The Literal Mind
Some of us can read
between the lines, others need
The other day someone started a sentence with “I confess…”. Every time I hear the phrases “I confess…” or “I have a confession…” my mind travels back to my confession to God at the time of my confirmation.
In the Anglican Church the only time members were required to make confession was just before confirmation. I was ten when I received this sacrament, and at that age, being raised in a strict household where one did as one was told, I followed the instructions to the letter when we were told to make a list of all our sins so that we could ask God’s forgiveness for every misdeed. Here is an excerpt from my memoir that describes that episode of my childhood.
As we stood in line to enter the church, the bishop passed by and tried to make small talk. He asked if we had our lists (of sins) ready. Everyone held up theirs. Most lists had four or five sins. Six tops. Mine had forty. Did I miss something?
I was ashamed of the amount of sinning I had done compared to everyone else, especially because I was sure I had forgotten some. One in particular that I chose to leave out was the fact that I was more excited to taste the communion wafer than to be fully accepted into the faith. That sacred body of God, whom only the initiated could receive would soon be in my hands.
When it was my turn to confess, I read out the first few sins, but I had trouble with one. That was the time I took Irene’s brand-new fountain pen without asking. I liked shade of ink she had; the bright blue was so much nicer than the Parker’s blue-black that was the staple at our home. I only wanted to write my name in that pretty color and put back the pen. I did not ask because Irene was all show-offy with it so I knew she would say no. But then the nib broke, and Irene was on her way back from the bathroom. In a panic, I shoved the pen in my book bag and pretended not to hear when Irene asked where her pen was.
If Irene knew that I broke her pen I would have to tell my sister (who was my adoptive mother) and ask her for money to pay for it. Worst of all, there would be a lecture. A long one. Trouble was, my bookbag was made of clear plastic. Irene looked over at the growing bright blue stain on my exercise book in the bag and she knew. I had to tell my sister, endure the lecture, and replace the pen. Irene did not speak to me for days.
My ten-year-old self was confused about how to define this sin to the bishop. In my mind I neither stole nor coveted the pen. I did not want it. I stayed quiet when Irene asked about it, so I did not tell a lie. And I paid for it. It was a sin I knew, but since there was no commandment or solid term I could apply to it, I had to relate the whole incident to the bishop. And so I did, in every detail. I was about to start on the rest of the list when a thought flew into my mind. Like a miracle. I asked God to forgive ALL my sins and ALL my trespasses and since he was God, he would know every bad thing I had done and forgive them all. I thanked The Lord in advance.
I think the bishop must have thanked The Lord also.