A child once more, and Anticipating Emma T-Minus 24 Days
Two days of not writing, and one very spiritual weekend later, I feel a need to dedicate this post to the Holy Spirit. To put it simply, I’ve had strained relations with family for as long as I can remember… relations that for me, have taken a turn for very much worse since I became a mother. Loving Matthew as much as I do left me with the conclusion that I must not have been loved very much since it became so apparent that one doesn’t really choose to love a child – one just gets filled up with that love, immensely and powerfully. I’ve tried to reconcile myself with this person many, many times. To be the humbler one to apologise first. To say “I love you” even when I don’t genuinely feel like I do because maybe that proclamation of love would make a difference. To open my heart repeatedly. To explain patiently, rationally, why certain things are the way they are. To stand my ground, to be firm, rude even, to defend, argue my point, quarrel, walk away, return, yell, cry, scream. Nothing worked. It seems like I was just leaving more scars on the relationship – and definitely on myself – every time I try to bridge a gap. Recently, through a series of coincidental (or more accurately, providential) events, I was led to remember a Plan (yes, I have plans for everything) to see a counsellor to resolve these deep-seated issues. And so I did. Of course, the counsellor helped me unravel some issues. But I wasn’t satisfied. Because there was just so much anger in me. And then last weekend, I went for a Landings Community Retreat. Landings is a ministry present to help Catholics who have left the Church, make a reconciliation and reconnection with the Church. The community is basically, us who belong to Landings, and who take up our roles as being each other’s keeper in our journey of faith. (More info at www.landings.org.sg) Come Saturday night, we were reflecting on the possible obstacles in our lives that continue to plague us, or hinder us from being more effective instruments of God. Mostly, what I heard was about “unforgiveness” that cause some sort of “blockage” in our lives. My family member came to mind. Just like that. I hadn’t gone on the retreat to resolve this issue. Why? Because it’s something that has been with me for as long as I can remember. It’s nothing new and definitely not anything to be considered because it has always been there. You wouldn’t think about the air you breathe cos it’s just a part of your reality. But it came to mind. The entire process went like that: I thought about Jesus first. In the same way I had imagined Him coming to me just as I was discerning if I should get baptised, 10 years ago. He was a kindly figure standing before me, and I was like a little child, wanting to hold His hand. This time, the entire image became more real because I know how it feels to have a little child wanting to hold my hand. My heart ached with so much love just remembering then, how Matthew would pull me by the hand to show me some newfound treasure or adventure he’s stumbled upon. And he would pull me up – even as I pretend not to budge so he understands what “pull” means. That gesture of needing me melts my heart all the time. That was exactly how I felt when I imagined myself reaching out to hold Jesus’ hand. I was the child, wanting to touch Him, and pulling at His hand just to draw myself closer to Him. Any unforgiveness on my part – especially if I’m so aware of it – was definitely a stumbling block to that relationship. And so I decided to try and reconcile that, with the opportunity to be prayed over. Here’s the thing: I’m not a naturally charismatic person. I love Church hymns but it took me many years to raise my hands in surrender to the Spirit of the Music. I believe in healing and miracles, but remain skeptical when it comes to personal experience which means I would still be somewhat guarded. That night, I went up to surrender my unforgiveness and to be prayed over. Friends in the community said it takes humility to do that. I didn’t even think of it that way because for me, it was a huge act of courage to find my feet, quieten the beating of my heart, and strut towards the people who were praying for us. Somehow, I did manage to do that, not so much with promptings from the Holy Spirit but really, more by my own internal persuasion. So I brought my unforgiveness to the prayer people. And convinced myself to close my eyes (previously, I felt that closing my eyes would leave me prey to my subconscious, not the Holy Spirit who surely can cause some effect even with my eyes wide open). In spite of all my internal reasonings and doubts, the kind souls started praying. I thought I might cry, but I did not. All the while, I was holding a tissue in my hand with a death-grip. I expected that all other movements around the room would fade away and I would be lost to the power of the Spirit – if it came. Nope. Nothing like that happened. But I did feel a slight sensation of being moved physically. Like I wanted to lean back but the realisation that this could be what being slain was, jolted me right back (curse my logical mind!). At one point though, I felt my hands lose its grip on that tissue … like, I just wanted to rest. I felt tension leave my body – not all of it – but enough to make a difference. I grew less aware of the room around me. I heard some words more clearly than others through the prayers being uttered to me. Then it was over. No big warmth, no heat, no flash of life-changing epiphany. No tears, no goosebumps even, and definitely no definitive change of heart. I returned to my seat, grateful nonetheless for the experience of surrender. And then the tears came. I saw myself as a little child once more, reaching out to draw myself closer, not to Jesus this time, but to my family. All I wanted was to sob my heart out and say, “I love you.” Because suddenly, I did. All the love that had eluded me all these years was just… there. I couldn’t feel it before and wondered why. I had wondered if there was even love. I had tried to imagine the love, and to pretend it was there – all that had accomplished was to leave me with yet more anger for having to put in so much effort to conjure up what must have been missing! But suddenly, I felt tremendous love. Like, I had just discovered water in a well – it had always been there but perhaps I had not looked down. And it was warm and inviting. Not just cold and still. The water in the well surrounded me and I could swim in it if I want to. If not, I just needed to soak in its purity. That’s all I needed to do. Take it in. For my contribution to that well, I cried tears of healing and reconciliation. +++++ Has anything changed since Saturday night? I sent my love across a text message and got pretty much the usual type of response. For one small moment, I was disappointed and felt a knot of being irked. The magic was in place though. Because my reaction didn’t go beyond that. I didn’t even need to breathe myself into not responding, nor was there a need for any such “I don’t need to react to this… I don’t need to react to this…” mantra that I would chant myself into believing. There was nothing I needed to do because the negative feelings I expected, simply didn’t surface. Neither did any such ill feelings surface today over a phone conversation we had. Where I would have typically immediately felt irritation, there was just calm and acceptance. Where I would usually have made a retort or brush aside a comment, I responded only kindly and with genuine patience. And the thing is, none of that came from any effort on my part. My conclusion: things probably won’t change. My family won’t change. But how I react to them, definitely has. That remains my prayer now, to detect the love behind words that may sound harsh, and to understand where those words are coming from – a place of love – and not where I imagine them to originate in negativity. Yes, I know things may revert to its original state, and that in time to come, I may fall from spiritual grace all over again. But the healing has taken place and the biggest obstacle, removed. The rest is up to me to continue working on. It makes a huge difference, finally being able to envision a possibility that includes some semblance of sunrise.
PS: For three nights leading up to the retreat, I had been suffering labour pains – Braxton Hicks apparently, fake labour – which kept me up all night. I would lie there, moaning and groaning in pain till the early hours of the morning when the pain would somehow subside and I could sleep. That went away on Saturday night too. I suppose that’s not healing since it’s part of the pregnancy process, but it was such welcome reprieve to be able to sleep once again!