Day 13: Embracing Holy Frustration
BY EMILY KANE | March 14, 2022
When I was first asked to write a reflection for this series, I was hesitant. My immediate thought was “I don’t think I have anything to say that people would want or need to hear.” I haven’t been feeling very inspired in recent weeks…or months…or even years. Upon seeing that the theme of this year’s Lenten series was Holy Frustration, however, I realized, “oh okay…yeah, I might have a few things to say about that…”
For as long as I can remember, my default emotion has been anger (for those who follow the enneagram, I am a classic 8). I don’t see it as a bad thing, though. In fact, I believe that my proclivity for anger is what led me to social justice work. My own embrace of Holy Frustration has kept me feeling connected to, engaged with, and passionate about justice movements.
However, these past two years have pushed me to my emotional, mental, and spiritual limits. Amidst the fear of the pandemic, the grief and rage at the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others—and the momentous, yet incomplete racial reckoning in our nation—I have found my heart hardening. I could feel myself shutting down, losing grip on Holy Frustration, and instead getting lost in despair.
As today’s readings remind us, our world is deeply flawed, and it is natural to feel angry, even despairing. But as Jesus tells us, as people of faith we are to be in the world, but not of the world. We are responsible to and for one another because we are connected by something greater—by a Holy Frustration that can only become life-giving when enlivened within a community of faith.
As you go about your day today, ask yourself: How or where have I been feeling depleted in recent weeks or months? Where or with whom have I found life-giving moments? How can I commit myself to spaces that foster Holy Frustration?
“Yo no nací sin causa.
Yo no nací sin fe.
Mi corazón pega fuerte
Para gritar a los que no sienten
Y así perseguir a la Felicidad.”
“I wasn’t born without cause.
I wasn’t born without faith.
My heart beats loudly
To cry out to those who feel nothing
And so pursue Happiness.”
–Natalia LaFourcade, “Derecho de Nacimiento”
Emily Kane serves as the assistant director for social justice in campus ministry at Loyola University Maryland. She holds a masters degree in social justice with a concentration in migration studies from the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago.
I second that!
I’ll 3rd it. Hearing the term “holy frustration” gave a name to what I too have been feeling for the past several years. I am grateful to know I am not alone in this time of frustrations. My hope is being renewed and my faith is being re-energized and re-imagined as I bring these frustrations to the light for personal healing and voice them to my church.
I love this – just to echo above commenters, I feel better for knowing I am not alone in my near despair, in my frustration (for example, after 13 years of working for immigration reform, to end the seemingly permanent status of fear for those who live in the shadows, then to read of the Biden administration’s continuation of Trump policies.
I am also an 8 and I truly can relate to this reflection. Thank you for giving words to what is in my heart ❤️.
The frustration you express is real. In Chicago we pray that gun violence will cease. We pray that the people involved will hear God’s voice and respond. We pray for less frustration when the police can’t contain the situations, not that they don’t want to, but they can’t contain the movement of the violence. I am a person of hope, so my prayer shifts to the understanding that people want things to improve and that we can go one tiny step at a time. One more person gives up the tendency and living out of violence and encourages others to do so also. When I worked with adolescence on the Southside, I told them that Jesus belonged to a gang and that gang gave Him a sense of belonging. They need that same sense of belonging. They focused that sense of belonging on the good, still a gang and still in Chicago. Moving forward slowly and deliberately.
Back in 2020, when lockdown started, I made a commitment to avoid all social media as well as newspapers and TV. That way I can be open to doing whatever I am called to do. It was challenging, scary at times, but I had a purpose to discover the truth behind the lies. At last back in my country of citizenship, I no longer have a place I call home. But I have a job when all my peers have a pension. I enjoy the comraderie. There is no fear amongst us, even though everyday some workers are missing, because they tested positive. People are not dying. There are many other causes of death, for instance abortion, that have a much higher toll than supposedly covid does. If every womb was the safest, most loving place to be in our world. I believe we would have peace.
Beautiful! Especially with the assault on Ukraine, not to mention the ongoing assault on the Palestinians, I imagine we are all feeling great frustration. The challenge, as you say, is to make it holy frustration rather than naked, unbridled rage. I’ve always struggled with exactly what it means to be in the world and not of it. Thank you for your thoughts.
I’ve been told I am a 1 on the enneagram. Lots of frustration at my imperfections, the imperfections of others, especially people I love more than I can describe, the imperfections of the world. Basically, I breathe frustration, anger and anxiety. Thank God for my spiritual guide (my sister) who lead me to contemplative prayer. Thank God for The Serenity Prayer. They both are ways to silence my inner critic and to be open and attentive to God.
Thanks Emily. Evangelizing frustration is the way forward.