How often do we say to ourselves that we don't need any help, that we can handle things on our own? In our society, to be independent and self reliant is seen as admirable. We live in a world where asking for help, and consequently admitting we cannot do things on our own, is often viewed as more menacing than managing.
And so we take upon ourselves burdens that could easily be lifted off our shoulders with a simple request.
I can't begin to tell you how many times I would work on a home improvement project only to realize that I really had no idea of what I was doing and, a more times than not, ended up drywalling myself into an uneven corner.
We live in an older home that is in a constant state of disrepair. It never fails that once door handle is fixed, a closet hanging pole falls to the floor.
A while back, I had decided to completely renovate our kitchen. Well, it wasn’t actually I who decided, it was more Mother Nature when she piled up a heap of snow on the kitchen roof and then topped it off with a thick layer of frozen rain causing a partial collapse.
After the roofers were done completely rebuilding the outside, I was left with a mess within. Even though I didn’t have the training or even the proper tools, I figured I’d tackle the job on my own. Tear the plaster walls down to the studs, insulate, put up drywall. How hard could it be?
“Maybe you should call my brother,” my wife suggested. He is a contractor who does this sort of thing all the time. “I got this,” I assured her.
Things started out pretty good, too. Demolition as was actually kind of fun, albeit awfully filthy with old, sodden insulation and crumbling plaster. My confidence in my construction ability grew. The drywall went up on the walls pretty smoothly. Sure, there were some pieces that didn’t quite fit right, but with an X-Acto knife and a glob of spackle, who’s to know the difference?
Finally it was time to drywall the ceiling. Okay, I thought. I could just hold up the weight of the drywall with one hand, and drill a drywall screw in with my other hand. But how could I hold the screw in place? Could I be absolutely certain that if I did get the screw in, that it would hit a stud? And so I called my teenage son in to help me.
“You stand on the ladder holding one end of this piece of drywall up over your head while I sit up on top of the refrigerator holding up the other end of the drywall with my head as I drill in these screws.”
He looked at me with such sad, fearful trembling eyes that I knew said, “Dad has finally lost it, but I’ll do what he says because, well, frankly I’m a little afraid not to and just hope the injuries will be minor.”
We pressed the drywall onto the studs and held it tight while I successfully sank the first screw. As I began placing the next screw, the drywall began to shift. I hastily put the screw in but missed the stud. I tried again. Miss. “Hold it up,” I yelled. “I’m trying,” my son said trying desperately to hide his anguish. So I pushed it up as hard as I could causing it to crack down the middle.
Much was the same for the second attempted piece, the third, the fourth. In the span of a few hours, I had been able to hand to hang one half a piece and one third of a piece that had snapped, but I figured with an X-Acto knife and a glob of spackle, who’s to know any better.
Sitting on the kitchen floor feeling utterly defeated, my wife gently suggested I call her brother who is a contractor. Tossing my pride on the heap of debris in the backyard, I called.
He laughed at my story then told me to just put some carpenter’s glue on the studs. It’ll hold just long enough to put in your screws.
That is how I’ve come to see Reconciliation. We walk around with burdens that we feel we can handle on our own, and when guilt and remorse fade, confidence in our ability to handle sin on our own grows. In fact, we may not even perceive the weight we are under until it manifests in impatience, anger, depression.
Reconciliation does not just make us feel better, it makes us just better.
For those like me who grew up going to Confession only on special occasions – definitely once during Lent, maybe once during Advent – it is hard to change old habits. I still get the feeling I’m waiting in line to see a barbarous dentist instead of a compassionate priest. But I’m working on it, and I’m working on going more often as well because I can’t handle sin on my own.