Every closet has a skeleton. Everybody has a secret. We’re all damaged and no one shows it.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve been watching too much TV, but I am increasingly disgusted with the overly negative melodrama that passes for art these days. More and more I find a deliberate, pushy darkness in literature and in drama. I’m sick of wallowing in how bad we all are, and I don’t think the solution to the world’s ills is to glorify or to rejoice in our shortcomings.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the world is all sweetness and light, and I do believe that we are all damaged and most of us either don’t show it or don’t deal with it well. We’re sinful people, and you can think that my perspective is totally shaped by my Catholicism, but it has mostly been shaped simply by paying attention.
But I believe that sinfulness is not the end of the story. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and was reminded of a talk I gave on reconciliation years ago. As I was writing that talk I started to wonder biggest challenge of the sacrament of reconciliation is not saying our sins out loud but letting go of the secret pride we have in being damaged. This is what I wrote at the time:
It’s easy to approach God, in the confessional or elsewhere, with the conviction that you have a sin that is the most horrifying ever, or that you have a pain in you that nothing will ever make OK. There is a certain sense of hubris in this belief that you have the market cornered on sin and darkness.
But none of us do. We enter the confessional and announce our sins and it doesn’t shock the priest and it doesn’t shock God. We have to let go of our sins and our pasts and allow God to transform our lives. I don’t think the hard part of the sacrament is the naming of the sins, or whatever penance we might receive: it’s accepting forgiveness and letting go of our sins. For our lives to be transformed we have to submit not only to God’s will but God’s mercy & forgiveness.
Yes, every closet has a skeleton. But there is also the possibility that those dry bones can have life put into them again when the time is right.
A few months ago I wrote about singing with a message, and I knew at the time that the post was a bit of a cop-out, because I felt like something had changed and I had a message, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. How boring the rest of my life would be if I had it all figured out, but I think I am getting an inkling. There is no need for my message to be about darkness and disorder – there’s enough of that to go around, enough people reminding us that we’re all damaged and don’t show it. Maybe the message lies on the other side of that: we’re all redeemed and don’t know it.