Friday, February 25, 2011

The FEELING of Growing in Holiness

I was 21 when I got married. It was then, in that moment when I gave myself to another for a lifetime, that I started to feel the painful process of growing in holiness. It was then that I realized one very important thing -- the person I thought I was supposed to be was nothing like the person I was meant to be. That is typically a crossroads moment for most people, but for me it was an irritant and an annoyance, something I swatted away like a fly. I didn't want to recognize that I had some changing to do. I didn't quite get what was going on.

I had a boat load of friends -- they were all quite amusing and lots of fun. I was big and boisterous -- I shared too much, I talked too much, I expected too much. And lets face it -- I drank too much, I ate too much and I wanted too much. I thought that's what it meant to make the most out of this life. Yet, there was that nagging feeling of something missing.

I had the perfect set up -- the loving and generous husband, the nice house and no real worries. And still, I would do a lot of complaining and whining about my circumstances, my desires, my need to be included in everything -- and as I grumbled, I noticed that many of the people around me behaved the same way, but for a few. And, in those few, I saw something that seemed like contentment; they had families and problems and none of the freedom and independence I enjoyed. Yet, with all I had, I was the cranky and miserable one, always making a wise crack to get a laugh, to pretend I was something I wasn't -- joyful.

Nag, nag, nag -- that feeling tugged at me constantly. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but it was becoming more obvious. Still, I didn't respond. I had a miscarriage and then a baby boy and suddenly going to Church seemed important. So, we started going on a more regular basis -- and, those superficial friends seemed to fade away -- why? I was still that same person I was before, wasn't I?

The 'holiness process' tugged again -- painful -- still I didn't understand. I was a constant irritant to my husband, I'm sure, but he was the port in the shore for this emotional boat tossed on the sea of self-pity. I couldn't quite grasp what was going on. And then, the second miscarriage followed by the second son -- with multiple disabilities. It was during his delivery that the scales were lifted, that God sent me a feeling.

"Just try to relax, I know you're anxious." the midwife told me.

I laughed, "Relax, your kidding, right?"

"No really, you're working really hard. If you just allow yourself to rest, you'll be ready for transition." she said.

I didn't listen -- a failing that cost me a fruitful life in the Spirit for many years -- and I worked, worked worked on doing the whole delivery thing right. I was exhausted, anxious, and now in full, unmedicated transition labor. I was helpless and desperate and the midwife took my hand and said, "Are you ready?"

"Ready for what?" I thought, "More pain, more stress?"

Then the still small voice from my wave tossed soul whispered, YES -- I heard my own voice echo, "Yes." And, then a feeling of peace took hold of me, enveloped me, lifted me, overwhelmed me. I fell asleep, through several contractions, for almost 20 min., much to the surprise of both my husband and the midwife. She said she had never seen anyone do that before. I awoke to push my beautiful baby boy out into the world, he delivered quickly and was with me and my still smiling soul.

In that experience, I realized the grace I was given, the gift of being prepared and purged of all those "friends" who would not be able to walk the journey with me from that point. I was pruned, cut and shaped by my Creator, for this task that lay before me in loving and raising my family, my different family. It was an example for my husband that even in painful situations, peace can be felt. And, it was a certain reassurance that, although we would meet with many more personal challenges, God's peace was as sure as the sun rising in the morning. And, like the rays of the sun that shines on both gentle and turbulent seas, you can feel it penetrate and warm you to the core.

Feelings -- they are either over emphasized or undervalued, but when viewed with the proper perspective they are tremendously helpful tools. They should never be overlooked, but should also never be trusted in exclusively. I've heard authors, speakers, friends and acquaintances describe growing in holiness many ways; each of them recounts a different experience. What doesn't ever vary is the feeling of peace that comes with being in the will of God -- even when trials assail you. I thank God for that feeling here on earth, that consolation of His immeasurable grace, that calmed the waters sailed by my soul toward Him. But I long for what it will feel like if and when I eventually drift on the holiness of heaven.


Cherie said...

Kathy, Thank you for sharing, this is a good one.
God Bless, Cherie

theresa said...

It is interesting that I found this tonight. "Feelings -- they are either over emphasized or undervalued, but when viewed with the proper perspective they are tremendously helpful tools." The Christian perspective on feelings is something I ponder a lot for many personal reasons. While we'll be judged by God on the choices we make and not the feelings we feel unbidden, there seems to be something out of sync with reality in the idea that truth may sometimes be boiled down to, that feelings don't matter at *all*, only how we choose to act does.

Earlier I read a post here: quoting Mother Teresa saying, "I don't care what people say about the death rate. Even if they die an hour later we must let them come. These babies must not die uncared for and unloved, because even a tiny baby can feel." It struck me enough (with my ongoing questions about the value and meaning of feelings) to e-mail a confidante the quote and to point out that Mother Teresa apparently thought how people "feel" matters.

Jenny said...

Beautiful post. Many times I will go to my spiritual director and say, "...but I don't feel..." and father will say good. DO it out of obedience anyway. 'm a new follower from Catholic Mothers Online. Please stop by and return the favor.

Jenny said...

Oh, I just noticed you have one of my favorite books in your sidebar, Searching For and Maintaining Peace.

Kathy said...

Thanks so much for the comments. We need to control our feeling, not allow them to control us. As with everything, they are a gift -- we should be sensitive to working toward perfecting them in the Spirit. Prayer is key!

Davin Winger said...

Kathy, I really appreciate what you have put into words here.

On Retrouvaille Marriage Weekends, we try to identify and describe our feelings. Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They are gifts from God. How I react to my feelings is up to me.

Trying to identify my own feelings can be a hard process for me, but it always seems to be productive. Trying to understand my spouses feelings brought our marriage to a new level of intimacy.