Years ago, I spoke for a woman’s retreat in a New England church with the quintessential boxed-in-pews, two-storied mullioned windows and elevated pulpit. That Sunday was Mother’s Day, and the pastor preached on the prophecy given by righteous and devout Simeon to Mary, the mother of Jesus, “. . .and a sword shall pierce through your soul also. . .”
This may seem an incongruous choice for a text on Mother’s Day, but it was actually beautifully delivered, and I have never forgotten that for many women the celebration of this special day is actually a source of extraordinary pain. Their own mothers were less than adequate, or they had no mother, or they were never able to be a mother, or they have tried and have remained infertile—you can sense the pain here. Some women, I’ve discovered just avoid that Sunday in churches.
The truth remains that being a mother is fraught with soul-piercing moments. A first infant’s first temperature. A rolling baby’s sudden fall from the bed. The broken arm. The bully on the playground. A mean teacher. Being the only child on the block not invited to a birthday party. Puzzling ill-mannered behavior childish behavior (Are we raising a monster?). A grandparent who plays favorites with the grandchildren. The list is endless. How many times do we feel that blow to the breastbone?
Obviously, what our family is going through with Jeremy Mains, our son, is one of those “sword piercing through your soul also” moments. I woke last week about 3:00 in the morning with a pain through my sternum that was searing.
These are the moments when I work things out with God. “Who is in control of this cancer scenario?” I ask myself. “The doctors? The international lymphoma consortium that is consulting on his case? The medical staff on the hematology oncology or the ICU floors?” No, I remind myself God is all-powerful and can work through the maze of scientific curative systems that modern technology has devised.
Still hurting, I turned toward the warm body of my sleeping husband and in a little bit of time, the pain went away and I rested in the fact that although I always don’t understand the mysterious workings of the Almighty, His workings are always for good, not for ill, for beauty, not for ugliness, for love, not for misery.
Checking the posts on Facebook (the comments and prayers are always comforting), I came upon one from Lisa Vischer, “Holding every word close to my heart and lifting you up even now on the night watches. Lord Jesus, in their sleep, bless Jeremy and each member of his family with deep rest, divine encouragement, expansive grace, healing tenderness, limitless renewal, untouchable hope, ministering presence, powerful testimony, strength for tomorrow, and untouchable peace. Fill them up this night with all of WHO YOU ARE. Amen”
Sometimes when others are going through catastrophe, our hearts are moved with compassion. How often, however, I hear people say, “I just don’t know what to do.” Believe me, being in the middle of a catastrophic situation, I want to encourage you to just do what is in your heart to do, even if it seems so inadequate in comparison with the magnitude of the dilemma. That prod, I have found, is often a divine nudge. While thanking Lisa for her prayer, I realized that she was awake at the same time I was awake and that God had impressed us upon her heart.
Amazing, isn’t it, that there is a spiritual web that connects us all in ways we cannot understand and once in a while—once in a while—like this night watch prayer, we get a glimpse of how connected we really are. My pain went away while Lisa prayed.
The simplest actions often touch the deepest places in our wounded souls and help us to bear the burden. A note in the mail. A comment after a Facebook post. A meal brought in so that we can have something wholesome to eat the next day. Every week, almost, we’ve received enough money in the mail to pay for that week’s gas and parking on the visits to Rush hospital.
A group of Nigerian pastors prayed down healing prayers over the phone while Joel held the receiver to Jeremy’s ear and laid his hands on his brother’s body. Cathie Clark left a potted orchid on my desk which I brought home and placed on the table in front of the living room fireplace—it soothes me every time I glance at it. Our older grandchildren “like” our posts so that I know they are following our difficult journey. Medical friends take the time to answer our questions about procedures and terminologies that are outside of our everyday lexicon.
This is our journey, but we are not alone. We are weary and wounded, but someone, somewhere in the middle of the night is holding our pain. It is the condition of the human journey. But we have not been abandoned, forgotten or neglected.
I have been here before. My life has been shattered many times. But I am old enough and wise enough to know that we will not be destroyed. Good will come out of these bad days. We will rise again out of desolation. Laughter will return. A bond will draw us together stronger than we have ever been. And one day, in the middle of the night, I will hold to my heart a friend who is in pain and sorrow and somehow, in ways indiscernable, my prayer will ease the icepick slicing of a soul.
Love is all around.
~~ Karen Mains