First, let me say that my lack of posting lately has not been for lack of thoughts and updates, but rather, I have been working non-stop, 7 days a week. The influx of new clients has been insane, and this upcoming week I am working 8 hour days every day Mon-Fri. I haven't had a moment to take a deep breath, let alone write a blog post.
But today I don't want to waste my time on updates about work, Creighton clients, my Drs appointment, or the house (though there is a lot of drama surrounding our mortgage recently, and I'm trusting that if we don't get approved for the mortgage, it will all be part of God's great plan). Instead, I want to focus on a topic that this blog has seen a lot of in the past: suffering.
Yesterday I went to see Father John Corapi in Newark, NJ. The all-day event was a part of his series on Spiritual Warfare, and it was unbelievable. As tired as I was, he managed to not only keep me awake but also riveted throughout the day. One part of what he spoke about was suffering, and why God allows it. God's plan does not INCLUDE suffering for anyone - there is no pain or evil involved in God's creation, and instead these things came to be due to pride. The belief that WE know what is best for us, and WE should have the RIGHT to do whatever and however we want to get what we want... in essence, placing ourselves above God (creature above Creator), is such a vain belief. But pride is also thinking that anything good that does come to be in our lives was our own doing. And this last part is something I have been working on for a while.
As some of you may know about me, before I experienced infertility, there was not much in my life that I couldn't achieve if I set out to achieve it. God was certainly a part of my life, and I enjoyed praying and going to Mass. I felt His presence in my life, for sure. But it was so different than it is now. His presence in my life then was almost like my mother's presence in my life while I was in college. Just a phone call away, there when I needed something, but I rarely needed anything except the occasional check-in. That's how my relationship with God used to be. To me, not knowing any different, it was wonderful. I knew I could count on Him, and that He would always be there.
Now my relationship with God has gone to a whole new level. And it took SUFFERING, in many different forms, to get me there. The first big trial I was faced with came before I was married. Then came infertility. In the midst of infertility came financial suffering along with living environment/relationship with in-laws/DH's job stress and suffering. Then came adoption denial suffering. These sufferings continue to the present day- I call them my "chronic" sufferings at this point. But punctuating these chronic sufferings were many intense acute sufferings, like being fired from my job, the death of my best friend and dog Uzi (still undoubtedly the worst day of my life), having to go into surgery all alone, my husband missing our vacation to Cancun, the medical diagnoses which implicated I would not be able to conceive without x, y, z, and so on and so forth.
While all of these sufferings were/are going on, there have also been some notably good things that have developed:
I became a Creighton Model Practitioner
I started a blog
I became an Ultrasonographer
I got not one, but two paying ultrasound jobs
and most notably, but not as tangible,
I found peace and joy in suffering.
I believe that the key to this last part was in surrendering to the pain of the suffering. I recently re-watched "The Business of Being Born" (highly recommend it to those of you who are pregnant, but do NOT recommend it to those of you still waiting unless you are in a really good place at the time), and Ricki Lake described her own birthing experience with those words. She said that at a certain point, she just "gave up" and surrendered to the pain, and it was only then that everything happened quickly and almost effortlessly. Well, after everything I had been through in the past 6+ years (when the suffering began), I knew just what she meant. The labor of my suffering had been all about ME up until recently. It was about all of the pain and sorrow and hurt and anguish happening TO ME, and like any other living creature on this planet, I was trying my best to survive by avoiding the pain, drowning the sorrow, lashing out against the hurt and stomping out the anguish. That was my battleplan and I was sticking to it.
But as Father Corapi said yesterday, my arms were too short to box with God.
As much as I fought back against the suffering, the worse it seemed to get. It wasn't that one day it suddenly dawned on me to surrender... but at a certain point it just became absolutely necessary, because I was all out of ammo.
And so I surrendered. And I lived in it, and I EXPERIENCED it as if for the first time. I won't sugarcoat it - it was NOT fun and it was NOT pretty. But it WAS glorious. Because there, in the midst of the suffering was the joy and peace, these awesome gifts from God, just waiting for me to find them through my surrender. And all at once the presence of God in my life was so much more intimate than I could have imagined. If before my relationship with Him was like that of a college child with their mother, now my relationship with Him was like that of a child in its mother's womb. Totally dependent, totally safe, totally carried, totally one.
Listening to Father Corapi talk about the gifts that can come out of suffering yesterday reminded me of just how lucky I feel to have been given this very specific suffering of infertility. God has already brought such good out of my infertility, and He continues to do it, all the while teaching me to be more humble. Probably the first thing that I suffered in discovering that I had fertility problems was a blow to my pride. The reaction was one of disbelief and denial - ME? Infertile? But I've never had difficulty doing anything! And I deserve a child! How could this be that what I want and deserve doesn't come to me immediately?
Over the years I have grown to truly understand the gift of life, and the gift of children. And this is why I have considered myself so lucky to have the suffering of infertility over other types of suffering - I think this is a crucial understanding to have, and I wish that most people could also understand it. Through it, I was also able to achieve what I REALLY most wanted (but didn't know it): peace and joy.
I wish there could be a tutorial for how to suffer well, and how to find peace and joy in suffering efficiently and quickly. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), I think this is something that each and every child of God has to discover for themselves. Surrendering to the suffering helped me immensely - but I don't want anyone out there who is suffering to think I mean to imply that this is a quick fix for everybody. When it comes to suffering, quick fixes really don't serve you well in the end. When a piece of steel is being tempered to remove its impurities, it may be easier for it to be quickly placed in cold water to stop the suffering of the blazing heat. In the end, it will still have the memory of its brief suffering, but it will not have changed and become a "better" piece of steel. God wants to temper each and every one of us. We all need to find within ourselves the source of His graces to get us through the suffering - NOT JUST what will help us to survive it until it's over, but what will in the end make us better people.
And that's my deep thought for today.