Along with finding a voltage adapter, packing motion sickness meds and charging my Nook for my trip to Bolivia--there's something more important on my to-do list: going to Confession. What good are all the material preparations if I have not taken time to prepare my soul? Because although this is a physical journey, it's also (more importantly), a spiritual one. And I'm all too familiar with my tendencies for self-deception, dependence on my own strength and trying to control all the variables to know I shouldn't go on this trip before getting myself sorted out in the Confessional.
I go to Confession because I know I can't keep myself honest on my own. Trying to keep myself honest by myself is like standing in front of a spiritual circus mirror: I see a distorted version of myself.
In the Confessional, I am granted a true (and sometimes painful) view of myself. I unzip my chest and unload all my issues onto the table. It's taken me a good two years of going to Confession to be able to "let it all hang out." For me, a "good" Confession is one wherein I'm not self-conscious about my sin--and the hardest part about that is cultivating the humility necessary for confessing.
The more easily I can let the admission of my sin come off my tongue, the deeper the work of forgiveness can penetrate me. The more I hang onto my rationalizations and excuses, the less I can extend forgiveness to others.
A "good" Confession ends up being more of a conversation. I have a couple of priests I see regularly who know me and know my particular areas of difficulty. Even when I feel embarrassed about repeating the SAME sin again and again--I have to say I'm definitely experiencing incremental freedom from certain habitual sins against which I was completely powerless when I was just confessing them privately.
In Confession I have learned (and am learning) how to forgive myself, too. Sometimes I'm surprised to discover that problems I blamed on myself were not even my responsibility. Especially in the early years after leaving an abusive church, I carried a lot of false guilt for things that weren't my fault. I often heaped judgment and condemnation upon myself. The safety, kindness and gentleness of the Confessional helps me release it.
Each time I go to Confession, another layer of the onion is peeled back and I see more clearly the motivations of my heart.
Best of all, I catch glimpses into the unfathomable vastness that is the love of God.