So long Easter, and thanks for the 50 days; I needed them

“Great and glorious God, my Lord Jesus Christ! I implore thee to enlighten me and to disperse the darkness of my soul! Give me true faith and firm hope and a perfect charity! Grant me, O Lord, to know thee so well that in all things I may act by thy light, and in accordance with thy holy will!” – St. Francis of Assisi

This year was the first time that I observed Easter in the purpose for which it was intended: a 50-day celebration of Jesus’ sucker-punch into the face of death; a 50-day party at the end of a three-day test match that ended with the score, Jesus 1, Death 0. The joy that comes with a true Easter has carried me through one of the most difficult times of my life.

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I Couldn’t Stay

“After I had put on the robes and a stole,” she said,  “I just sat there and cried. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy…”  I had been casually listening-in on a conversation between two fellow Divinity School students for some time before I heard the young woman describe this moment.  From what I gathered, she is preparing for ordination in the Unitarian Universalist (UU) tradition, and currently working as an intern at a local UU church where she had, for the first time, tried on the pastor’s robes she would wear while preaching during some upcoming Sunday service.

For the first time in my life I am surrounded by women who talk openly, almost unthinkingly, about their calls to ordained ministry. Continue reading

A New Day

I was pleasantly surprised to find myself feeling a bit more optimistic and less angst filled as I began this work week. I began a new position a couple of weeks ago, one I did not choose, one that did not have enough hours and had very few redeeming qualities for me.

My infinitely sunnier disposition came in the most unusual way. As I was feeling my worst and expressing the hell out of my anger, sadness, and hopelessness, I had to hole away for a few hours by myself and listen to dark music with a scowl on my face.

Somehow the stars aligned and I came out of my nasty funk to find I was not exactly feeing happy about the change but at least wasnt feeling totally terrible. And that was a major step!

A lot of people wanted to cheer me up and make me feel better about this job situation but I didnt feel better until someone just let me bitch and I was just all out miserable.  This is the ironic part about emotions-they have to be felt, truly, deeply felt before you can move forward.  I felt a little like a kid having a temper tantrum but it did the trick.

It felt great not to feign happiness just to avoid an awkward conversation.  Normally I would; got to be the happy girl you know?  I finally figured out what to say to people-that I didn’t feel like looking on the bright side just yet.  I’m not sure but I think it may have helped others too to know where I was at the time so they’d know how to help.  Or what to avoid! 

So the next time you’re feeling pressure, from within or without, to put on a happy face, don’t.  Let yourself (or someone else) be miserable for awhile. Just get to the bottom at some point so you can start going upward again.  That’s the good part. 

 

Lauren Ivory earned a Master of Divinity degree from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis and completed her chaplain residency at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Originally from Northern Michigan, Lauren is now enjoying her new city of Chicago and working on the north side as a hospital chaplain/’storylistener’. When she isn’t working she can be found spending time with friends, reading, exploring unique things about Chicago, traveling to see family and friends, listening to music, and dancing.

Just Get Over It

To regard grief as somehow unworthy of a Christian who believes in the resurrection is to forget the example of Christ who was so often “moved with compassion,” who wept at his loss of Lazarus and prayed the longer in his agony. We cannot short-circuit human processes”.

Maria Boudling, Prayer: Our Journey Home

I recently saw this quote when reading a chaplain’s reflection upon the death of his wife. He struggled to find words that would express what he was feeling, as much as we struggle to find words we think would be comforting to those grieving. He found some relief in the fact that his wife’s physical suffering was over however, as he says, “No amount of joy over Caryl’s betterment removes that cold reality [that I am now alone]”.

Too often we deny our feelings (or encourage others to deny theirs) because some feelings, let’s face it, just don’t feel good. Grief does not feel good. Seeing someone sad or angry does not feel good. I often hear people tell their loved ones they must stop crying or should be rejoicing for the dead because they are now with God. I imagine many of us would like to say what M’lynn says to Annelle in Steel Magnolias when her daughter died and Annelle suggested that she rejoice that her daughter was ‘with her King’, “Well you go on ahead. I’m sorry if I don’t feel like it.”

We also have those who are trying to embrace positive thinking and who emphasize one’s ability to affect their environment with their thoughts. Unfortunately this can have the same effect. When we deny our feelings we often misappropriate our emotions onto other issues where we ‘take it out on others’. Or we might bottle these feelings up and, in turn, find it very difficult to maintain/engage in close relationships where one has to be intimately in tune with themselves to do so with others.

My least favorite emotion is anger. Having seen it used and abused in my family, I avoid it like the plague. I feared that being angry was not a nice thing to do. I take being nice to the extreme so much that I even found a career where I can go around and be nice to people!

These things combined have made accessing my feelings of anger even harder. As Richard Gere said to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to say that sentence: “I was very angry with him.” I haven’t gotten to the $10,000 mark, but I am definitely dealing with feelings that won’t disappear no matter how much I try to hide them away. It may sound cliche, but we have to go through things to truly get over them. There is no short cut and there isn’t enough positive energy in the world to make those feelings go away if we haven’t first acknowledged them and dealt with them.

So, I take courage from Jesus, who turned over tables in the temple, and who wept bitterly in the garden. If he felt these feelings and was without sin, then they can’t be sinful for us to feel either (that is, depending on how we express them). Just another way that Jesus acted counter culturally. Just another way that he lights the way for us and, of all of the things a God could do, teaches us how to be human.