When I was a teenager, it took forever to get my hair right. There was this one place that was really bad, behind my right ear. My hair wanted to flip out. I wanted it to flip under.

Every morning, with a freshly-washed head of hair, I'd try to get the flip behind my right ear under control using one of the crude early forms of male hair-drying technology.

I did this year after year after year. The ritual became a part of me. Three or four years ago, I noticed that it no longer took nearly as long to carry out this duty. In fact, I rarely have to curl that flip under any more. It meekly does the right thing, pretty much on its own.

For better, or for worse, I have won that battle.

The flip behind my right ear is still there. But it has been brought under control, through years of training.

I guess if you do something long enough, it changes you.

There are many, many parts of me that are not under control yet. Believe me, I know that. I need to confess that, over and over and over, year after year after year.

When I became an Orthodox Christian, I didn't mention this hair ritual thing in my first confession. Perhaps I should have. I am sure that this tale says a lot about me.

But the process of preparing to stand before Christ and confess who I am made me think of many other things that I had done in my life over and over and over, as a husband, as a father, as a journalist, as a teacher. I am sure that I am still blind to legions of other faults and embarrassing rituals that shape my life. I pray that by the grace of God I will be able to confess them. As C.S. Lewis expressed in his novel "Till We Have Faces," it is best to "die before you die. There is no chance after."

A few weeks before my family was chrismated, a cradle Orthodox Christian told me that, as far as he knew, no one in his large parish had been to confession in years. This shocked me. Now, it saddens me to think that this is true.

Out of all the beautiful gifts that I have received as a new Orthodox Christian, I think that I am most thankful for the mercy of confession. I am thankful for those moments of light that confession shines into my life and tears of thanksgiving that often follow. I am not sure that I welcome confession, but I am truly thankful for it.

There are parts of me that, unlike my thinning hair, are going to last for eternity. I don't want them to stay the way that they are. Please, dear God, have mercy on me. Please don't let me spend eternity with myself, the way that I am right now.

That flip of hair behind my right ear is a warning.

The good news is that if you do something long enough, it changes you. The bad news is that if you do something long enough, it changes you. And we are free to make our choices, over and over and over.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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