“Give me chastity and self-restraint, but do not give it yet” – St. Augustine (Confessions)
Rejoining us this week is one of VSoM's founders, Rebecca!
When Miss Marinara (or should I say Mrs. Marinara) approached me regarding blogging with VSoM for the day she gave me two options. This week, Confession: Have you done it? Would you do it again? Or next week, Food Storage: Do we hafta. Right off the bat I requested Confession. As the week went on and I thought through my decision I thought what I fool I am. Who wants to write about confessing to the bishop? The only thing I can think of that is worse then writing about confession is actually confessing. Right now I would much prefer telling stories of hot dry summers sitting on my grandmother’s porch podding peas and shucking corn straight out of her garden in preparation for canning. Now that topic would have been easy and fun.
But here I am - stuck. I have to confess that yes I’ve confessed.
When I think back to my “confession” I am reminded just how awful and uncomfortable I felt going through the entire process. I was in college. I was young and for the record the things I had done were not terrible, but I’d been taught they required confession. I also didn’t know what I was doing regarding my religious beliefs or lack there of. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, was nearing mission age and thought that maybe a mission would provide me with a testimony, something I severely lacked, but first, I’d have to confess about a few miss-behaviors, so to speak.
There I sat on the floor of the science building; its name escapes me now. I waited patiently with a lot of other people all wanting/needing to talk to the bishop. Most of the people waiting I only knew from the pages of our coffee table book known as the ward list which served more of a match.com profile purpose then anything else. I looked around and kept hoping, crossing my fingers, that the person to go in before and after me had such horrible, atrocious sins that my little conversation would pale in comparison and quickly be forgotten. Who wants to walk into the bishop’s office, tell their sins and then say I am confessing because I don’t believe in God AND I want to go on a mission in hopes of finding him? Not many - even I could see how messed up my process of thinking was, yet still I was going to at least give it a “confession” chance.
My bishop was/ is a wonderful man. He’s a BYU professor, a friend of my mom and dad’s and he probably knew both of my brothers and knew that they were great and would probably one day meet my little sister and discover that she’s great too. My bishop was smart and kind and in this moment before I entered his office I knew that he also thought I was smart and kind, which made me like him even more.
After I left the office I still thought my bishop was amazing, but I decided he no longer thought that I was smart or kind, but instead was a disappointment. I thought he probably felt bad for my parents that they had a daughter who was so lost and confused. Feelings are a difficult thing to explain and often ridiculous. For example I am sure that my bishop still thought the same of me, only now he also felt for me on a level he hadn’t before, a level of pity maybe (but maybe not). I left my bishop’s office feeling like I was the worst person in the world, the biggest let down, failure. I wasn’t nearly as ashamed by my actions as I was by confessing them. I didn’t necessarily believe in the religion so it was still questionable to me if what I had done was really wrong. I was ashamed that I had told someone I know and respected things about me that they would not respect, things I didn’t want them to know because they contradicted who I worked so hard to appear to be. I was upset that I would never, through this individual’s eyes, be viewed as the person I had been only moments earlier. The feelings I had inside, some of you may know them, were ugly, very ugly.
My bishop did everything he was supposed to, he was supportive, set up follow-up appointments, assigned me scriptures to read and asked me to pray with him. But I didn’t want to do any of that. I had confessed, told my concerns regarding religion and as a result I felt total loss of confidence, like one big piece of crap-o-la. I never went to a follow-up appointment, or returned my Bishop’s call. He knew I was embarrassed and he seemed to understand. We saw each other on campus once while I was still supposed to be in his ward. He never brought up our meeting, or his phone call or even that I had dropped out of the ward completely. He was very considerate and I appreciated this and have always respected him because of his consideration.
After leaving BYU I didn’t see this bishop (he was my very last bishop) again until my wedding reception. I didn’t get married in the temple, by choice. When I saw him the “confession” feelings came rushing back. I was once again embarrassed and lost all confidence. I thought, I bet this is no surprise to him, the fact that I am not getting married in the temple. Yet he was incredibly kind and pleased to see me. He gave me a big hug and congratulated me and my husband and introduced me to his wife and told her that I was wonderful. In the time between when I saw him at my wedding and when I had seen him in his office as my bishop he always told my father how great I was. This meant a lot to me and showed me that the lack of confidence, the insecurity I felt was my own, not a reflection of his thoughts towards me.
I think my reaction boils down to some pretty simple facts. Nobody wants to tell people what they don’t want to hear especially when we are the subject of the disappointment. I used to make a practice of only telling my parents what they did want to hear, going as far as hiding the coffee maker when they came to visit. I knew they knew that I did things that they didn’t agree with, but what is the point of discussing them, right? Wrong.
Maybe my “confession” with my bishop was the first introduction to this lesson that has taken me so long to learn. I will never confess to a bishop again. BUT I hope to be honest in all my dealings. I don’t want to appear to be someone I am not. I want to always be me, coffee maker and all. Of course this is easier said then done, especially when the life some live may be different, some what contradictory, to the life others, loved ones, would hope for. But I believe that confession taught me that I am a better person being who I really am then trying to be someone I am not. This honest me is never as disappointing (to myself as well as others) as the me who works to appear to be something I am not.
And well wishes to all great bishops.