Working our Spiritual muscles and joints
For the first time in my life, I am going to Physical Therapy. I was diagnosed last week with tendinitis in my heel, the reason you have seen me limping over the past few weeks. As physical maladies go, this one is somewhat insignificant. But I like to get out and walk, so I am off to try to fix this issue.
When my family got together for my sister’s birthday last week, they all shared their personal adventures with therapy. My nephew did a num- ber on his leg a couple of years back (be careful coaching kindergarten soccer!) and so he needed extensive physical therapy. One of the things he mentioned was that if he was left on his own, he would not have progressed in range of motion as he did. He told me that he would have only gone about a third of the way and may never have got- ten full range. His physical therapist knew that his leg could move farther, even though it put him into great pain. My nephew thought he could only go so far, his therapist knew better. And that push, that stretch allowed him to recover his mobility further than he could have imagined.
Truly, no pain, no gain.
When I heard that I wondered about the same thing for our spiritual muscles and joints. Sometimes, left to our own designs we can settle for much less than we are capable of doing. This past week our second graders made their First Reconciliation. Although the focus of the Sacrament is God’s forgiveness and love, certainly the Sacrament allows us to grow and thrive as full human beings. And just like we need an outside force to challenge us to go further than we could physically, we need others to challenge us to grow as human beings and as Christians.
The confessor does three things. First, he can challenge you to think about things that many of us would just as soon ignore or disregard. Some- times people are too easy on themselves.
How many times in the confessional have I heard this: I know this is supposed to be a sin, but I don’t feel any sorrow for it. It is then that I often point out the bigger picture, the things that they are not thinking about. For instance, a child comes into the confessional confessing neglecting their chores. I feign agreeing with them that it is unfair that they have to do chores. “You pay rent, don’t you?” No. “You pay for your food, don’t you?” No. “You pay for your transportation, don’t you?” No. Suddenly the child begins to understand that doing chores is what we do as a family, in fact, it may be the most important thing a child can do. When you look at it that way, chores make sense. And the penitent stretches.
Second, the confessor can help someone realize that they are TOO hard on themselves. This happens frequently. Scrupulous people are very difficult to deal with in the confessional. There may be a variety of reasons they are too hard on themselves. Sometimes, ironically, it allows them to give up on themselves instead of seeking growth. Often times I help them to learn to relax and allow themselves some self-compassion.
They can be even more challenging than the lax person. And the penitent stretches.
Finally, the confessor helps them realize the love of God that was always there to begin with. Just like our physical bodies often seek healing, our souls long for the healing balm of God’s forgiveness, so that we can “live and move and have our being.”
When was the last time you went to confession?
Is it time for some spiritual stretching?