I have been pondering for almost two months now whether or not I should blog about this. Part of me says no, but the other part of me says yes for the simple reason that I find other people's stories of their spiritual lives... and how God is working in them... to be very uplifting and encouraging.
It is in that hope alone that I offer this post.
I found it rather ironic that, just as I was considering writing this, I saw Jen's much-more elegantly written post (over at Conversion Diary) on "The Greatest Nothing I Ever Felt," where she talked about the totally unemotional experience she had at Adoration.
That is pretty much how my spiritual life has always been -- one non-emotional experience after another. Time and time again I have found myself in various situations where the people around me were obviously having an intense emotional response to what the Lord was doing, while I felt like a complete idiot in the middle. While others would raise their hands in worship, or cry in joy, I would apologize to God for not feeling anything.
As time went on, I came to realize that emotions, while nice, were not necessary. I wasn't responsible for trying to conjure up nice warm fuzzies whenever I went to Mass, or went to Adoration, or whatever. My job was to show up, to pray, to be open, and to just keep going on faith that the reality did not depend on whether or not I felt anything.
I found C.S. Lewis, St. Therese and (Blessed) Mother Teresa of Calcutta to be incredibly inspirational as they -- spiritual giants all in my book -- talked about the lack of emotion and feeling in their walk with God.
I don't think I'm shocking anyone with this. In fact, I now would assume that most people feel the way I do. I assume that I'm surrounded by saintly souls who have been faithfully plugging away for years without the slightest hint of a warm fuzzy.
Does this sound like a pity party? It's really not supposed to. It's simply meant to provide background information. I don't go in to any sort of worship experience expecting any emotion at all.
So, back to my story...
Two months ago I went to a homeschooling conference, and was gone for several days. Grace was beside herself with joy when she woke up on Sunday morning and I was finally home! We went to Mass and she was soooooooo excited she simply could not sit still and could NOT be quiet. While I enjoyed the delight of my daughter, I didn't want to be a distraction to anyone, so we went outside. Once we were out she simply could not stop wiggling. Now, normally the rule is "you stay in Mommy's/Daddy's arms until Mass is over," but on this day she was just too much for me and I had to put my little octopus down.
Instantly she started running for the little chapel we have next to our main church building. This is where we go to pray the Rosary every Friday morning with friends, so it's a chapel she knows quite well. She ran all the way there looking for "no-duts" (doughnuts) that we always eat outside after Rosary is over. I told her we didn't have any, and I thought that would be the end of this little run. However, she went up the steps and begged me to open the door for her. I told her we could go inside for a minute to say hi to Jesus, and in we went.
Once inside she insisted on blessing herself with holy water (a couple of dips and then a few smacks to the forehead or the stomach and she's good to go!) and genuflecting "Grace-style," which is either a vigorous bouncing up and down or a slamming down on both knees. I picked her up and took her to the first pew, whispering that Jesus was up there, and pointing out the statue of "Meewy" as well. We talked for a few minutes, and then I said it was time to say goodbye. She waved to Jesus and after I genuflected, we headed out.
As I was walking down the aisle I got this funny thought that "in the presence of royalty, you're really not supposed to turn your back." It was an odd thought -- not a slam, just a flitting thought -- so I decided to turn back around at the end of the aisle for one more genuflect... you know, to say goodbye properly.
As soon as I turned around I was hit with an overwhelming sense of Jesus being right there. Now, of course He was always there, but at that moment it felt almost like His presence was radiating or pulsating from the tabernacle. I knew it was very subdued, but even then the feeling was overpowering... and it was rather like the sensation you get when you KNOW someone is staring at you.
I just stood there, stunned, and then I started to cry. I didn't need my eyes to tell me that He was standing right there, looking at the two of us. I was overcome with the knowledge that I was standing in the presence of the One who had created me, and had created Grace, and had blessed me with the awesome and tremendous privilege of raising her and her siblings. All I could do was hug her tightly, and whisper my thank yous, and beg Him to help me do this job well, because I often mess it up so badly.
Right after that, the feeling vanished, and we left the chapel.
We have been back many times since then (as I said before, we pray the Rosary there every Friday), and I have not felt anything; however, those few moments were enough of a boost to remind myself that this isn't make-believe. He is just as present when my emotions are silent as He is when He allows (for whatever reason) a faint glimmer to appear on my emotional radar screen. I'm not just engaging in pious rituals when I genuflect, or kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, or cover my head. I may only notice how sore my knees are, or the sounds of the cars driving by outside, but the reality is that I am still in the presence of the Lord. He doesn't change. Warm fuzzies do not conjure up His presence, and lack of emotion does not mean He has left.
May I always remember.