Tuesday, July 2, 2013

perfect love casts out fear

One of the things i like least about Catholicism is confession. The veil in the Temple was torn at the hour of Jesus' death! We no longer have to appeal to any other person for access to God! For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all Creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! I don't like the idea of being compelled to tell my sin to anyone but Jesus, to have anyone but the Holy Spirit tell me how to make amends for what i've done. I don't like being told that someone else has more clout with God than i do. And my shriveled little feminist heart is REALLY pissed that confession must be to a priest, who is necessarily male.

One of the things i like best about Catholicism is confession. We are to live in community with one another, to hold each other accountable, to rejoice and mourn together. It's important to show each other our wounds, our scars, our vulnerabilities, our imperfections. It's important to struggle together, to lift one another up. I love the acknowledgement that no one is so holy that they have nothing to confess (except maybe the Pope. I'm not really sure how that works out.). Everyone has someone to confess to, and something to confess, and you should go regularly, because you're going to fuck up regularly. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Confession requires a level of self-awareness of our flaws that does not come naturally, and that must be practiced and learned. Confession teaches that self-awareness, as well as humility and contrition.

Lately, i've been confessing a lot. Mostly i've been confessing my fear. I'm afraid that i won't find a part-time job to carry me through student teaching. I'm afraid that i won't find a full-time job when i'm done student teaching and that i'll be skating through life by the skin of my teeth forever. I'm afraid that there will be some huge emergency (i'll get cancer, my car will explode, my apartment will burn down), and i'll be unable to work for a while/unable to get to work and student teaching/homeless, and will have to wipe out my entire savings account just to survive, which will then prevent me from finishing my student teaching and then i'll be back to square one, trying to finish this damned degree and become a teacher and start the new chapter of my life.

I wish i could tell you that this confession comes from a desire for a more holy and transparent life and all that other stuff i was talking about above, but that's simply not true. It's mostly because i am too desperately afraid to hide it any longer. I can't keep pretending that i'm blindly optimistic about the future. I can't keep smiling when i talk about leaving my steady, dependable job that pays my bills. I can't hold back the floodgates any longer. 

I'm also confessing out of a tiny, slim hope that one of these times, when i'm telling someone about how badly i need a job, they will say, "My best friend was telling me about an opening in her company that sounds exactly like what you described! She owns the company, so she can hire anyone she wants, and she trusts me, so she'll hire anyone I tell her to, and you're awesome, so I'll tell her to hire you!" And then i'll be editing magazine articles online on my own schedule, or cleaning someone's house, or sorting mail, or flipping burgers, or spreading manure, or telemarketing, and bringing home $250/week, and getting through this scary, uncertain chapter.

But mostly it's fear. It's a clinging, clawing black parasite of fear and anxiety that climbs into my body and squeezes my heart and ties my stomach in knots and keeps me awake all night in terror and nausea and anxiety. It whispers in my ear that i will be homeless; that i will have to work as a stripper; that i will have to move back in with my mother; that i will never be able to leave my current job; that i will ruin my credit; that i will die at forty-seven as a cashier at 7-11, coughing nicotine tar out of my lungs and telling hobos and drunk teenagers about how i was going to be a teacher and a poet; that my boyfriend will tire of my anxiety and depression and will leave me to pursue his own happiness; or that worst of all i will do it, i will make it through and get my job and student teach and then get a real teaching job and i'll be living my dreams and i will hate the reality, it will be even worse than the terror i live in now and all of the worry, all of the stress and anxiety and work and hardship, it will all have been for naught.

And so i confess. I tell my friends that i have not been sleeping at night. I tell my co-workers that i don't really have a plan, and that it's freaking me out. I tell my parents that i'm stalling. I tell my boyfriend that i've been sending out applications since January and have only had one interview and that it didn't go anywhere, and i'm starting to lose hope. And when it's late at night and i can't sleep, and the parasite is all twisted up inside of me, i whisper to God that i am afraid, i am so afraid.

And God reminds me that He has called me to this, and that He does not call without a purpose. He reminds me to trust in Him, that when i graduated and had no direction, He provided a full-time job making more money than i could ever have hoped for, a job in the same building as my classes and within walking distance of my apartment, He provided that apartment and a generous lender so i could pay my deposit, He provided roommates who could move in exactly as the old ones moved out, He provided friends to buy me dinner when i couldn't afford to feed myself and an almost free car when i needed transportation, He provided cash when i needed a bus ticket to see my brother before his deployment, He gave me a window between classes so i could see my brother when he was hospitalized, He has provided second and third and fourth jobs and paid internships and cheap chocolate flavored wine and teacher friends to learn from and a support system at home and at work that i can confess to, not a sparrow falls that He doesn't see it, and though i stumble i will not fall down, because His hand is upon me.

And He reminds me that even if things don't work out the way i thought they would, even if my fate is to live out my worst fears (though probably not the stripper one; that's unrealistic. I'm a terrible dancer.), even if i never do the things i want to do, He has called me to try, and He does not call without a purpose. If my fate is to be a cashier at a 7-11, and if i have to get a masters degree in education to get there, it's because that's what God wants, and He will be there with me. I will find Him wherever i am, because He goes before me to lead the way.

Bless me, Father, for i have sinned. It has been far too long since my last confession. I have let my heart be ruled by fear. I have failed to trust in You. I have forgotten Your promises. I have believed that fate and luck were more powerful than Your will. I have held my fear close to my heart, closer than Your word, closer than my friends, closer than my memories of what You've done for me before, closer than You. I have pretended to be self-sufficient. I have pretended to be certain. I have not cast my cares on You. I have not taken Your yoke upon me. I have worried about tomorrow. I have believed that no one could help me, not even You. I have believed that You would let me fail. I have doubted Your purpose. I have doubted my calling. I have doubted Your perfect love. I have forgotten the sparrows. I have been afraid, so afraid.

For these and all the sins of my past life, I am truly sorry.

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