Last week I had an epiphany, or rather, a dunce dawning moment from an act of confession that re-awakened my “penance” from my first confession in over 25 years, which I explained in detail in my first blog post.
To recap, I believed that my penance was measly compared to all of the wrong I had done.
I did not deserve to get off so easily, but what I didn’t realize then was that it was not really a penance, it was supposed to be more like homework.
I was told to tear up my list of sins that I had carried with me and to pray for all the good I had done in the past, which was to illustrate God’s mercy and to prevent myself from looking back and dwelling on my previous life, so I could heal, move forward, and grow in my faith.
Presumably, this was meant for application to future cases of regret and remorse, as well, but I was too blinded by self-pity to put it to use.
The priest could hear in my voice and my cries that I had punished myself enough to justify my redemption. I felt Jesus lift up and carry my pain, remorse, and suffering, so I would no longer assume be burdened with it.
But, my pigheadedness prevailed, and since then, I’ve tormented myself with guilt. A guilt that I knew had been washed away by God, but I hadn’t let go of personally.
Akin to a jackhammer, I kept breaking, digging, pounding, and grinding my way further and further down into that deep dark pit of shame that God had already pulled me out of, but with bits of momentary reminders from friends and family that I needed to stop being so hard on myself because God doesn’t keep tabs on my past mistakes.
His prize is that I came back, and to stay there.
These little “pep-talk post-it notes” helped bring me back up a notch or two from my self-loathing abyss, but it would not sustain me forever.
The diatribe of my journey through IVF and that which followed on my blog, I thought, was a way to prune away at the rotten parts of my life, so I could make room for the good fruit to grow, but in reality, I pruned away less, in which the fruit kept building up on my branches, and I reached a point where I couldn’t bear the weight any longer.
That point was when Matt and I found out our two children did not survive our most recent IVF transfer.
My branch had split in two. I was broken. And I was taking it out on my family, particularly, with Matt.
I needed mending, so I did what any normal person does when they need “a fixin’” and went to confession.
One defining distinction between now and my first confession in over 25 years is my physicality. I no longer kneel behind a screen, rather, I sit in front of the priest.
This may seem like a minor change, but moving just a few simple feet created an alternative universe in the confessional. A universe of divine conversation through human interaction instead of an agonizing and penitential divulging of sins.
With this confession, I received a visual and physical compassion that elevated the spiritual element to a place of greater accessibility.
The priest hugged me, consoled me, and told me that our sufferings are redemptive. Jesus died on the cross, so he could restore us through our pains and sorrows, but first, I needed to give them up to him and stop holding on.
And that was when it finally occurred to me, really and truly sunk in, hit me like a jolt of caffeine, that I need to let it go. Leave the past behind. Stop beating myself up over my mistakes, learn from them, forgive myself, and move the heck on!
Because if I can’t forgive myself as God has forgiven me, then I can’t be a good Catholic, a good wife, and a good mother. I’ll remain stagnant and unsustaining, missing new opportunities and more ways to strengthen my faith.
So I’ve decided, NO MORE of this!
No more tirades about the immorality of IVF because it seems to be a way of punishing myself.
No more self-depreciation because it’s destructive, not restorative.
No more speaking of my past sins and past regrets.
Instead, to cure my broken-heart, to remedy my troubled soul, to experience the ultimate catholicon, I will:
Live for God by praying, as often as I can, by seeking His will and not my own, by working on my vocation as a wife and mother to the best of my abilities, and by showing thanksgiving for all of the graces and blessings He has given me.
Learn from my mishaps by admitting my faults, taking responsibility, and changing my bad habits into good ones.
Let it go through God’s redeeming grace by practicing confession, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ through the Eucharist (which I will finally be able to consume again this coming Saturday when Matt and I convalidate our marriage!) and to “lift up my heart” more often, consuming my thoughts on heavenly things rather than my troubles here on earth.
Laugh about my fumbles and stumbles and the “What was I thinking?” moments such as forcibly trying to get two-year old twins to use the potty for 3 straight days when they clearly weren’t ready or willing. I’ll also continue writing, but without disintegrating myself, instead, I’ll show the good, the fun, the ugly turned to lovely, and the humorous components of the sense being knocked back into me.
Love. Love myself, love my husband through a sacrificial love called charity, love my children through nurturing, love everyone else, and love Jesus Christ.