Saturday, January 31, 2015

Suffering is a Gift

Grief is a process full of ups and downs. The more I open myself to love in my life, the harder this process seems. When my brother died it was the absolute hardest time of my life. I was and still am full of so many regrets. The lyrics from an Avett Brothers song struck me so hard, "Every night after and every day since, I find myself crying when the memory hits. Sometimes it knocks me down, sometimes I can just put it away." This is so true. Sometimes I would cry and cry for days, then at times I could even forget myself for a time, and then I'd remember, he's dead. And it's like someone cut the cables to my heart and it would just speed down into a bottomless abyss, and my body melted and wasted away.

The memories would all come flooding back. The phone call. The screaming. The pleading with God. All the details of every word spoken, my sister calling me while she drove about a hundred miles an hour to his house, begging me to pray, the spot where I sat on the couch in our first apartment when my mother told me over the phone that I needed to sit down, Lenny's innocent body sleeping on our bed, his wispy blonde hairs nestled between the pillows, as we packed funeral clothes in our bags. Every minute was like a wave, the realization would crash against me leaving all my senses numb, and twist my insides into knots until they burst, and leave me lifeless on the sand, only to start it all again when the next crushing wave hit me.

Every time I would feel a bit of peace or acceptance in the months following Pietro's death, a new facet of the tragedy would manifest itself to me, as so many people lost a husband, a father, a brother, a best friend, a son, a cousin and nephew and godfather, a stronghold and a resting place. Lost was the chance to live and grow in love. Lost was the chance to forgive. And the greatest horror I felt was a soul being called away from this Earth with no warning. Was he scared? Did he think he might die? Or did he think he might not be hurt too badly? Did he even see it coming at all? I wonder what he thought of in that last moment, whether he turned to regrets and clung to his life on Earth, whether he feared the judgment of God, or whether he threw himself gladly into the loving arms of Jesus. Did time stand still as he fixed his mind and gaze onto the Holy Face, or did he suffer greatly thinking of his beautiful wife and child, of the great trials they would face, as a million thoughts raced through his head?

As time goes on I know I can only trust in the infinite love of Jesus. Saint Therese of Lisieux said, “to dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to sweetness and consolations; it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter, because Love lives only by sacrifice and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering.” I think of her disposition in which she delighted to suffer and to undergo trials for the love of Christ. To surrender yourself to suffering you have to accept it, not wish it away. Still, I do wish this tragedy away. But I try to resign myself to it, knowing my deepest wishes won't change the past. The sacrifice Saint Therese speaks of involves very much the giving of our lives to God and allowing Him complete control. Whatever trials we face we must accept them gladly. Most importantly, we must endure even the small things with the same spirit knowing that it is of great value to the Lord who has given us the smallest burden to carry for the love of His Name, and thank Him for the gifts of suffering He gives us. Bearing the suffering of tragedy has great merit to the heart of Jesus, but it is the small sacrifices we make in all the little moments that collect like drops in an ocean and rise up like a great tide to purify our souls. 

All these questions and memories that haunt me, I try to give them back to Jesus and ask for His peace to fill me, to accept this cross with the greatest love I can. I ask Him to give me a love for the cross, to thank Him for the suffering in my life. All the sufferings and sadness of our lives, all the tiny deaths we die every day, stretch our hearts so much that we think they might break and we might die. But, our hearts don't break. We don't die of sadness. Our hearts stretch to their limits, and if we take that hurt and give it back to Jesus as an offering of love, he will fill us full of His love, and with each suffering that causes our hearts to stretch to the breaking point, we grow strong again from the healing balm of His love. Every trial causes your heart to stretch more than it ever has. It hurts and it seems pointless and cruel and unfair. But- the more your heart stretches the larger it grows and the greater the capacity for it to be filled. All the more thankful you should be then for every suffering that comes your way. Each one is a gift. Each hardship in your life is a gentle caress of Jesus who wants nothing more than to fill you with His love, and in His goodness He allows your heart to plunge into the lowest depths of sadness so that he might draw you up from your misery to the very heights of joy. 

As hard as it is, I thank you, Lord, for the many gifts you shower on me. The tragedies in my life. The countless times you allow me to be nothing before others, to show me how very little I really am. This world, in rejecting suffering, rejects You. Allow me then to suffer gladly so that I might never reject you. Suffering is a gift.
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