My kids don’t like going to confession. That’s okay…I understand their desire to hide from God. But together we’re learning about the wonderful things when we step out from behind the proverbial “bush” into God’s merciful light.
by Becky Arganbright
I have five children, three of whom have made their first Confession. Those are special times and I cherish each memory. But one memory that stands out from the others is Max’s first confession.
He was so scared. Though I prepared him as best I could on what to do and how things would happen, he was still very nervous. I had escorted Max into the confessional and then quietly tiptoed out. I had just settled into my pew and began praying for Max when I saw him at my elbow, white as a ghost with tears in his eyes. He had walked out!
Once again I escorted him into the confessional, made a quick introduction between Max and the priest, explaining it was his first confession, and quickly walked out. I went back to the pew and resumed my prayers, this time, more earnestly. I understood Max’s fears all too well. Telling the truth about yourself can be hard to do.
Adam and Eve and the bush
I like to use the Adam and Eve story to teach my kids about repentance. My little twist on the story is to talk about the bush. I tell my kids how Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. And once they did this, they realized they were naked, and the first thing they did was find a bush to hide in. Even when God called them out, they did not want to leave the bush, though they eventually did, reluctantly.
At my age, though I have many years behind me of confessing my sins, I still find myself wondering where my bush is to hide in. Confession opens my eyes and makes me see my own nakedness—things that I would prefer to remain hidden. Discovering the truth about yourself and owning up to it can be a scary thing.
And so I understood Max when he walked out of the confessional that first day. I understood that fear of feeling overwhelmed with so much to remember, what to do and what prayers to say—but most of all, to confess things that maybe were displeasing to God. It is a scary thing, walking out of that bush.
An act of humility
Confession is an act of humility. It is humbling. When we confess our sins, we are admitting our sins, our faults, our weaknesses. We are admitting that we need God’s forgiveness and help. But there is something beautiful about watching your kids humble themselves before God. I watch them disappear into the confessional, looking nervous and scared, and come out smiling. They proudly perform their penance, amusing me with bragging how many Hail Mary’s they’ve been assigned to say.
As I said, it’s been a slow process, but over time, I’ve also noticed my kids understand themselves a little better after Confession. They have noticed a pattern in their behaviors (“Hey! I already confessed that sin last month!”) or sometimes discover a weakness about themselves that they need to work on. In a society that puts the focus on building up the ego, it is beautiful to see a little humility and the fruits that blossom from it.
Experiencing God’s mercy
I know firsthand when I have confessed some sins that weighed heavy on my soul how freeing it is to have that sin forgiven. But being a kid and having only “kid-sized” sins, it’s been hard for my kids to understand the relief that comes of being freed from a burden. But as they continue to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, their consciences are being formed and matured, helping them understand a little better the seriousness of sin. And with the understanding of sin comes the understanding of God’s mercy.
My children still don’t necessarily like going to confession. No matter what spin I put on it, they still find excuses why they shouldn’t go. I suppose being decedents of Adam and Eve, we’d all rather hide in a bush than confess our sins before God.
But as my son said after his first Confession: “Now I am clean!” I know he is beginning to see the beauty of God’s forgiveness. And with time, this small light of understanding will only grow more and more.