I laid my weary head against the Confessional gate and sighed loudly, worn from the weight of my brokenness. We had waited over two hours for an empty seat and an available priest. When it was my turn to enter, I knelt and recounted my sins--the ones my Heavenly Father already knew-- and then I paused.
"I think," I rambled to the shadow lurking behind the screen, "I think I am getting better, Father. But I'm not getting better fast enough."
Silence settled within the dimly lit confines of the small booth as I waited for some direction, for some insight.
"Perhaps God isn't on your timeline for improvement," the priest responded.
I laughed out loud for the truth of this statement hit me upside the head like a foul ball outside of home plate.
The problem is no one is on my timeline--not me, my husband, my kids, my extended family/friends, and not even God.
"Hurry up, already," I find myself instructing my kids throughout a day. They don't move fast enough, respond quickly enough to my suggestions for improvement.
When are they going to learn that their behavior simply isn't acceptable? How many times am I going to have to explain it to them, over and over like a broken record!, I wonder in frustration.
When my daughter comes home, tears dripping down her face because the same kid has made the same rude comment for the third day in a row, I pray to muster words of compassion instead of irritation.
"What did you think was going to happen messing with that kid again? I told you to stay away from them!" I want to snap.
But my warnings, admonishments, and instructions aren't always heeded.
"It won't happen again," one of my children often says in apology and I counter with, "How 'bout you just tell me your gonna try harder?"
Because while we may want to eradicate a certain weakness from our very being, the fact is change is slow and hard and time consuming. It requires work and grace and it doesn't happen over night.
"There are just some things about myself I will never be able to 'fix'," I told the same priest recently during a different meeting in the Confessional.
"That may be true," he said, "The Serenity prayer petitions God to help us accept the things we cannot change. You may not be able to eliminate some of the bad things about yourself, but it is possible for God to change you. That's where the Sacraments and grace come in. He knows what you need, the minute you need it. It's important to come to Him, wait on Him. It's important to surrender."
And that, my friends, is how I'm really called to change. For my efforts at "self-improvement" won't come (and they haven't ever come!) from enrolling in anger management classes or devouring books on effective communication. They won't happen as I so wish they would--as soon as possible! No, true change, true conversion will only come when I'm able to pray and mean words like those found in the "Big Book" of AA:
“Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will.”
True conversion will happen when I consistently wave the white flag, give myself up, and pronounce earnestly, " What is it You want?" And that kind of prayerful surrender is a process--a slow and tedious and humbling process.
God isn't on my timeline. In fact, I'm not even on my timeline.
"There must be a real giving up of the self. . . .As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about, you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self . . . will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. . . . The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day . . . Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in." --CS Lewis