I was in 2nd grade and we were learning all about the sacrament of penance. They taught us what would happen. You walk into a room and sit in front of the Priest. Gone were the days you could hide behind a screen. Father Birch would say something. Then I would say something. Then I would tell him what I needed forgiveness for. Then he would forgive me and tell me how many Our Fathers and Hail Marys I needed to say. And that was it - I was forgiven for hitting my brother. It was the same sin I said at every confession.
I won’t say it was as simple as that, because I was beyond frightened every time I did it. Maybe it was more shame than fear, as sitting in front of the leader of our congregation and telling him my sin was much more intense than telling my Mom or Dad. In my second grader eyes, I saw Father Birch as God’s stunt double. Although I was fairly certain he was always going to forgive me, I did feel better after the act of confessing was over. I did feel reconciled.
So here I find myself some 30+ years later on the 1st day of the year with the word “reconcile” heavy on my heart. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper it in my ear as I pondered what my word for 2016 would be. As soon as I heard it…I knew.
The dictionary defines reconcile (a verb) as:
- to restore friendly relations between.
- to cause to coexist in harmony;make or show to be compatible,and
- to make (one account) consistent with another, especially by allowing for transactions begun but not completed.
Wow God…really? Way to give it to me straight in 2016.
But God knew.
God knew because He orchestrated that I would learn all about forgiveness in 2014. He knew 2015 was going to be tough. He knew there would be days I would wrestle with what He was allowing me to see. And when I asked Him snot-nosed and teary eyed, “Why God…Why am I the one who has to see this?! Why are you leaving me here to see this?!”
He knew that I would eventually rely on Him. He knew that when I prayed with an admittedly mustard seed amount of faith: “He sees it. He’s going to deal with it,” He knew He was going to do a work in the situation, as well as, a work in me. He knew I needed some refining. And this refining would come from the very act of realizing I had a confession: I had “hit my brother.”
I got caught up in the crazy. When what I was hearing didn’t coincide with what I was seeing, I felt like the very foundation that I had set my relationships on was cracking. What I thought was...was not. I had tried to make sense of a situation that didn’t make sense. I blamed everyone. I complained to everyone. If I was on a steam engine of dysfunction, I was one of those shoveling coals into the fire. I got caught up.
But thankfully, this isn’t my first train ride. And even better than that, someone had put the tools in my hands to deal with the hurt. I didn’t have to be afraid to face my Father and tell Him what I had done. And much like that first reconciliation 30 years ago, I was once again able to walk away from a talk with my Father and a burden was lifted.
I recognize that there are still some areas that I need to reconcile. But I am thankful that God reveals to me what I need and when I need it. I’m expectant that as I focus on further understanding what reconciliation means, I will experience greater levels of freedom. Freedom that I can then share with others.
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. (2 Corinthians 5:18 NLT)