Over the course of late middle school and early high school, I lost both my grandmothers—affectionately known as “Nana” and “Mimi.” I remember feeling for the first time the sting of death as a teenager—the indescribable pain, hidden deep in one’s heart. Both of them were extraordinarily kind, good humored and they served as the “glue” in our family. They also shared a love of the garden. Nana had a love for flowers and my sisters and I would play for countless hours, climbing the trees in the garden—while the rest of the family acted like “grown-ups.” Mimi, on the other hand, had a “Secret Garden” and a tree-swing in the backyard and we played make-believe all the time when we stayed at her house.
Easter, in our family, was a time in which my sisters and I put on our prettiest dresses (which the grandmas had often purchased) and gathered for a meal, followed by magical Easter egg hunts. When my grandmothers passed away, one in late January and the other in early March, I remember the pain I felt when Easter rolled around. The deep pain of losing such dear role models was coupled with the excitement and joy of Easter. I was feeling so much all at once.
I wish I could say that arriving at Easter overwhelmed my complex emotions. But I am beginning to realize complex emotions are fairly common. This week, for example, I watched as a sweet baby was born early and went on to heaven, I prepared a funeral for a woman who I looked forward to seeing each week in service and I learned that a dear family member has cancer. All of these things recreated the sinking feeling I felt when I lost my grandmothers. Alongside these heart-wrenching experiences, I also planted my garden and enjoyed the sights and smells of spring, met with a teenager who was recovering from a health scare and shared laughter with my husband as we shared a meal. In these situations, I felt a fullness—a joy, bubbling up within me.
An article got me to thinking: is feeling complex emotions not the pattern of Holy Week? Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Talk about an emotional roller-coaster! When we journey with Jesus, when we accept that we are fully human and live courageously, our lives are full of ups and downs. These swings often feel like more than our hearts can bear, but our hope is that God is present with us in all of life. And, at the end of the day, we turn to God praying and trusting that God will make us people of hope. I so loved this quote:
“…God also has planted within each human being a seed of hope that, if properly nurtured grows into a confidence that all will be well, all manner of things shall be well. The breath of God reaches into even the smallest and most remote garden and human heart and infuses life.” (Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, Vigen Guroian)
So this week, my prayer challenge to you is that you find time to engage in the practice of Examen. Answer the questions as honestly as you can. These questions allow us to slow down and take a closer look at what God may be speaking to us in our everyday lives. They help us see moments of resurrection in both the joyful and painful experiences life throws our way. Here are the questions:
- When did I feel closest to God?
- When did I feel farthest from God?
- When did I feel the most alive?
- When did I feel like the life was being sucked out of me?
- When did I feel the most like myself?
– Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier, Pastor