so I have a confession…
Hi there…me llamo Ryan. I’m here for, um…¿la confesión?
Sí, sí, por favor, entra.
I step inside the priest’s office and close the door behind me.
¿Como está, padre?
Bien, mijo, gracias a Dios. Por favor, have a seat.
He closes the illustrated childrens’ liturgies he’s been poring over and leans slightly across the desk with a friendly smile. I remain standing.
Pues, before I start, I just wanted to tell you that mi papá raised me bien protestante…so I know you can just confess your sins to God and be forgiven for them and you don’t actually need a priest and confession for forgiveness.
Claro que sí, my son. But when is the last time you’ve done that?
Mijo, when was the last time you sat down before el Señor and poured out your heart and asked him to clean and forgive you for each of your sins?
I don’t know if I’ve ever done that, padre.
Have a seat.
I have a seat.
Entonces, dímelo – what has been weighing on your heart lately?
I take a breath.
Father, I just want to feel clean again.
Dios wants this for you, Ryan. What do you have to confess?
I’ll just jump in, then. It’s been almost three years since my last confession and I guess studying abroad in Costa Rica (no offense) is as good a place as any to do it. But yes, I’m a sinner. I know it. My family knows it, my friends know it.
So many things. It crushes me sometimes. I’m lazy, I lie way too much (and I know even just one lie is “too much,” but you know what I mean, father, I just lie demasiado) and I’m greedy and selfish and egoísta and I act like I care about people I don’t care about, and I have lust in my heart, and I use nasty language and I take the Lord’s name in vain a veces (probably cada día).
What else, my son?
I don’t know, padre. I’m sure there’s more.
I love controversy more than people sometimes. I constantly crave positive attention and human contact. I doubt all the time. I’m not a great witness to Christ with my life.
Well, I guess jealousy, that’s a big one. I’m muy celoso of my roommates and close friends over their accomplishments. It’s like I’m jealous of the fact that they’re more humble, more put together, so much more well-liked than I am. And there’s this…this dark spot in my heart that keeps insisting the best of what they have should somehow belong to me.
I’m jealous of couples, because I’m single. I’m jealous of people with healthy families and healthy marriages because I never saw that in my own home. And I know I should be happy for others, but sometimes it’s hard to not feel angry at myself and then at them when I see people who are more successful, more popular, more achieved than I am.
Mmm, he nodded.
Let’s see, what else…
Sí, there’s been some of that. Y Muchos malos pensamientos. It’s usually been just me though. I, mucho…uh…
I probe my brain for the word but instead, settle on softly gesturing towards my groin with my left hand in a fist (Jesus, ten years of Spanish classes and I never thought to ask any of my professors how to say this).
Sí, sí, te entiendo, you can stop. Se llama masturbación.
And drinking, mijo? Se Emborrachas?
That’s a sin, father?
I sat back, stunned.
Are you seguro?
He nodded in patent affirmation.
Only if you lose control of yourself.
Oh, I don’t lose control, I assured him. It’s been a couple of years since I lost control really badly. I’m on these meds now, and I’m a resident advisor, so I generally don’t drink very much at all.
¿Algo más, Ryan? What else?
Well, there is something else. After I had to leave this iglesia I was a part of at my college…I sense that I now foster a darkness, a fear, una toxicidad inside of me. And it scares the caca out of me, father. It’s like…it’s like un odio tan fuerte que yo no pueda describirlo…pero a veces siento tan enojado con mis amigos más conservadoras cristianos, protestantes, lo que sea, que me afecte en una manera incrediblemente peligroso.
That’s kind of a lot, huh?
Nothing el sangre de Cristo can’t handle.
That and a quick spit shine, padre.
I don’t understand the reference.
Nada, it was stupid.
Pues, be at peace, my child. Quiero que sepas que en el nombre del Father, Son, y el espíritu santo, you are absolved of all your sins. Go in peace. You are clean. You are forgiven.
I leave the office feeling a certain lightness. My heart is less heavy today. And maybe lightness really is the perfect word for it. Confession, it feels like shining some stupid–bright rays of radiant sunlight down into the dankest, mustiest, most dusted and crusted-over parts of my soul. The light hits the dark patches and I don’t feel so heavy anymore.
And damn, it feels good to feel clean.