I've been allowing the challenge recently brought to me by Fr. X to soak in a bit. I'll tell you how it hits me. I could imagine myself bravely taking a bullet for the Lord in a firing squad, but the prospect of feeling and expressing my emotion reflexively makes me want to run and hide. Yes! I admit it. I'm a chicken.
Here's what I typically do: I identify an emotion within myself, and then I treat it as a puzzle to solve, to connect it with meaning, to see how it calls me to think about my life and reality. But I skip over the part of actually feeling it. Or, if I find I cannot skip over it because of its power, I feel like someone being dragged behind a powerful force, which in and of itself is really frightening.
I couldn't help but think at Mass today how each time we receive the Lord in communion we "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." Or, as Scott Hahn said, we "swear an oath," giving our lives completely to the Lord unto the death. At that point in the Mass we have just witnessed what our salvation cost Christ, and now we are called to respond with the pledge of our own lives, fueled and empowered by the grace our response to receive Him gives us. So, while today my call is not to take a bullet from a firing squad, my call is to heed where the Lord in our relationship is pointing me. We are never called to what is theoretically heroic or virtuous, but to what counts -- where the rubber hits the road!
I realize I've developed quite a "talent" if you will for talking about deep and personal things, and even doing so expressively, but with my emotions at a distance from me. I think this makes writing a double-edged sword, because even though it does allow me more freedom to get my thoughts out than speaking does, I also know it doesn't always require emotional processing. I think it is a sort of personal meditative type work, really. It takes silence. I need to manage my use of silence differently, I see.
But acknowledging that I can sit in silence with my emotions tells me that God who holds my life is bigger. Him, I trust. Why haven't I trusted my emotions? Well, I suppose having felt like they were dragging me like someone chained to a pick up would be a good starting clue!
Ok, I will venture to write about something and actually feel it. With Thanksgiving at hand, I've realized how much I looked forward to, longed for, felt comforted by, getting together with my extended family when I was a kid. Even then, though, there was an element of longing for other times. I remember seeing pictures and hearing people talk about when the gatherings were bigger, and were not just by aunt, uncle, cousins and grandparents, along with my family, and any stragglers-in or hangers-on in the mix. (My aunt and uncle provided adult foster care for many years, and besides those folks it seemed we often had other random people in the mix that I didn't know.) Even as a kid I had a sense of nostalgia for a time I never personally knew, when my grandparents' siblings and their families would also gather. They are all dead now, and I haven't seen my two cousins in twenty years. Entering these feelings now, I can be happy that my children can experience this same sense of comfort when we come together as a family, though we are much smaller now. I can also see I have grief in my heart for the death and the loss in my family of origin.
There they are -- my feelings. It is unusual for me to not follow up with "and this is what it means" and "here's the spiritual reality that heals it" and "here's the good that comes from pain." For now,these are all a bit tired. Peace does come in giving up the fight against feeling.