God's Septic Tank
Once one settles down, there is the boredom that sets in with nothing to do. Without distractions of radiom TV, or the Internet, one begins to think of things to do to occupy one's time. Jacki, one of our staff, once commented on the number of people who trim their nails and leave these relics on the carpet. In the mist of this silence and solitude it is quite normal to have the memory become active and events of the past to replay.In the Episcopal Church, we offer private confession with a priest as a very good way to deal with your past failings and move on. Yes, you can make your confession alone to God and be forgiven. But, I have found in my own life that there is a power in saying it out loud to God in another's presence and for that other person to be able to out loud pronounce God's forgiveness for sins truly repented of. Consider private confession if past failings are plaguing you. If it is awkward for this to happen with your current priest, any priest is willing to make arrangements for someone else to hear your confession.
I recall a Nigerian on retreat who shared with me that all the bad things he had done during his life kept coming back to him. When I shared at the orientation talk that takes place on Tuesday and Saturday morning that is a common thing to happen, he was relieved. Saint Bernard taught that the first step to knowing God is to know oneself. Ezekiel 36:31 speaks of the grace of being able to recall the past. "Remember your evil conduct and your evil actions. Your deeds were not good. Loathe yourselves for all your sins...be ashamed of who you are..."
What does one do with all of this recall which I might call "junk?" I tell retreatants to take all their junk and throw it in God's septic tank: the confessional. The time of retreat is an ideal time to make a good confession and get rid of the burden being carried. For those in AA, this would entail the fifth step. Once one has confessed all the evil of one's past life, then there is need to trust in God's forgiveness and keep living. The past is the past and there is no reliving of the past. All we can do is repent and strive to do better for the present and the future. A septic tank will not work if one keeps stirring the contents. There is need to let things settle and then the bacteria will fo the rest. In the same way there is need to confess one's sins and then simply trust in God's mercy and stop replaying the past and keep living.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church