11.11.2014

Brokenness and Whispers

I certainly didn't intend that string of close together posts to be the last thing I posted for so long.

There is much struggle in life right now. Some infertility related, some not. Your prayers are appreciated, so much.

I have sat down to write a few times over the last couple of months, but knowing that the whole story can't go here has quieted me. I realize I need to keep writing, and somehow reach out despite that it all can't be public. I have to start somewhere, and this seems as good a place as any.

A big part of infertility for me has been reconciling my objective brokenness, my body does not work correctly - that is a fact - from the subjective experience of that. Of feeling like less than a woman, less than a wife. The fact of brokenness and the feeling of brokenness are two very different, but related things. My head knows that I (and you, my dear sisters) am no less a woman, no less a wife. That my femininity is not tied to my ability to conceive and bear a child. That I am created as a woman and that my body, whether all the parts are fully present and working or not, is a sign of a sanctuary of life, of receptivity, of nurturing whether it ever does any of those things or not. The fact that it does not is evidence of the Fall and the brokenness of our world, not of my brokenness.

Recently, God whispered to me these truths in a way that finally reached my heart, if only for a moment. I, of course, missed His whispers, even His clear words spoken by others, and spent some time arguing with Him before I let myself hear Him. Someday I might learn that He is going to win. Clearly I haven't yet.

So, if you'd permit me to return to this place with a story of brokenness and whispers.

It all starts and connects back to another argument I had with God that I lost. That argument was about receiving Eucharist on the tongue rather than in the hand. (Disclaimer: Both are appropriate ways to receive Eucharist, this is not meant to be a post about the theological reasons for one or the other.) He suggested it. I said no. He pushed. I said no. He pushed. I tried. He won. It's that simple and that complicated. But it was the first time I'd heard Him ask me to do something outside of my comfort zone as it relates to Mass and it was a very distinct argument and experience.

So, back in the spring when I started hearing Him suggest that I cover my head during Mass, I recognized it. It felt very much like the request to receive Eucharist on the tongue. I resisted. Strongly this time. So many reasons why not. And nothing but a feeling, rather an invitation, but I didn't see it that way at the time, for why. Well, much like with Eucharist, He is persistent and so I asked a couple of trusted priest-friends what they thought. Specifically about how to prudently do this when my  job requires being in front of people who do not regularly attend Mass and are not going to understand it at all and not wanting to alienate them; needing to be accessible.

Then, when we went to the beach, a friend came with us and brought a couple of articles about traditions of women covering their heads in different cultures. I read them, interested and still very much arguing with God about this. The more I read, the more the logical and theological reasons just didn't add up for me. There was a flaw in each one, an argument used out of context or taken to an extreme. All I had was this pull from God and arguments that were not satisfying myself. (Disclaimer: This is also not a post designed to argue the theological reasons for a woman covering her head. It is not required and does not prove holiness or piety one way or the other.)

Then, in late August/early September, I was at Mass and stayed after to pray and a prayer came and went so quickly I barely registered it. I didn't say it or give physical words to it and I forgot about it. The prayer? "Lord, if you want me to cover my head during Mass, I will, but only if a veil is given to me as a gift."

Less than two weeks later, the friend who went to the beach came to visit us and brought a thank you gift for me for the vacation. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what that gift was, but in case I do, yes, it was a veil. Not just any veil, but the veil I had decided that if I were going to wear one would be the one I would wear. As I opened it, that unspoken, barely thought, barely prayed prayer echoed in my heart. I shared the prayer and we both just stood in awe.

And so, two days later I started covering my head during Mass. I've learned to listen to His voice and use prudence to know when is the right time to wear my veil and when I need to not (for example, at my home parish where it would stick out and be a distraction to all around me). I have settled into a comfort with covering my head and haven't given it too much thought since then. The theological and logical reasons still falling short, but very much feeling like this is what I was supposed to do.

Then, I found this article: Men, Veils, and the Mystery of Femininity at The Catholic Gentleman. There is a lot there that doesn't resonate with me - the problem of the theological reasons continues, as the argument that Mary is always shown with her head covered is not 100% accurate, nor are the reasons given. But, there was something different in this article. A whisper while I was reading the parts about femininity and the female body. All things I already knew in my head, but now read in light of an argument that He won about covering my head and feeling in my heart that it was the right thing to be doing.

The whisper?

You are not broken.
You are my beautiful daughter.
You are sacred.
You are loved.
You are not broken.

And finally, I heard the whisper behind the request from Him to cover my head.

My body is broken.

I feel broken.

I am not broken.

I don't know why He chose covering my head to whisper this to me. I don't know why this is where I heard His voice. Perhaps it is that I am stubborn and that the feeling of brokenness is nearly always with me and so by covering my head regularly at Mass, He can remind me often.

I have heard many times that it is in our woundedness, our brokenness, that we are closest to Christ. It is our wounds and scars that are our familial resemblance to Him, our wounds that will shine with the most glory in heaven. It is through our wounds that He enters, when we let Him. He will enter our brokenness with whispers of Truth. How I pray for the grace to hear and respond to Him.