I was reading this morning in Abigail Rine Favale’s stunningly beautiful book Into the Deep, the story of her “unlikely” conversion to Christianity, one that ends with a wholehearted plunge into the Catholic Church. This is my second reading, not something I usually do with this kind of book. It’s penetrating, wonderful.

This morning in my reading, Favale was talking about how she began to approach the sacrament of confession as a new convert. She had a lot of questions, a little distrustful at first about the whole process. She is pretty tough, by the way, on Protestants who have no formal means of confession. I found myself a little defensive, but, yes, a bit envious of my Catholic brothers and sisters.

I was moved, though, by the need for confession. Sin is not something we like to talk about much, if at all, no matter our tradition. We would rather focus on God’s grace and forgiveness, his lavish love rather than his repulsion from our sin. But when sin lingers, it does its damage.

What is sin after all? I was quoting George MacDonald recently who says selfishness is the one thing God will not abide in his kingdom. I’ve been thinking a lot about all those ways self-centeredness can keep me from the presence of a loving God. What do I have to confess, I’ve been thinking, about those self-focused parts of my life?

In the middle of Favale’s discussion, she says she remained for over two years, as she deepened in her conversion, in a condition of phony confessions, “never approaching that locked door within me.” That’s the line that struck me. Startled me. Do I have a locked door I keep closed from God, from myself, certainly from others, a door that needs opening to let the fresh breeze of God’s restoring, forgiving love come rushing in?

Look, I have no desire to try to become my own therapist here. That would be silly, quite scary. But it struck me that I do want to unlock the door within me, to become more aware, more vulnerable, more honest about what keeps me from drawing nearer to the heart of God.

Keeping those doors locked, whatever they may be—regrets for things done, sadness for things left undone, hurts inflicted, opportunities for kindness and love missed, subtle hatred that contributes to the toxic hatred in our world—all of this, unless owned, confessed, keeps me from real freedom.

The great tradition of confession teaches us how much we need to come clean. Wouldn’t that be wonderfully freeing? What do I need to do? Do I need a priest? It may be a Protestant solution, and maybe a copout, but for me it all begins in deep prayer, a time of making myself vulnerable in the presence of God who loves and restores and wholly forgives. But I need to be honest. I need to open my heart. Unlock those doors. That’s what I’ve been telling myself. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Favale’s words struct a deep chord this morning. Perhaps this could be a new kind of journey. Maybe genuine confession is a new starting point.