I remember the smooth, slippery feel of vinyl seats in the waiting room. I remember the sounds of children climbing all over the large, soft blocks in the middle of the room. There was the muffled sound of a woman at the counter asking a question. And there was a young mom holding tight to the child in her lap, whispering close to his ear and watching me. To be honest, I thought everyone was watching me. I remember the feeling of swallowing hard against the tears welling in my eyes and saying to myself, “It is going to be OK.” I remember texting my husband, “I wish you were here,” and then sitting back to breathe, pray, and wait to hold my son in my arms when he woke up.
These are just a few tangible memories from the morning I learned my oldest son had hearing loss. We were in an outpatient facility, and an audiologist was performing an auditory brainstem response test or ABR. My son was put under anesthesia while the audiologist measured his brain’s response to sound. I was told it was the only way I could definitively know that a four-year-old child had hearing loss. (Normal booth tests are hard for young kids.) The feel of the vinyl seats and the eyes on me came immediately after the audiologist had taken me aside and confirmed the loss. The truth was, however, I already knew the result long before the test. Call it mother’s intuition or just a process of elimination from observing my son navigate the world for his first four years. So why did I feel like crying?
What was I upset about? We would be OK. There was no need to cry. Hearing loss can be such a beautiful part of a person; I knew that. “Get it together, Gretchen,” I told myself as I searched for some podcast to distract me while I waited for my son to wake up from anesthesia.
I often try to avoid giving into tears. Maybe I do not want to upset others. Maybe I do not want to look ridiculous. Or maybe I do not want to look weak. But why do I think showing emotion is weak? Is it not just human?
I wonder sometimes: what if instead I thought showing emotion was a sign of strength?
After all, paying attention to emotions is central to Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius teaches that the movements in our souls tell us something about what God wants us to hear. If I am not willing to sit with and feel those emotions, however, how can I get out of them what God intends?
As we enter into the Lenten season, I wonder what it would look like if I considered Lent to be a time to experience emotion with Jesus. What would happen if I walked with Jesus down the road to Calvary this Lent and tried to feel with him every step of the way? What if I let myself experience the emotions that he must have been feeling as he was rejected, scorned, whipped, and made to carry a cross? What if I stood by him while he hung on the Cross and just let the tears fall?
Emotions can be a sign of strength. They can be something that allows us to connect with others. And in prayer and contemplation, they can be a way to connect with Jesus and make his Passion our passion as well.
I think this mode of thinking would really change things this Lent, don’t you?
Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing. It has helped center me as I choose on of the online retreats at http://www.ignatianspirituality.com.
We need all the supportive materials possible to discern our true healing way and this piece is among that. God bless you!
Gretchen, Thank you. This reflection is very moving and helpful for any time of the year, but particularly during Lent. I’m so grateful for people like you who remind us of the purpose of Lent and the healing possibilities. Thank you again, and abundant blessings!
Gretchen, you write of experiencing emotion with Jesus during Lent. I believe that Jesus is weeping with me and countless others as we witness the strife in the world. May we continue to feel deep sadness and weep but may we be motivated to do something for the common good as well. May our deep sorrow motivate us to go and change the world, even in our little corner. Thank you very much for this beautiful reflection!
Thank you, Gretchen. Whatever lies ahead that brings sadness, I can unite it to Jesus’ passion.
God bless you and your little boy.
Thank you for leading me into meditation with Jesus and Mary particularly now when our Churches are closed and I am in isolation. God bless.
I thank you for all the wonderful time and prayers we can have from Our Lord
The world needs healing
Keep praying god bless
Thanks Gretchen, what a nice path you have suggested through your write up. God bless.
The Ignatian way of praying has had a dramatic impact on me. As an artist to visualize things in your head is how we create. As I contemplate Jesus in the garden, the loneliness, the alone how He felt. Abandoned, the apostles sleeping, He sweats blood. For I have the ability to see the scene. His arrest, His acceptance, just like His mom His yes. I’m there lashing spitting laughing. I’m in the crowd jeering and calling Him names. Then the shift, there I am not knowing who the man is. For His face is so swollen, bloody and dusty, He has a crown of thorns on His head. He stumbles and falls, my heart aches – what did this man do to deserve this. Then I see Mary – the pain, the sorrow. I realize it’s her son. I rush over to support her and hold her while we follow. Then we stand at the foot of the cross and watch till He passes. The point of this is always for me. The beating the lashing, the cruelty He suffered for my sins. As a RN all that He suffered would of altered His appearance, He’d of been so dehydrated from lack of fluid replacement – swollen and unrecognizable, the crown on His head. We wouldn’t have known Him just like today unless we knew Him before.
Heartfelt thanks for this timely message !
Beautiful! Keep up helping us One needs to take extra time especially during Lent; ieven if we take time from some other thing, we are supposed to get done.. Thank you . A>N>D>G
Gretchen, thank you for this beautiful meditation. I will try to feel with Jesus as he approaches Calvary. Ann
Beautiful Gretchen. Reminded me of the sudden deep sadness I felt on the 30 day retreat as I suddenly and unexpectedly connected with Jesus’s sorrow for all those who did not know God. For me it changed lent and Holy week for ever.