Her eyes went to the cross the moment she entered the building. The blood along his pierced side and crowned head seemed to pulse as though freshly spilled. A lump formed in her throat as she took a little water and anointed herself, consecrated herself.
The oak pews were empty, but she could picture them filled on a Sunday morning. The kneeling benches with their red cushions had worn spots, the oak having absorbed countless amens and silent confessions over the years.
She felt His eyes upon her as she approached the booth. Sliding door half-open, beckoning her into its dark depths. The wood as old as the pews and just as full with the sins of many saints.
The darkness would’ve been absolute when she closed the door, but the light from the second chamber leaked through the slot that separated the booths. She settled on the bench and allowed the heaviness to seep in and out of her body. Her eyes fluttered shut, thoughts swirling too fast to be contained.
She barely heard the slot open, but sensed another presence. “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been years since my last confession.”
“I’m a lapsed Christian. I’m pretending –” Drawing in a steadying breath, she continued. “I’m pretending I have it together, that… That I’m not very different from how I was before. I’ve dabbled in things…”
The words died on her tongue. She didn’t feel guilt so much as a discomfort that she lacked the piety she’d held to before. It made it hard to confess the things she’d done, enjoyed. Things her bible hinted at as being wrong. Surely Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit condemned her love of those moments of sweet depravity?
A throat clearing halted her frantic thoughts. A voice spoke into the quiet, it was low enough that she had to lean closer to the open slot.
“Child, God knows the true nature of your heart and judges you accordingly. Don’t be so worried about the possible sins you’re committing that you fail to live to the fullest, losing the ability to praise Him in the things you do. Remember who you are in Christ above all and work from that knowledge. Give yourself a break.”
She blinked, her mind struggling to process his message. No Hail Mary’s, just an edict to go easy on herself?
“That is the word of The Lord. Hear it and take it to heart. God bless you, my child.”
The slot closed with a quiet snick that threw her back into darkness. She was effectively dismissed, but it didn’t feel like a slight. If anything, his simple words untwisted something in her heart.
Slipping out of the booth, she made her way back down the aisle with the eyes of Jesus on her back. The weight of his stare lacked the oppressive weight it held coming in.