Cee’s illness impacts everything. Worries about what the future holds are overwhelming. I’ve enjoyed being able to escape all that by writing about fluffy topics lately. Library books. Clothes. Fluff. It’s all fluff.
Yesterday I posted My Sunday Best and concluded that being intentional about what’s in my closet makes me think about clothes less. While that did occur to me during Mass after hearing the Gospel, my panic and unrest at the possibility of being too focused on clothes was pretty much reconciled halfway through the homily. There was another, bigger takeaway from Mass that couldn’t be paired with a picture of my clothes.
The first reading from Isaiah set the stage:
The LORD has forsaken me;
my LORD has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
I offered my Mass for Cee and prayed that she would be healed. That she would get better. This is kind of a big deal because for the last few months I’ve actually given up praying for healing. Is that terrible to admit? I haven’t stopped praying about other things, just the most cumbersome part of my prayer life. The elephant in my prayer life.
The thoughts of doubt.
If God answers prayers, why haven’t our prayers been answered?
If all we have to do is stand at the door and knock, why is the door still shut?
If Cee’s suffering is half as painful to God as it is to me, where is our miracle?
If God loves us, then why on His good green Earth isn’t He fixing this?!?!
It’s the million dollar question proposed by atheists. Why does a loving God allow suffering?
Beats me. It’s been easier to sweep it under the rug. Until this week. When I acknowledged the elephant and resumed praying for Cee’s healing.
And I felt, clearly, during Mass this week the following thought in response to my prayers:
She will not get better.
Did I get that right? Maybe I’m mistaken. Remember those readings? They seem to be leading to a much different answer. I am Jairus, begging for Jesus to make my daughter well. We have jumped through the hoops. We have played the game. We have learned whatever lesson could be possible to learn from this situation. Please can’t we have a miracle?
She will not get better.
That’s sort of why I stopped praying about it in the first place. Why work myself into a tizzy begging for the thing I want most when it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any good? It was only out of sheer desperation that I picked up my cast aside request on Cee’s behalf this week at Mass.
If there were hoops, if this was a game, it would be different. But it’s not. Faith is about an ongoing relationship of trust and love. We can hope to grow in deeper holiness, but there is no winning. No earning.
She will not get better.
This is not the answer I wanted. Honestly, I had expected silence. We’ve gotten a lot of silence as answers, so it seemed most likely. These words seem worse than silence.
But before I erupted into angry sobs and stormed out during the Eucharistic Prayer, there was a followup thought.
People who are blessed with miracles, what choice have they but to believe?
Ah, this is a good point. A point I hadn’t considered before.
Although I don’t poo-poo the validity of miracles or their place, it’s sort of like the uncle who always brings flashy presents for the kids– what choice do the kids have but to like him? Who cares about the relationship, bring on plastic junk that lights up and makes noise! Any trust in the uncle is ultimately greed– the kids love him for what he might bring, not who he is. If for some reason a present is forgotten, the love of the children is as quickly brushed aside.
But the people who face suffering to no avail? For those that receive no consolation? Their love depends not on outcomes, but commitment. The “dark night” experienced by Mother Teresa is an example of this. She was a fountain of love because she said “yes,” even when she wasn’t getting anything in return.
Unconditional love is given freely, faithfully, fully, fruitfully, and forever. That’s the gist of the Catholic wedding vows. But those characteristics are true of our love for God as well.
At this moment, I have the opportunity to prove my love. I have no obligation to fulfill. My faith is given because I choose to give it freely. I will not take my love away when God does not perform the way I think He ought. I know enough to understand how little I know of God’s plan or the fruits of our suffering.
I trust that this love extends beyond the earthly world I know– it is forever. Suffering makes saints. For my family, this suffering is an invitation to trust and have faith. We are being invited to sainthood. I can either slouch along, groaning about it, or I can take up this cross and follow wherever the path leads.
I still don’t get it. I don’t know why Cee’s little body has to endure this ongoing pain. I don’t know why our family is confronted with new challenges when it seems like we’ve already faced our share.
The words I felt at Mass this week are not the words I wanted to hear. But they do give me the strength to continue.
I’m not promising that I’ll do a perfect job of being groan-free for the rest of my life. I can’t even promise that I can keep it together for the next five minutes. What I do promise is to love God the same way I love David– imperfectly, but striving to embody those beautiful “f’s” from the marriage vows.
That’s what I’ve missed in my prayer life lately– the authenticity of bringing to God all of me. Right now every fiber of my being wants Cee to get better. Although there is not any guarantee that it will ever happen, I can only enter deeper into a relationship with God by acknowledging that part of me.
Fully loving God means sharing all of myself– my hopes, sorrows, and joys. Even when what I have to offer isn’t all daisies and roses but petal-less stem stumps and thorns. Take them God– they are yours. They are all I have right now. Take my wilty stem stumps and thorns and weave them into radiant crowns for my loved ones.