7.10.2013

My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

This is the third in a series of four posts about my recent retreat/learning experience.

Introduction: Careful What Your Pray For
Part 1: The Barren Visitation
Part 2: Follow Me

As Monday continued, all that I described in Part 2 happened in about 90 minutes - all before our first break on Monday morning, I felt God calling me to that moment of abandonment. I wondered how long it would take to get there. Would it be during the week? Would it be in the months that followed during a spiritual direction session? Just how long would it take. As we continued our classroom time, I had no doubts where He was asking me to follow Him; no doubts where we were headed. The only question was when we would arrive.

As we continued our study through the Catechism, we went through the Apostle's Creed line by line and Monday evening found ourselves here:

He suffered under Pontius Pilate. He was crucified, died, and was buried. (Yes, that is two lines, but they go together.)

The reminder that Christ suffered, knew suffering, knew death. And that He is with us in our suffering. Just as Jesus had to sit in and experience His wounds, His suffering, so too must we.

The price that Christ paid, the Cross, He knew what it was. He knew what it led towards, and that eternal union with God in Heaven is what we all truly desire. It is that for which we are created. It can be summarized this way:

"My heart's deepest desire. I see it, Heaven and I see the cost to get there, the Cross. Ok, I'll pay the cost. Bring it on."

And in that, in being willing to pay the cost, I ultimately say that not getting what I want is what I want.

Said in regards to infertility:
I am created for Heaven, for union with God, it is the deepest desire of my, and every human, heart. The source of my suffering, my cross is my infertility. It is my cross that is the gateway to heaven for me, it is my sanctification (plus a lot of time in purgatory, I'm quite sure). Then, OK. Bring on infertility. Bring the pain, the tears, the sorrow, the suffering. If it brings me closer to you Lord, then I'll pay it. If not having a child will lead me to heaven, then that (infertility) is what I want. As I wrote those words, I felt my heart shatter. I felt my weakness and my resistance to them, at my resistance to God's permissive will and the tears {continued} to flow.

He descended into Hell.

There is no hell Christ has not experienced. Ephesians 4:9 - 10 tells us: He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. Jesus, God, has been to hell. There is no suffering he has not born.

And, as Pope Emeritus Benedict tells us in Spes Salvi (Saved in Hope) (emphasis mine): Christ descended into 'Hell" and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible. Yet the star of hope has risen. United with Christ's descent into hell, "suffering - without ceasing to be suffering - becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise."

The hymn of praise Christ sings from the cross, My God, My God, why have you abandoned me? is from Psalm 22. Yes, this cry of Jesus in his moment of abandonment is from a psalm that is ultimately a song of praise.

I thought we might be getting closer to our destination now. I felt myself clearly embrace the phrase "bring it on!" and felt a piece of me that had been resisting the invitation to follow Him let go. I almost felt myself step forward physically (even though I was sitting in my chair).

So much happened between Monday morning and Tuesday evening. The details are and are not important. There are so many specific quotes from the Catechism that pierced me and I'm sure I will be reflecting back on them for many months, maybe years to come. But, for now, for the purpose of this, they are details that can be left out.

What is important is that as the time moved on, I cried so much I wasn't sure I had tears left. I felt as if my heart was being stretched and torn and broken and put back together over and over again. I wish I could find words for how I was feeling; for how raw I felt. Everything seemed loud and rough; everything seemed to pierce my heart and soul in ways I'd never experienced before. It was beautiful and painful at the same time. I clung to the promise that He would be with me, even in my suffering, even in my feeling of abandonment. That He was leading me there, not to leave me, but to let me feel His presence.

I wondered how long it would take. Would this feeling of abandonment be one I would have to sit in long? Would I truly feel abandoned or would I be able to remember He was with me?

By Tuesday evening, we reached the time where we would study the seven sacraments. Christopher did something a little different and asked a participant to "teach" about each Sacrament. Telling us we "are TOB 3 students after all." Because this was a Theology of the Body retreat/course, we were looking at each Sacrament through the TOB lens, or the lens of the Spousal Analogy. So we began, with Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. The phrase "life-giving love" seemed to echo through the room, as each Sacrament was described by a different class mate.

As I realized Marriage was going to be last, I felt myself want to be the one to "teach" it, and yet it wasn't because I knew what I wanted to say. I couldn't describe the feeling at the time, but looking back, I was trying to protect myself. It was a reaction from fear, from being so exhausted and feeling all "cried out," that if I could get up there and teach it I could avoid it. I am a Choleric, after all.

We continued with Penance and the Anointing of the Sick (taught beautifully by Mrs. Fitz).

A Priest was asked to teach Holy Orders (Fr. Paul, more on him in my final post). And finally marriage, and as I felt myself want to do it, Christopher asked for a married couple to present together.

