Yesterday, reflecting on Beverly Lanzetta’s book, Radical Wisdom, I mentioned two characteristics of feminine spirituality: claiming the right to a personal relationship with God and seeing all of life, physical, emotional, and relational as part and parcel of that spirituality. This morning I find add a third. Lanzetta writes of Teresa of Avila that she was taught “..not to transcend her doubt, persecution, aloneness, and worthlessness, but to feel and inquire into the nature of these emotions, to question and resist them fully, until she is able to realize the breakthrough that leads to dignify and self-worth. She is not to leave behind, forget, reject, or deny her pains, but to invite them in and offer them over to transformation.”
I encounter frequently the idea of walking through our painful experiences rather than trying to flee them or deny them. How people deal with grief today is typical of what I am referring to. Teresa seemed to understand intuitively that these experiences have a function in our lives to transform us and denial and flight result in missing an opportunity. It makes me stop and wonder how our feelings effect change in us. I don’t think this is about hanging on to a negative feeling as in a resentment harbored. I think it is about allowing a feeling of grief or anger mellow for a while to give time for me to understand the cause of the feeling, not the outer cause as in blaming, but inner cause like fear or old wounds. If I can get to that kind of understanding, it is easier to move forward with forgiveness and even self-acceptance. Another benefit of letting feelings linger for a time is that it is better remembered. So if I have the same reaction in the future, I recognize what is happening to me. Also, when I witness others’ experiencing the same feelings, I am better able to name them – this is a component of compassion that can lead me to be a partner in healing others.
Lanzetta used the term “heroic” as she describes this unique spirituality of women. When I think of those I know who live it today, I know what she is talking about.