead of joining. We don’t have any preparation groups like RCIA, not a lot of new catholics to relate to, … we’re pretty much on our own. That’s why I’m so thankful to all those intelligent, witty ànd (new) catholic blogwriters like yourself! You writing down your walk in faith means a lot to me! At the moment, I’m reading (more devouring) catholic books (Chesterton, Pope Benedictus XVI, Hahn, Christopher West, the Cathechism, lives of Saints), I try to pray the Hail Mary (blasphemy in my protestant family) and talk to Saint Johannes Bosco (my husband’s already a catholic religion teacher, and I’d like to quit my job and become a history teacher). And just a few days ago, I decided to start practicing what I’ve been preaching to my husband the last couple of months: to embrace the Church’ teaching on contraception, to let go of my ‘I can controll my fertility and a lot more’-mentality, and to start NFP. (I’m actually terrified!)

    Now, I’m also excited to read your ‘next’ post, Jennifer, about you being received in the Church on Easter almost four years ago. I’ll keep reading! (and praying) Please keep writing : )

    Groetjes from Belgium, Cléo (1986)

    • Wonderful to hear from you, Cleo! What an amazing journey you’re on! Thank you so much for sharing your story, and you will continue to be in my prayers!!

      • Cléo says:

        Thank you Jennifer!
        I’m happy it’s not such a lonely journey that we’re on now : )
        (Thank God for the world wide web and my knowledge of english!)