Since Take My Hand was published, I have given lectures and led workshops about the practice of writing. One of my suggestions was to use the form or outline of a piece that you admire. Recently, I read Brian Doyle’s “Confessio” in The Christian Century (Aug 22, 2012: 13). His beautiful words inspired me to write my own confession of sin. The phrase, Obsecro ut mihi ignoscas, is translated, “I implore you to forgive me.” Confession, as they say, is good for the soul. I share mine in hopes that it might inspire you to write your own, searching your past for those names and experiences you need to remember in words in order to let go in spirit.
I, Andrew, a sinner, born into such great privilege that I can choose to hide behind big words, esoteric thoughts, Birkenstocks and a shaggy beard, have similarly hid behind selfish rationalizations to excuse myself from the good I was taught and continue to believe, and thereby hurt the following people out of my sheer cowardice:
A friend in high school who, at the beginning of my freshman year, was my sole companion during lunch, yet when offered the chance to sit with others, I promptly moved to a different table without a word of explanation and avoided eye contact with this person for the duration of my high school career. Obsecro ut mihi ignoscas.
A colleague in seminary who, during a welcome back picnic, sidled up to me with a cautious smile as if to test the waters of friendship, but when he articulated a position that was different from my own, I tuned him out and, upon sensing this in me, he looked straight in my eyes and said, “You are not listening to me,” after which I was too stung by the truth of those words to be anything but embarrassed, and then mocked this person to like-minded friends the first chance I had with him safely out of earshot. Obsecro ut mihi ignoscas.
A fraternity brother who, upon returning from Christmas break, shared with me an intensely personal spiritual conversion that in no way fit my understanding of God’s revelation, and so I proceeded to question his story, piece-by-piece, until he wisely left me in search of someone with more faith in the mystery. Obsecro ut mihi ignoscas.
My mother who, upon answering the call that had accidently been made from the cell phone she paid for that was in my pocket during the middle of a Friday night drinking game, listened just long enough to discern exactly what was going on in my dorm room, and out of her concern for her prodigal son, promptly called me back and I, having no knowledge that she knew what was up, went out into the quiet hallway and repeatedly lied with flimsy excuses to try and talk her out of the truth that she knew, and after finally hanging up and realizing all that had occurred, was so ashamed that I swore to never mention it again. Until now. Obsecro ut mihi ignoscas.
A homeless woman who, just last week in Washington, DC, called out to me for help from her perch atop a pile of rags by a public trash can and, when I tried desperately to ignore her, quickly calculating the amount of money in my wallet and wanting to ensure I had enough for a bag of peanuts and a cold beer at the baseball game I was attending in a few hours, she nonetheless called out to me in a clear voice, “God bless you” and I responded by walking away even faster. Obsecro ut mihi ignoscas.
Forgive me, O God, for I admit that there are many more people I have ignored, belittled, and shunned out of my pride, arrogance, and lack of compassion. There is no health in me. But you, O divine healer, can restore unto to me the joy of thy salvation and renew a right spirit within me.