One of the many drawings done by children decorates one of the empty pews in a church during Holy Week in Catania, Italy, where public Masses have been prohibited because of the coronavirus. CNS photo/Antonio Parrinello, Reuters

Leah Perrault: Faith within the fault lines of feelings

By 
  • April 15, 2020

Feelings are constantly swirling in my world — in health care and in my home and in my heart. The myriad of messages coming from every direction are little help in sorting through the emotional tremors.

We are living a life that is profoundly disrupted and simultaneously simplified. My feelings are similarly conflicted.

Today, I feel grateful to have a job while I feel envious of those who are staying home. I feel comforted by the familiar safety of our home while I feel devastated and guilty about how people without homes and support systems are suffering in the midst of a pandemic. I feel relieved by slowed transmission of illness and so sad that I cannot hug the people I love who are struggling.

My feelings come in waves, both fleeting and relentless. They find their way to the fault lines of life’s previous earthquakes. This is complicated because I spent a lot of years denying feelings that I didn’t think were useful or productive. These days I am learning — and re-learning — that all feelings have purpose and all of them are a part of faith.

I was triggered this Holy Week, three years into the longest Holy Saturday of my life, by suggestions that the most mature response to crisis involve maintaining a happy and hopeful state. I think there’s another way to see maturity: Deep growth allows us to be honest about our emotions without being consumed in their crevices. We can feel fear and anger and jealousy and unworthiness and know they are not the whole story.

Coronavirus has settled on the fault lines of my grieving heart. For the last three years, April has borne the weight of the death of my sister Abbie, and this year it will bring my Grandma’s first birthday in Heaven as well. I was feeling heavy with grief even before isolation measures sent us deeper into a cocoon.

Physical distancing feels too much like the quiet days after the funeral. That grief lined the cracks in my heart and whispered that I never deserved love anyway. The shockwaves do not have to be rational to be real.

When I express the feelings that scare me, the ones that are not happy or hopeful, their energy dissipates and they stop being the epicentre of the story. I can open my heart to the life somewhere on the other side of what I am living now.

In the midst of suffering, Jesus asked for the pain to be taken away. I have been asking God to lift the fear of uncertainty, to heal the sick, to show up in practical ways. If there was a way to run away from or skip this season, I would take the pass with gratitude. And here I am.

Easter always comes, whether or not we can feel it. We practice the rituals of new life while we stay holed up in the tomb a while longer. We anticipate the new life promised at the end of every cross, practice modified traditions as a foretaste of the freedom we hope for at the end of the pandemic.

It is enough to cry out to God when we are afraid. To feel forsaken is to feel like Jesus felt. Expressing our fear to God and each other can be a radical act of faith.

Easter is a ritual reminder that we can trust in an ending to the story that we cannot yet see. And I need that in the midst of this pandemic.

So, for this strange Easter season, I will be attentive to the ways that familiar readings have new meaning in the midst of new circumstances. I will trust that big feelings — in myself, my family, my workplace — will be the birthplace of new understanding. I will eat chocolate and turkey and talk to our people with the gift of technology.

And I will have faith that there is a foundation beneath the fault lines of my feelings that will lead us all into grace.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatchewan and writes and speaks about faith. Here website is leahperrault.com.)

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