|I didn't want to be there.|
“I don’t want to be here.”
It was the first thing I said to the priest. We both gave a small smiling breath at the abruptness of how I said it and the ridiculousness of beginning the conversation like that. 10 minutes before I was sitting in the dark, French cave chapel (as I like to call it) in the Lower Church of the Basilica at CUA. I was thinking how sweet it would be just to go back home, maybe take a nap, maybe watch some more basketball highlight videos, and maybe even sleep until lunch time. Thoughts of entitlement seeped into my head feeling I deserved to leave and go home, and if my heart’s not fully into confession or going to Mass, I shouldn’t go.
Then I thought about how Mimi once bragged about me to her high school boys on their Kairos retreat. “Something my husband talks about,” she said to them, “is that if you don’t think you’re being a man, sometimes you have to fake it until you make it.” She was referring to something I preach since I’ve read an Art of Manliness article last year. It said that many times we won’t feel like a man until only after we act like a man and do things like a man. Long story short, we men can’t wait until we’re in the mood to do manly things; it’s the action of doing manly things (even if our heart is not in it) that will give us the mood. Virtuous action begets the feeling of manliness, not the other way around.
And that’s what it came down to as I sat in the pew of that French cave. I talk a lot of talk, I write a lot of write, but I need to follow through. I need to “post”, as my parish priest Fr. Dan says. I need to show up. How often do we hear stories of men who do not show up, who do not post. At Centro Tepeyac alone, how often do I see pregnant women come in alone telling us their “lovers” have left them, leaving them and their baby to fend for themselves? Before I could let more time pass, I let my legs do the walking before I could let my mind delay myself with its thinking. I walked into the confessional and told the priest, “I don’t want to be here.”
I told him the things I was sorry for, getting straight to the point, and even a small tear came to my right eye, which is rare. I felt really shameful. But the priest in front of me, with his smile and his peace and his joy, encouraged me and told me that the things that I was saying, the thoughts that I was thinking, was a real thing, that he has seen it before, and encouraged me that I wasn’t alone. He also gave me advice on how to deal with some things, which I found helpful. Before I left he told me, “Thank you for coming here. You said you didn’t want to be here, and I’m glad you did. Please come again.”
How often do we men (or women) trick our minds into thinking, “Well, my hearts not fully into it, so I shouldn’t go”? Especially for things we know are good for us, how ridiculous does that sound? What if we took that mentality (and I have, many times) about going to the gym or working out. “I’ll go when I feel like it,” “I’m not in the mood” “My heart won’t be into it.” Doesn’t our body benefit, our muscles get stronger, our cardio get better, whether or not we’re into it? The difference is whether we show up or not.
This Lent is a reflection period on the passion and resurrection of Christ. Why do we dress our best on Easter for Mass? If we’re going to see Christ and He’s going to come to our lives, should we not dress our best inside our bodies as well? Go to confession no matter how long it’s been. Let our legs walk, and our minds less talk. Don’t wait until you’re feeling it. That won’t come until after the action. If you say, “I don’t want to be here,” well, we don’t want you to be here either, staying where you are and not growing. It’s only after the moment after we show up, that we can begin to see the real meaning behind this season.