Sunday, July 8, 2018

7/9/18—Confessing

I'm a mail order reverend. I sent my email address to a website and that was good enough to get ordained, though my ordination isn't recognized in my state. But I run a confessional on Friday nights for my Facebook friends anyway.

The confessional is presented in a tongue-in-cheek, somewhat-irreverent way, but it's serious business. I take it seriously. And readers and confessors respect the process. There is no judgement. Everyone gets forgiven. It's a positive thing for everyone involved.

Most things are easy to forgive. From time to time, difficult things come my way. I don't say "Forgiven!" mindlessly. I really have to believe the forgiveness. But I promise to forgive everything. So I have to forgive everything. 

There are a lot of people who just like to read the thread without commenting. But the confessional relies on those who confess in public. For some, it takes courage. For others, it's just fun. And some just need to get something off their chest. All are welcome.

Now, for the most part, nobody's confessing to a crime or anything like that (though it has happened before.) I usually start with a few confessions of my own. Recently I confessed to liking blue eye shadow. And I also confessed to lowering myself to another's level in a disagreement. Many of the confessions are along those lines...either silly stuff or things that fall into the category of personal struggles and failings. Just when you think it's all in fun, someone comes along and goes deep. It's like a sociological roller coaster ride.

Most—if not all—of the confessions reflect our shared humanity. Who doesn't know the shame and glory of consuming "sinful" portions of food? Who among us can't relate to feeling insecure? Or diverging from the path of our personal development? And, really, who hasn't farted in a public situation, either intentionally or unintentionally? Haha. 

For those who read and don't comment, I imagine they are entertained, but I also imagine they feel a little less alone when they see others struggle with the same everyday things they do. For those who comment, they usually have fun, but they also have a safe place to get things off their chest, and they get to join in a process they trust and enjoy. The reverend was, of course, gone while I was sick and people really missed having their confessional, even if they don't use it every week.

Really, I'm the one who benefits most, though. Sure, sometimes I don't feel like doing it. And sometimes the confessional sits empty with nary a confessor in sight. But having just returned after a long absence, I'm reminded of how powerful an exercise it is. Because I have to forgive everything (because what kind of reverend would I be if I didn't?) I am exercising that muscle within me. Nearly everything is easy to forgive, but there have been times I've really had to struggle with my capacity for forgiveness, suportiveness and compassion. And there are other tests I face...non-judgment is one. Grace is another.

I also become a different person when I'm the reverend. When I'm in the confessional I'm more loving, encouraging, empathetic, understanding...all kinds of good stuff. Because as much as it's tongue-in-cheek—I'm not a Christian, nor do I believe in "sin" or hell—I also take it seriously. Because if you're going to call yourself a reverend (albeit a mail order one) you should strive to be your best you while wearing your smock...or whatever they wear. It's a test. A spiritual muscle builder. And a gratifying act. 

Frequently I find I'm not sure how to respond to someone's confession. Many times I feel they need more than just a "forgiven!" Maybe I think they need to feel better about something they shouldn't have felt bad about in the first place. Maybe their confession sparks a discussion. Maybe I decide a little added wisdom might help the non-confessing readers. Or maybe I just want to feel smart and reverendy...haha.  And I'm not always sure what to say to create a win-win-win between the readers, confessors and the reverend. But what I've found is that a no-judgement, loving response is always the best answer. 

I don't always have the patience and presence of heart to walk through life as "the reverend". But each Friday night when the confessional opens up, I'm reminded that I can.



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