Jacob's been doing a series on things that make us smile as our Lenten observance. We weren't sure where it would lead, only that it seemed like a good way to try to expunge some of the anger that this blog indulges in from time to time. It turned the blog into a crazy patchwork of posts as one would be about Debt Doom and the next would be about flower photography or catnip*. We didn't like what it did to the flow of the thing at all, but we kept at it.
In my own life, I've clung to a bitter hatred of a monstrous evil done to me over a decade ago. The effects of it hound me on a daily, sometimes hourly basis in all kinds of ways. To a large extent, I allowed it to define me. Not only that, I was proud that it defined me. I saw how my hatred damaged my relationships and kept me from doing things the way I wanted to do them, but the pleasure my hatred gave me was like a sweet, succulent fruit. Not only that, I wanted others to share in my hatred as well. When people agreed with me about how horrible the act was, I secretly rejoiced.
I made several, small attempts to give it up. I'd reason with myself and work out cost-benefit analyses in my head, but nothing came close to working. None of my attempts lasted more than a few hours. I was going to my grave with this hatred, clutching it like a child holds a teddy bear.
Prior to Easter, Catholics are highly encouraged to go to Confession. Because of my recent trip to New Orleans, I missed our Penance Service and instead went to the normal Saturday Confession last weekend. I almost missed it because I was helping my daughter study, but for some reason I looked up and saw I could just make it if I jumped into the FredMobile and raced to church.
When I got to church, I had no particular plans about what I would confess. There were a few people in line, so I had some time to kill before I saw the priest. I sat there and in mental idleness looked upon the spot where, almost two years earlier, I experienced a miracle**.
I decided to give up my hate. I decided to confess it to our parish priest. I decided to quit the whole thing and be defined in ways other than as a victim of that decades-old evil, struggling to overcome its endless effects. Our priest had heard this kind of thing before and talked easily and kindly to me when I told him. None of us have particularly original ways of committing evil and there just aren't that many different ways to hurt each other.
Coming out of the confessional was an amazing experience. I felt twelve or so years of evil grime washed away from me, left behind to dissolve and blow away. I know I don't have the strength to fight the temptation to hate on my own, but I don't have to. I've already been tested several times in the last week as I continue to deal with the after-effects of that distant evil. As I have for years, I still wake up in the middle of the night working through some current problem or other brought about by what happened so long ago. The difference is that now that I have confessed my sin and I look to God for strength, I see those thoughts for what they are - temptations to fall back into the arms of hate. With strength borrowed from Him, I can solve the problems without them acting as a catalyst to do wrong.
And that, dear friends, is the practical point of Easter. God bless.
* - Mmmmmm. Catnip.
** - It was major, it was real and it involved branches of science that I am not only familiar with, but I hold patents in. Sorry, scientific atheists, but you're not going to be able to explain it away.