SahmatworkSome people think to show emotion is showing weakness. I think to be emotionless is to be a machine.

Last Sunday’s homily brought me great peace with an incident which had occurred about 6 years ago….

When my daughter was just 9 months old she and I had a tragic accident together. I was 6 months pregnant, with my next child, when rushing out the door; I fell down three concrete steps in our garage while holding the baby in my arms. We both went down, and went down hard.

She ended up with a fractured shoulder. I had a sprained ankle and over all, a sore body. I thank God that’s all it ended up being, as I could have lost my child in the womb, or massively caused head trauma to my 9 month old. For years, and until recently, it has been one of those moments that causes a knot in my throat, and even now is difficult to type and admit. Minutes after the accident, my mother in law came to the house. While I am sure she intended to settle my franticness, she calmly came in and hugged me. I put my head on her shoulder and cried, well, sobbed. All the while she stroked my hair and kissed my little baby in my arms. She kept saying as I felt myself falling apart, "Believe in Guardian Angels. Believe in them. They are there for moments like this. Your babies will be okay."

I failed. I rushed. I wasn’t focused. I wasn’t the mother I was supposed to be. I had failed, not only my daughter in-utero, not only my husband who trusted me, not only my 9 month old daughter, not only my mother-in-law, I failed myself. I knew better. All those emotions came to me that day, and for so many weeks after, while sponge bathing the baby so her shoulder could heal in her wrappings. Even when my next child was born, I worried about what ‘that fall’ might have cost her. Years later, when all was healed for these two girls, their mother had not yet forgiven herself, not only for rushing that day, but for falling apart on the first person to show up at my door, knowing my failure. Shouldn’t I have kept it together in that most trying moment?

Talk about showing my faults. It was so difficult to accept her love in those moments, especially when I was so concerned with giving the correct image. But now, six years later, I treasure that very difficult moment. She loved without judgment and without critique.

For almost six years, I have kept the pain of unforgiveness within me. Then we attend Mass last Sunday.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,

"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"

Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."

He then said to Simon Peter a second time,

"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."

Jesus said to him the third time,

"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,

"Do you love me?" and he said to him,

"Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."

Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,

you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;

but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,

and someone else will dress you

and lead you where you do not want to go."

John 21

The homily that progressed was exactly what I needed to hear. In the past, hearing this particular Gospel simply told me that, once again, Peter doesn’t get it, and Christ is asking him to love Him, to really love Him, which in and of itself, isn’t a terrible reflection, just limited.

The homily that our Deacon gave was inspired. He explained the genius behind’s Christ’s decision to choose Peter as the rock to build the Church. Peter showed his humanity. Peter lived the human experience with all the roller coaster of emotions that it involves, he let it in, lived it, laughed in it, cried in it, got frustrated in it and so forth. Even with the Lord, Peter was distressed, not understanding why Christ kept asking the same question of him.

Even Christ himself, taking human flesh, expressed sorrow with tears, showed anger by tipping tables over, and agony in the garden with bloodied sweat.

This life of ours is full of emotional highs and lows. Great times happen and we are overjoyed. Sad events also happen and we are meant to live them all. We will taste the salt of both tears of happiness and of sadness.

Ah, Peter how you lived the human experience to the fullest. You denied Christ multiple times, you challenged him on many occasions, you got irritated by Christ’s questions and demands, but in the end, you lived life. You were open with your emotions, your fears, your concerns, and you opened your life for God to work in you. You found redemption, forgiveness, love and a martyr’s death. You founded the Church; you were the Rock on which we were built. And we can relate to you. We can relate to the frustration of life. We can relate to you turning from Christ. We can relate to coming home again.

The beauty in life is this roller coaster of highs and lows. It’s a gift, to be able to have that human experience, of sublime joy as well as the lowest of sorrows and all the mediums in between. He created us human, in this human experience. God willed for us to live highs and lows. The challenge comes in when we must react to these highs and lows with some semblance of balance and acceptance.

Do we live the highs and lows in extremes? Are we balanced in how we feel each emotion, allow the emotions yet not let it overwhelm us, or doubt God’s plan for us? Do we feel happiness and sorrow at the right moments with an acceptance to God’s will? Or are we stoic, believing that showing emotion is not accepting God’s will for us?

I think, showing emotion, shows acceptance to God’s will. That emotion is that reality of seeing truth, and it touches us, moves us, and causes feelings in us. What we do with that emotion is what defines us. Are we scared by the emotions that God gives us or do we see them as God’s gift to us in order to truly live life to its fullness. These gifts make all the events of a roller coaster ride of life a personal reality, since it penetrated our deepest heart causing real, serious emotion.

Over the years I have encountered several kinds of women with the work we did with family ministries in the Church in regards to this idea of following God’s will and how much emotion to show. Does showing emotion especially during trying times mean that we aren’t accepting God’s will? For some women, I have found that they refuse to show emotion, and that those tears of sorrow will be indicative of questioning God. Not so. We are meant to feel, and work through that emotion. Accept that emotion, as part of the gift of the cross you may be suffering.

Now this doesn’t mean we should be laughing or crying ALL the time. There’s a big difference in being in control of our emotions and repressing them. Repression can only bring problems, perhaps not at the beginning, but in the long run, sadness turns to despair, anger to rage and so forth.

I simply mean we should be open. What God can do with our openness, it’s mind-boggling. Sharing our suffering, leaning on others, mixing the tears of the two, this is being Christ for each other; allowing your Simon to assist you in your cross. It’s work to be Simon, but sometimes, it’s more work to allow someone else to be your Simon, to see your weakness, to see you falter, slip, to see your humanity in your tears.

We can allow others to help us. We are not alone. We aren’t meant to brave this world alone without a Simon here or there. We should never give in to our Pride, telling us that we can manage alone. Perhaps someone is watching you, carrying your cross, knowing the pain you are enduring and is silenced from assisting you because of a stoic face of bravery. Perhaps someone needs to hear your story and how you have felt all the pain, and yet still have the courage to speak on it, openly, freely, as way of acceptance to God’s will.

Think back to Peter. How many people did he share his story with? How many people did he have to tell that he denied Christ, that he questioned Him, that he doubted Him, had fears, and had frustrations? Peter grew the Church by living life and sharing how Christ touched him; he could reach others, because he lived the highs and lows of life, including the emotions of our humanity. To grow our Church we are no different. We must live life, live the highs and lows, feel all the emotions of our humanity, so others, can relate to our struggle and see the path of acceptance of God’s will through it all.

To sum up, finally six years in the making, I have forgiven myself for that irresponsible day. I realized, Sunday in the pew, that living life, including the waves of instability that life throws at us, is such a gift from God. He waits for us, just as He did for Peter; He waits for us to be open, and the work that can be done through us.

Copyright 2010 Sahmatwork