Does a confessional have the same effect when typed out electronically instead of on paper written in ink or pencil?
Is something sacred lost between the giving up of the pen stroke and the hammering of the keypad? Asdf and jkl; lack the uncertainty and messiness of the pen sweeping across the page, the bottom of my hand picking up not yet dried globs of ink because I write quickly and with a hook.
I remember one day Pat was telling me of how he used to volunteer at a crisis hotline center and how the woman that ran it wouldn’t allow any computers to be used because she said it made the people calling feel like just another last name typed first into a giant database. There was something about hearing someone flip through a book to find your name, your name written in ink, that made you feel more important. The fact that someone took the time to write out your name and situation on paper in a book meant far more than letters typed and spelled perfectly onto a computers hard drive.Moving on with the confession.
I just returned from a trip to the Bread of Life mission. I went down with the intention of seeing Jeff and congratulating him on a year of sobriety. While I did accomplish what I set out to do I also found myself a very humbled and quieted man by the end of my visit.
I met Timothy about 8 months back when I was working with YWAM and bringing DTS students down to the mission on a weekly basis. Timothy was this unassuming black man in his early 40’s. I don’t exactly remember how we became friends but I’m sure someone at the mission introduced me to him (because that is how I met most of the guys in the program).Timothy was a bit shy with me
and I found out why after a few conversations with him. He had been abused by white people when he was younger and had struggled with racism ever since. Being someone who has struggled with racism myself, my heart broke when I heard him say this and I’m pretty sure I had to hold back a good stream of tears. Racism is usually bred out of two things, ignorance and fear. He talked to me about how he had never been able to trust white people and how he had harbored a lot of hate for many years towards the white race.
As he was telling me all of this I remembered this book I had read a few years back by Fawn Parish called Honor
and in that book Ms. Parish spoke of how it was important for people of an offending race to ask forgiveness on behalf of their race for the hurt their ancestors had brought upon the offended and/or decimated race (in this case we are talking about white American guy asking forgiveness from black American guy). So with much hesitation I asked Timothy if he would accept my apology on behalf of what had been done to him many years ago by some intolerant people of my race. He said yes. It was an amazing thing to ask for and humbled me greatly. He took my hand and we prayed together.A few weeks after that Timothy relapsed
back into his crack addiction and I didn’t think I would ever see him again. That was until today when he came walking through the dining room door at the Bread of Life. He saw me; we hugged and then sat down and talked about what had transpired in our 7-month absence. He told me of how he had worked a job, made money and fell back into the same cycle of addiction that he hated so much. I told him of how I had went home, traveled to Kyrgyzstan and upon my arrival back to the states fell into a deep (and continuing) state of doubt over where I stood with almost everything I believed.
He tried to encourage me; he always loved to encourage me. I told him that the reason I came down to the mission was not to give of myself to the guys there, I mean I have nothing to give at this point, but to be surrounded by people who sins are “worse” than mine. To find some kind of twisted satisfaction in knowing that there are people who deal with sins that are easier to point out than my own. If you ever need a pick-me-up (or a reality check) I would suggest going down to your local mission, AA meeting, or any other group that contains habitually struggling individuals and listen to the stories they tell. You might find your life is not half as bad as you thought it was. You might find redemption in the crucifixion of others. But be warned, you may also find that your problems are no different than theirs, yours just come in a more disguisable or socially acceptable form.Sometimes the reminder of my own depravity is too much to bear;
other times it brings me a redemption I didn’t even know I was looking for. As I rode home on the bus I listened to Sufjan Stevens Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou) on repeat and stared out the window, tears rolling down my cheeks as we roared past humanity at 40 mph.