“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
—Louisa May Alcott
Rewind to when I was in elementary school. My family went to see my oldest brother in a ballet recital one evening. I don’t remember much about the duet he performed, except that it was a beautiful and tragic story: beloveds torn asunder, perhaps even a death. I was moved to tears. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do with such vulnerability, so when my parents asked me what was wrong, I told them I had a stomachache. Much safer than admitting I was sad.
Fast forward to my early 20s. For the first time, I went to therapy to try to deal with some past trauma. Week after week, I’d share stories about my experiences, and week after week, my therapist would ask me, “And how did that make you feel?” I’d proceed to tell her how I’d come to understand the motivations of the people involved and make some sense of what had happened. At some point, she once again asked me (with only the tiniest trace of exasperation), “But how did it make you feel?” I stopped short. I realized I had no idea. It was as though the entire emotional soundtrack of my life was blank.
Fast forward to the beginning of my year-long chaplain residency at an urban hospital. In that first month, we had an overwhelming number of 24-hour on-call assignments. This required staying overnight at the chaplain’s room at the hospital, which meant I spent many nights away from my then-18-month-old son. One evening when I was home, he started wailing, utterly inconsolable. I tried to comfort him but he didn’t want to be touched. So I just sat on the floor with him, told him over and over that I understood why he was so upset, reassured him it was okay to be angry with me, and watched my own heart shatter on the ground. Before too long, his crying subsided. I was still a wreck, but he had passed to the other side of his storm.
My beliefs call me to respect the wisdom of the mind, body, spirit, and feelings. Emotional tempests aren’t always easy to weather — pain, grief, disappointment, even love — but the flatness of life without such currents is the slow silence of drowning.
Love That Will Not Let Us Go, help us to feel whatever we feel and to honor the lessons we find there. As we navigate the waters that buffet our hearts, be with us and keep us moving forward. Remind us that the fastest way past the storm is right through the middle. Amen and blessed be.