4.03.2014

The Grace of Tears

The original title of this was "More on Spiritual Motherhood." Sometimes when I start to write, what I think I'm writing about isn't really what I'm writing about at all. This is one of those times...

Prior to and since my writing about spiritual motherhood, it has been a topic I've spent many hours praying over, thinking about, embracing, and resisting.

Since then, there have been two examples that have stood out to me of how our infertility has led me to spiritual motherhood. Both times with adults, some of similar age and some older. One a more negative, lead me to tears, and a "but I don't want this" experience and the other a positive, "I see how these people are my spiritual children" experience.

The first came on a day when there was lots of heavy stuff being shared in the FB group. I was on my way to Mass and offered my intentions for those in the group. One friend posted thanking me for being the spiritual mother of the group. I wish I could say this was the positive experience, but it wasn't. I had my own heavy stuff that day and while I was so grateful to be able to pray for my friends and to fill that role of spiritual mother, the very human side of me responded with (in my head): but I don't want this. I don't want it (infertility) for any of us, but in that moment I was blinded by my own pain, my own lack. I went to Mass and the tears freely fell. I felt sorry for myself. Then I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself. And then I finally quit thinking and just let the emotions, and the tears, flow. It wasn't my proudest moment - reacting so badly to a kind, well-meaning comment that was meant to encourage me.

The second came when I was giving a presentation to an RCIA class on the teachings of marriage in the Catholic Church. A question about couples who marry after childbearing years or in the case of a woman who had a hysterectomy. I was sharing how they can choose to not have the question "Will you accept children lovingly from God...." asked. Then, and I had never had this thought before so I think it had to come from the Holy Spirit as even as the words were leaving my mouth I wondered where it was coming from, I said (this is the gist anyway): I would encourage you to consider leaving that question in, for all men are called to fatherhood and all women to motherhood, both physical and spiritual. For some, it will only be spiritual, and a marriage is supposed to be open to life, open to the gift of new life, of children, but for an older couple or a couple who knows they cannot have physical children, what a statement of faith in a twofold sense: 1) that belief in God's ability to perform miracles and, perhaps more importantly 2) that willingness to see how God will create new life from the marriage, what children will come into it and be nurtured by it, with the understanding sometimes a child does not come in the form of an infant, but rather someone who needs mothering or fathering in a spiritual sense, and that person may even be older than you. For example, as I look around the table and we are having this discussion, you all have become spiritual children to me. It is the fruit of my marriage and the journey we have traveled that has led me to this table tonight.

As the words left my mouth, as I said, I wondered where they came from, and I knew where they came from all at the same time. And as I said them, a filmstrip of people and names played in my head, of those to whom I've been called to mother, some for a long time and others briefly. But, each person I was called to mother was a direct result of my vocation as wife, of the road The man and I have traveled as husband and wife. While I know there have been others, like my students when I was teacher that I always referred to as "my kids,"but this filmstrip was specific, it was showing me how my infertile marriage has not been infertile at all.

To say that my tears from the prior experience seemed even more ridiculous and that I was even more ashamed of them would be an understatement.

And yet, as I write this a quote from Pope Francis is coming to mind:

Sometimes in our lives tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus.

Without the tears of infertility, specifically those over spiritual motherhood and my resistance of it, would I have been able to see?

Pope Francis went on to say (emphasis mine):

Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of tears - it is a beautiful grace. And ask for the grace to be able to say with our lives, "I have seen the Lord," not because He appeared to me, but because I saw Him with my heart.

My constant prayer for the past 3 1/2 years has been for grace. 3 1/2 years ago, I rarely cried. The tears that have been shed have been more numerous than I thought possible and caught me off guard more than I care to recall. There was even a moment recently when two choleric women shed tears together - we laughed as we shared tissues over how "this doesn't happen to us." 

To think that these tears, these lenses through which I have come to see Jesus in a way that goes beyond words, are part of the answer to my prayers for grace? To think that maybe that pain that I was so frustrated by led me to see Him better? I fight the pain and the tears so fiercely. I am so often ashamed by them, but what if they are what is leading me to Him?

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
( from How He Loves Us, David Crowder Band)

15 comments:

  1. So, so beautiful. Your description of what you said in the RCIA class gave me chills. Funny coincidence - I just gave the "sexual ethics" talk at our parish RCIA class, and of course covered the topic of fruitfulness/contraception/infertility. I am definitely "borrowing" your words for next year!!

    I think St. Ignatius talks about the gift of tears too. It makes me think of my favorite scene from Sense & Sensibility, where Eleanor *finally* cries at the end, tears of joy in that case!

    I've never had a problem with crying, ha! Sometimes they feel like a gift/grace and sometimes I just wish my emotions would be more controllable...love the Papa Francis quote you shared.

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    1. Thank-you. I'm having a hard time accepting these tears as gifts and as graces, but I think it is what He is asking me to see, so I am trying.
      The words weren't mine - I'd never said nor thought anything like them before, it was totally from the Holy Spirit, I'm just grateful I listened because they really filled in a gap for me that I was having related to that question.

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  2. Loved this, and I agree with ecce fiat, your speech to the class gave me chills as well! How many ways we can be an instrument of God's peace to others, even when we ourselves don't realize it. Thanks for this strong reminder, it came on the perfect day.

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    1. Thank-you. I'm glad the timing was good for you.

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  3. Tears are very cleansing, glad they are coming! Maybe your tears at mass weren't about being sorry for yourself, but just sorrowful tears, like those of Mary's.

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  4. This is beautiful! Those words you spoke were perfect -- the Holy Spirit was really speaking through you! What a gift. Great reflection! Always giving me something to think about. :)

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  5. Love E's take on this and I agree. No matter how wonderful God's plan is and how fruitful He makes it, the pain and lack still hurt. I am coming to see that though they don't always hurt as bad and sometimes the joy is more obvious than the pain, I don't think the pain of that hole goes away as long as the hole is there. Another beautiful post!

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  6. sometimes the growth ive witnessed in you makes me step back in astonishment. you know how I feel about tears, so it was a joy to read this from you :) well, a joy that had some tearing up in it...so a total complete joy ;)

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    1. :) I have that same reaction. Some mornings I have to actively walk myself through the journey of the past 6 years because I'm still so amazed at how different everything about my life is now.

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  7. Beautiful post Rebecca! Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts with us.

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  8. Thank you so much for such a beautiful reflection. So often I have felt like our marriage would somehow be "less than" if we couldn't have biological children/biological fruitfulness. You're absolutely right though, fruitfulness has so many different faces and forms and this journey of IF has been fruitful in so many ways, just different than I expected. The Holy Spirit totally spoke through you and it was definitely something I needed to hear and be reminded of!

    Also, it's so nice to "meet" you too! :) God bless you and your husband, you are in my prayers!!

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  9. Amazing. where are those quotes from Pope Francis? I agree, I never really cried about stuff before IF, it definitely has threatened me in a once stable area of my emotions. I think the tears are good for me, and it sounds like for you too. the Holy Spirit really used you in speaking to that group! after reading this I feel like I need to sit down and make a list of all the ways God is calling me to be a spiritual mother, so I can embrace that vocation more fully, and have less pity parties.

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    1. Here is the article: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1301483.htm. It was from April 2, 2013.

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  10. A beautiful post about the concrete ways our tears can be a grace.

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  11. This is beautiful! Have you read My Sisters the Saints? It's a great book, and she mentions spiritual motherhood as well.

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