Taylor Swift’s Guide to Confession￼
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Taylor Swift fan, a fact that can be easily demonstrated by my uncanny ability to recognize her songs playing in public. In my Spotify Wrapped for 2021, she was my most listened to artist and I ranked in the top 4% of her listeners. One thing I really love about Taylor’s music is the depth of her lyrics and just how well she composes lines that cut to the heart.
The other day, I was driving in my car by myself, listening to my most-played Taylor Swift song in 2021, “this is me trying” from Folklore, soaking up the soothing melancholic vibes, when the lyrics hit me in a new way. I saw that the lyrics powerfully described the feeling of going back to Confession after committing a serious sin against the Lord. The song’s words voice the fear, trials, and humility that come with repenting of our sins, turning back to the Lord, and allowing ourselves to be healed by His endless mercy and love. It is as if the song is a prayer to the Lord of a distressed soul who was cut off from Him because of her sins and desires desperately to be reunited with Him. At that moment this song became that much more beautiful and profound to me, and I want to show you what I mean. Let’s take a look at the lyrics line-by-line. The first lines go like this:
I’ve been having a hard time adjusting
I had the shiniest wheels, now they’re rusting
Confronting our sins in Confession, especially after sinning gravely, is an incredibly difficult task. Bringing our brokenness and sinfulness into the light means looking at the ugly parts of ourselves, the parts we don’t want anyone to see, the parts we fear will cause God to stop loving us, ultimately to surrender them all to Him so that He can heal us. Learning to do this on a regular basis is not easy and often quite painful. It is also often very hard to accept that we ourselves are not perfect, but are broken sinners in need of Christ’s mercy. I think the first two lines of the song summarize this struggle well.
I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back
I have a lot of regrets about that
How often do we think of God as a keen-eyed judge watching and waiting for us to slip up just so He can punish us for our offenses against Him? Or maybe we conceive of God as a disinterested, distant Creator Who wound the clock of creation and then left it ticking? The Enemy would have us believe that the Lord does not want us to be reconciled to Himself when we sin, that we can never be forgiven for what we have done, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth is that God loves us and wants us to come back to Him more than we do! Jesus gave everything on the Cross so that we might be saved from our sins. When we fall, He waits with open arms and inexhaustible mercy to lift us up. Even in the depths of our sins we are never far from His embrace. These lines are the profession of a soul who did not go back to Jesus because she feared He would be merciless and ambivalent to her repentance and describe the continued grief she feels for not going back to Him for all that time.
Pulled the car off the road to the lookout
Could’ve followed my fears all the way down
When we make the decision to go to Confession and be reconciled to the Lord, the Devil will often attack us to prevent us from receiving Christ’s mercy. The fear, anxiety, and shame can be paralyzing, and at times it can feel almost impossible to press on. These two lines capture this sentiment well. Picture a weary soul pulling into the church parking lot. Taking her place in line inside. Doing a last-minute examination of conscience to double-check. Waiting for what feels like an eternity before the door of the confessional swings open and she’s next in line. The Evil One seeks to overwhelm her and dissuade her from continuing towards her encounter with the Lord and His boundless mercy, but the Good Shepherd never abandons His lost sheep.
And maybe I don’t quite know what to say
But I’m here in your doorway
In these lines is such a profound truth. The Sacrament of Confession is not about what we say or do, but about what Jesus does in us. All Jesus asks of us is to sincerely repent of our sins, go back to Him, and resolve to sin no more. He does the heavy lifting of washing away our sins, He just needs us to show up. Many times in my life have I gone to Confession thinking essentially what these two lines say: “Lord, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m here.” These lyrics are the profession of a soul who may not know what she is doing but who has had the courage to show up with the hope that that will be enough for her beloved Savior.
I just wanted you to know that this is me trying
How beautiful is this chorus when viewed as a prayer! At the heart of this song is an echo of the desperate plea of the heart of every broken person crying out to the Lord, thirsting for His Divine Mercy and redeeming love: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but I am trying to do Your will.” It is the canticle of every disciple of Christ who gazes into the chasm between themselves and the perfection they seek. In it is the hope that the Lord will accept us in our utter poverty and perfect His power in our weakness every time we approach Him in Confession. The beauty of this line understood as a prayer is that it points us to the reality that we are called to strive for holiness. Perfection is not a requirement to be a disciple of Christ. Jesus just wants us to make a sincere effort to do His will and to get back up when we fail. When we begin to understand this we can start to see the Sacrament of Confession as a refuge of hope and not a place of failure.
There is no question that going to Confession is intimidating and sometimes outright petrifying, but even in the midst of our fears, anxieties, and uncertainties, Jesus is working to heal us and make us new. Jesus conferred the authority to forgive sins on His Apostles so that we might have our sins be forgiven by their successors. It is a clear sign of His love for us that we have the gift of hearing the words “I absolve you of your sins” spoken by His authority so that we know for certain that we have been washed completely clean of every single one of our sins. Whether you’re going back to Confession for the first time in a while or you went last week, here are some practical tips that can help you as you prepare:
- Be honest with the priest, his job is to help you:
- If you haven’t gone in 15 years, tell him! He will walk you through what to do. If you aren’t sure about a sin, ask, he will be able to help clarify things. If you’re nervous about being judged, don’t be, priests have heard of every sin imaginable in the confessional. You won’t be shocking him.
- Write down your sins:
- This is something I do to help me keep track and ease my anxiety about forgetting. Also, after you receive absolution, it’s very satisfying to delete the note or shred or burn the piece of paper with your now-obliterated sins on them!
- Lastly, find a priest who you trust who can hear your confession regularly:
- Having a trusted priest to consistently hear your confession will help him to figure out the patterns of vice in your life and help you overcome them and also give you a spiritual father for you to turn to with your struggles in the spiritual life!