Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mea Culpa

I procrastinate
I spend too much time on social media
I let Gareth watch too much TV
I'm a bit vain
I hold grudges
I don't like to cook
I lie about stupid stuff to avoid looking bad or conversely, to look good

As I grow into my faith practices, one of the disciplines I WISH protestants had was confession.  Not that I need someone to tell me I'm forgiven; I believe that without much difficulty (though it still feels remarkable).  I wish confession was a part of my life because I've realized I need to be forced to admit my own flaws, my own brokenness, my own sin.  Because I would hide it all forever if given my choice.  Because I want to be perceived as a singularly perfect person.  Because if I could hide it I wouldn't have to deal with it or admit that I've got things to apologize for.  Because I like being right.  Having a confessor would mean I am halted from smug self-aggrandizement and continually confronted with my need for grace.  In a way, it seems like confession would help me be a better and more whole person.  Point to you Catholics.

One of the greatest dangers for me since Cliff's trial, conviction, confession and imprisonment (today is Confession Day) has been my tendency to rewrite the past.  I confess, it has become my practice to cast my memory back into our marriage (before "All the Evil") and to paint Cliff with a villianous brush; he's not here to defend himself, so I've got free reign.  I find fault everywhere, but mostly I recast myself as an almost virginal victim figure.  Imagine: I stand, garbed in white, clutching a sobbing child, as Cliff rages around me.  Poignant, yes?  True?  Probably not.  (Well...mostly not.  I wasn't wearing white and Gareth was asleep, but Cliff was pretty angry.)

I confess that I've learned to enjoy this practice and the kudos I get from folks who hear my story.  I'm so strong! And righteous! And patient!  And that's sort of true.  I've had to be strong and I've attempted to live righteously and I have exercised a lot of patience.  But I've also been whiny and irresponsible and short-tempered.  If I was traveling honestly back through all my memories, I'd be forced to watch the film of my own faults: when I treated Cliff with contempt he didn't deserve, when I condescended him in arguments, when I refused to admit fault.  

Our marriage was never easy - never. Our marriage wasn't always happy - I shed more tears than anyone can know.  But I was involved in the difficulty - because I was young and prideful, because I made assumptions, because I kept track of wrongs against me.  Ultimately, Cliff sinned greatly against me - yes.  And I am not in any way responsible for that great sin.  But I was responsible for my behavior in our marriage, and I must confess I was not nearly as admirable a figure in the midst of it as I'd like you to think.

2 years ago today, Cliff confessed to a room of our family, friends and news reporters that all the charges against him were true.  He admitted that he'd been lying for more than 20 months to all of us.  He confessed.  He says it was an act of contrition, a need to come clean after everything had been lost.  I've long suspected it was calculated to try and gain the pity of the jury (which it did not).  But the fact remains - he could have held his tongue and did not.  He named his sins into the permanent court records.

If there is something to be gleaned from this anniversary, perhaps it is my own need to come clean, to admit my sin, to confess my wrongs.  Cliff waited too long to purge his lies and it destroyed him - and our marriage.  I, however, have the opportunity to lay myself bare everyday to God and those who live with me.  To say I'm sorry.  To quit letting pride speak first.  To reign in my temper and seek reconciliation.  To give respect and reject contempt.  To name my brokenness and seek the power of God to heal and transform me.  My mom has always said "Everyone can always serve as a BAD example."  Perhaps today, though, I should let Cliff serve as a good example.   Perhaps today, I can let Cliff's confession lead me to make my own.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner.

1 comment:

Josephine Robertson said...

Episcopalians do have a rite of confession, I can send you a copy if you'd like. The philosophy is that: all can, none must, some should, when it comes to the formal rite.

You are right, admitting the ways we are broken *to another child of God* is important. This is a powerful post.