When I Hid from Home: A Meditation on Confession
Once when I was a child, I decided that I would hide in a crawl space of our garage. On occasion, I was mischievous growing up and I thought it would be a fun sort of joke to play on my family. As I hid, I was able to hear the drama of the situation escalate. They started by calling my name, then they went over to the neighbor’s house to check on me. Finally, I heard my Mom’s voice, which had become frantic, wondering aloud where in the world I might have gone.
Seven-year-old me, who’s plan was to get a laugh out of this, suddenly realized that whenever I showed myself, there would be consequences. Selfishly, I had wanted to use others for my own personal enjoyment. Not thinking through the logical progression of things, I had actually caused turmoil to people that I loved.
I had the temptation of staying put in my hiding place indefinitely, even though my muscles were starting to ache from the squatting position I had assumed. When I finally decided to face the music, I stepped out of my hiding place and found my parents.
If there was a consequence, I don’t remember what it was. I’m sure there was a correction of some sort from my parents. What I do remember, is that there was a moment of relief. Yes, in the moment, there was shame. There may have even been some tears. Above all, I remember the happiness of my parents in finding me. I remember a strong sense of reunion.
Looking back, I’m thankful that I didn’t suffer from stubbornness. I could have tried to pawn off the idea that I was somehow innocent in what I have done. In a moment of grace, I recognized that I didn’t want to run away from the problem, or in my case, hide.
Scripture is filled with examples of the opposite reaction. There are many examples of a hardness of heart. In Exodus, we see that Pharaoh wasn’t initially requested to let the Israelites go, indefinitely. Rather, the first request from Moses is to let them go into the wilderness for a matter of days so that they may worship God (Exodus 5:1). His reluctance, his hardness of heart, led to his demise and great consequences for his people.
The Israelites themselves were not immune to a hardness of heart. When God gave them the ten commandments he wrote them on stone instead of papyrus. He did this to show the permanence of His law but also so the Israelites would not be tempted to change the law at their whim! The Israelites turned away from God enough times throughout the Old Testament, that a festival was established where once a year the High Priest would enter the tent of the Ark of the Covenant to ask forgiveness from God for all the people.
This forgiveness we now have direct access to in the Sacrament of Confession. We were not made to have hearts of stone but living hearts. In the New Testament, God’s word and law are called to be inscribed in our hearts.
The Sacrament of Confession is not a resignation of defeat. Using the example given from my childhood, the sacrament is a reunion with God. We recognize that our spiritual muscles are tired of hiding from God. We want to be delighted in by the Father upon our return. This He gives to us whenever Confession is made available.
Many saints have commented on the beauty of this sacrament. St. Alphonsus Ligouri had this to say about the sacrament “Cesarius relates that a good priest commanded, in the name of God, a devil who appeared to him to tell what was most hurtful to him. The demon answered that nothing was more injurious or displeasing to him than frequent confession.”1
A friend, after committing the same sin over and over again, through perseverance, went to a priest to confess. The priest, after hearing my friend lament over committing the same sin, encouragingly said “Be thankful that God has given you one sin to focus on and not a multitude!” This changed his perspective entirely and he was able to devote his intention to virtue in the areas where he needed them.
Through the sacrament, we learn how to better understand ourselves. We learn where our faults tend to be. Whether it’s in one area of our life, or multiple, God can work with us. He just needs us to take the first step and go to Him. In our free will, we need to go and repair our relationship with God.
“God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. . . .The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.”2
Our liberation, just like that of Israel’s, is dependent on knowing God in his friendship. We, being imperfect, need to reconcile with God just as we do in any relationship. The sacrament of Confession is an opportunity of great rejoicing. Just as I learned in my childhood, God does not want you hiding by yourself. He wants you home, safe with Him.
1 St. Alphonsus de Liguori, edited by Rev. Eugene Grimm, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ (Brooklyn, NY: Redemptorist Fathers, 1929), 525.
2Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1994), paragraph 396.