I have a confession about Confession. I need to go. And I should go. But sometimes I put it off when I otherwise know better.
Here's another confession: I go to the salon to cover my gray. It's a little ritual I do a few times a year. I don't like the cost of the hair makeover, so, by the time I finally make the appointment, I really, really, need to go.
On the confession front, even though I know what's good for me, I often still cajole myself there. Of course, who likes facing up to their vices and sins? So I put it off. But that is not recommended, especially when I start noticing my faltering interior attitude as it leaches out through my weakening defenses—like my muttering of cuss words under my breath when I get cranky. The quality and color of my language is usually the first obvious sign that I'm overdue for an appointment with a confessor.
It's kind of like my hair color. There is no gray that a good salon treatment cannot hide.
It's best for me to get a haircut and a color about every four to six weeks. But, I've avoided it, because I'm cheap. Though I really want to get my hair done—you know, the full color treatment—I'm waiting until I get a bit closer to Easter. I am trying to "stretch" the distance between appointments, ostensibly because I want to get my money's worth.
But the truth of the matter is, when I wait too long, my head of hair starts to look downright ratty, the dark roots take on a more pronounced appearance, and frankly, it's not all that flattering. Not to mention, it costs me more in the end to take care of it when I've been lazy and waited too long before making that appointment.
When it comes to the hair, why not settle for one of those cheaper at-home treatments? Why pay the big bucks? Let me tell you why.
I finally gave in to getting the full salon treatment a few years ago when a pressing speaking engagement on my calendar demanded I get "professional" help. I'm no magician when it comes to hair, and this was no time for just getting by.
Once I yielded, there was no going back. The difference between do-it-yourself, and hiring a professional is, well, enormous.
The same holds true for the spiritual life.
I trust the Church's teaching on forgiveness much more than my own do-it-myself opinions. (Left to my own devices, I'd never forgive some of my sins. Thankfully, the Church's opinion is different. Already, I'm in a better place when I surrender my own judgment in favor of the Church's call to reconciliation.)
But when it has been a long time between "treatments," sometimes I feel a little sheepish about re-establishing the routine. I have to remember that any growth in life is accomplished by moving from bad to good, and good to better. That applies to bad hair as well as the soul.
These days, my hairstylist knows me pretty well. She is always glad to see me whenever I sit in her chair. Her customer service is extraordinary. It took me a couple of years to find someone like her who listens to my concerns and then advises a course of action. She even recommends things I can do to keep my hair looking good between appointments.
In the same way, when it comes to healing my soul in confession, there is real value in having a regular confessor and receiving the sacrament from a priest who knows me. And yet, there's a private part of me that sometimes prefers confessing to a priest I don't know.
Whichever option I choose, the priest is someone who acts in the name of Christ, who offers forgiveness and absolution. He is someone who listens, advises, and then offers a plan of action.
Just as there is no gray that the salon cannot hide, the Catholic Church teaches that forgiveness is a luxury we can afford.
There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 982)
There. Is. NO. Offense. That. The. Church. Cannot. Forgive. Ultimately this means there are no excuses to avoid receiving the graces God has in store for us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
So why hold back? It's Lent and the Church is beckoning us to be intentionally penitential.
Even in difficult economic times, we probably get a hair cut or a trim, and perhaps a coloring, at least once a year, right? Our approach to confession should be no less. The Precepts of the Church recommend a minimum of confession once a year. Many spiritual directors recommend monthly confession. Maybe that's a goal worth working up to?
For now, I'm trying to make my appointment for confession just as frequently as I step into the salon. I know when I walk out of there I'm going to look and feel great.