Do you ever have regrets?
Until recently, I tried to block most regrets out of my mind, because "a Christian ought not have regrets." We should live victoriously in the present and our past sins are covered by Christ's blood. If we have confessed them, they are far from us as East from West. Also, God is soverign over the details of our lives and we would not be who we are today if we hadn't chosen the paths that we did. So I would say to myself, "I have no regrets about my past, God has led me here."
But, I do have regrets. There are a few moments in my life that burn in my memory as deeply important opportunities I "missed." A few emails that I never answered and have since lost touch completely with the people, people who were crying out to me for wisdom but I didn't know what to say or if I had that word they needed. A few conversations that I wish I would have been more honest in. A few actions the thought of which can make me burn with shame. These are things that I don't really like to talk about, the kinds of things that I feel would change the way that everyone looks at me.
In my Spanish grad degree, I read a book about this general idea called Las Historias Prohibidas de Marta Veneranda for a class on Hispanic Women Authors. The premise of the book was that a woman asked some typical Latino New Yorkers to tell her, under protection of anonymity, the stories from their lives that they would never tell anyone. The book then, was a collection of these often grotesque-style stories that people carry deep within, sometimes with shame, and sometimes with relish. I don't really recommend it, unless you have a very strong stomach for human depravity, but it was an interesting experience for me.
Everyone has these feelings, I think. Especially as we live longer and experience more. We just don't have as much control over our lives as we like to think in this half dimension called time. We can recall the memory, call it out of the caverns of our brains, but we cannot change it. Perhaps with time we can understand it, we can hold it up to God and ask for his wisdom on it, but it will probably still give us pain.
Recently I've been reading a book called The Mountain of Silence about the spirituality of the Eastern Orthodox holy mountain, Mount Athos. The premise of the book is that a man from Cyprus who studied sociology and came to the US as a professor, reencountered the Eastern Orthodox faith through a respected monk from Mount Athos who returned to Cyprus. This monk, in a way, discipled the professor, answered his many questions, allowed him to tag along and watch his life, gave him careful spiritual direction.
Many aspects of this view of Christian spirituality struck me, such as: the reality of spiritual warfare, the power of contemporary miracles, the importance of spiritual discipline, the role of the monastic life in the church. One of the things I least expected to reconsider in my theology was the "sacrament" of confession. But think of it, the ability to release those regrets, to speak those burning moments to another human being who will not judge you for it (they have probably heard worse) but, in the ideal world, will guide you into wisdom, will direct you spiritually to deal with those issues. I found my heart longing for that deep kind of spiritual direction. Perhaps, some will say, a counselor could take on the same role in contemporary life, but there is something different about the life of the priest/monk and that of the counselor, a setting apart to God, a personal, radical dedication to purity of heart. I'm quick to say that this is the ideal and many have abused this role or failed to take it seriously and I'm not seriously considering conversion to any more denominations, but still my question is... what if? How would it change the life of the church today if we took confession seriously?