The first line in our study guide under the sacrament of marriage?

The term "matrimony" means the call (vocation) to motherhood.

And I had no protection. I knew it. If I'm honest, in that moment I knew what was coming, I just had no idea how much it was going to hurt.

The tears I thought were dry, began.

And then, Christopher asked the couple to pick a quote from the Catechism that spoke to them. The husband selected:

The "fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life." (CCC 1653)

And my heart ripped in two. The couple went on to share about their 8 children, with 3 more lost to miscarriage, and how having children and parenting was the greatest gift of their lives.

With each word, it was like a nail through my hands and feet. My heart ached.

And I knew.

This is where He had been leading me for two days. It was where we'd been going all this time.

As they spoke, the tears streamed down my cheeks faster and I felt myself dying inside.

Mrs. Fitz brought me a note that said: Infertility can be a true and deep calling to the service of life. And while I knew it to be true, deep inside me somewhere I didn't know existed, I knew it to be true, and yet, it hurt. So badly. So sharply.

What was probably 5 minutes felt like an hour, but finally the couple took their seats, and Christopher prepared to move on. But before he could, a lady behind me (whose husband and 3 children were with her at the retreat) asked Christopher to please speak to the issue of infertility. Now, I don't know if she asked because she could see that I was struggling, or if she truly wondered, all I know is that as I heard her words, I started to shake.

And, as Christopher began to answer, in a way differently than he has in the past, I felt my heart cry out as it never has before:

My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?

Part 4: In the Service of Life

12 comments:

  1. I've got tears streaming down my cheeks as I read this. can't wait for part 4. and have you read hind's feet? I can't remember if kat or I told you about it already...but this series is reminding me of that book.

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    1. *Your writing, I mean! I hate to know of the pain and wish you didn't have to go through with any of it.

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  3. Amazing. I am floored by this post. Speechless.

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  4. Rebecca, I always love how you express things. I feel that I am here, maybe close to here, and I can't stop crying, I cried through reading this, I have cried all morning so far and physically felt an aching need for God to hold me as I have cried to Him in my brokenness. I am so glad you are sharing about your retreat. God is teaching His lessons to you, THROUGH you (if that makes sense), and I am so thankful. I am thankful for you.

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  5. I can't even begin to tell you how my heart is hurting for you as I read this. Continuing to pray for you, and remember you during consecration.

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  6. I have been reading these posts and so happy for you to share what you experienced, even though clearly it was painful for you. Obviously, I read these thoughts colored with my own experiences right now, and the way you wrote the part about how if infertility is the way to grow closer to the Lord, then so be it and you would embrace it...well, that is kind of how I have felt at times about losing Gregory. It's almost like this tailor-made, surefire way to ensure I would desire to be close to God was for Him to bring one of my children to Him ahead of me. I hate it but I love it at the same time. I'm so sad, but then I'm so joyful about the circumstance. And sometimes I fear I am failing at following God where He wants me to go, but sometimes, I feel like I must be right there next to Him (or He is right there next to me, I suppose...holding me so I hold it together).

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  7. Beauty and pain both come through so strongly in this post, and in you.

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  8. Absolutely heart wrenching. You truly hold nothing back on this blog and all I can say is thank you for sharing your heart and letting God work through you! I look forward to part 4.

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  9. Hey fellow WV writer, who splits her heart so beautifully and nakedly in front of strangers-- did you see we represented our tiny State well yesterday? http://bigpulpit.com/2013/07/11/thursday-morning-edition-73/ Keep writing what is in your heart!

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  10. Such a beautiful and heart-wrenching reflection! One of the lines you bolded was really powerful for me: "If not having a child will lead me to heaven, then that (infertility) is what I want." That sounds very Ignatiun, a la "indifference of the will" - "Let me prefer not health to sickness, wealth to poverty, but only that which draws me to You" (a paraphrase, obv.) SUCH a hard thing to do. So hard. But I think when it strip it all away, that's what's left: God...or not God. Having a child or not pales in comparison (and I'm sure you know I mean that coming from the same heartache as you.)

    Also, I really cringed for you during the presentation of the marriage sacrament...and I really wish the presenters had done it differently. Like started with marriage as a sign of Christ's love for his Church, or something. I guess you might not be giving us the whole story of what they said, but I'm feeling more and more allergic to couplings of marriage and parenthood as if they're one and the same thing, which they're not, theologically or experientially. Anyway, I can't wait to read the next part =)

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    1. I just wanted to clarify about the couple who did the presentation about marriage: They actually did a really good job - and did a whole lot more than just what I listed here. I even thanked them later for doing such a beautiful job and for loving their vocation so much. :) Sorry, I wasn't clear about that.

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