The other day I had some precious free time which I was going to spend working on the computer. I set up my laptop on the kitchen table, went to grab something to drink, turned around and found my older son sitting at the computer settling himself in.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Working on my Lego program.”
“But I was going to do some work.”
“But, Moooooommmmm, this is the only chance I have to work on this.”
“Fine, take it.”
I assure you, the snarky tone I used when delivering that last line immediately negated any benefit that may have been derived from the self-sacrifice involved.
Determined to still accomplish something, I grabbed my e-reader and read some of the soon-to-be-released book by Sarah Reinhard, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary, from Conception to Baptism. As it turns out, this change of plans was God at work because I ended up reading something I definitely needed to be reminded of.
Reinhard’s book integrates reflections on each week of pregnancy with meditations on each of the mysteries of the rosary. It is a wonderful book – truly, I wish that I had this resource available when I was pregnant with my children. But, even in my non-pregnant state, I’ve found much wisdom in its pages. On this particular day, the line that hit me was in her reflection on “The Crowning of Thorns:” Our crosses aren’t forever.
I know this of course. Ask me, and I will certainly tell you, “This, too, shall pass.” I have dispensed those words of wisdom on a number of occasions, and reminded myself of them on a regular basis. Yet, at any given moment of pain, misery, depression, frustration, etc., I am likely to forget and to wallow in whatever I am stuck in at the time. I want to give up.
Our crosses aren’t forever. Sure, it seems that way sometimes. It seems like life will never change, that we will forever be stuck in whatever problem we may be mired in. It seems like the road lies ahead of us in a long, unwinding path, and that there is no escape. Or even worse, it may appear as if we are descending further and further into our own private version of hell. Things are not only not getting better – they are getting worse! What comfort can possibly be found in that place of pain?
And yet, each day, life does change. It may be imperceptible at times, but looking back we can see it. Another instance of life being best understood in hindsight. In the rear-view mirror, we can see God at work in our lives, gently moving and shaping and bringing us where we need to be. While some pain will never be truly understood this side of heaven, often we can appreciate what suffering has done for us in the long term. It hones us, makes us stronger and more compassionate. It leads us to places we may never have ever traveled to otherwise.
Then, there is death, which as Christians, we do not believe is the end. With death, all of our crosses will be taken away. This life isn’t forever. The older we get, the more we know how quickly life does go by. Individual days may seem long, but the years go by like sand through our fingers. Our goal is to spend eternity with God in heaven, a place of perfect happiness. There, our hearts will hurt no longer. The pain will be gone. All will be understood.