Sorrow Before Joy

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          Today, for the first time in a pretty long while, I found the time to sit in the corner of our little garden in the afternoon and let the Mother of God take care of me. This was the first Saturday of shiny, new August, a day when Catholics like me venerate Mother Mary in a special way through the 1st Saturday devotions. This is also the first Saturday we were home to enjoy all the beauty of a lovely and quietly cheery weekend after so many weeks of sacrifice, of travelling to the city, spending hours and hours there till night. Our weekend busyness had wound to an end last Sunday with our daughter’s Confirmation ceremony, a happy and satisfying day that nonetheless, ended unexpectedly with me and another daughter falling ill by evening, followed by all the rest in the family over the course of the week.

          It made for an exceedingly tough week.

You may think you suffer much but there is someone whose name I cannot reveal to you who suffers far more.   ~  St Paul of the Cross

          Have you no mercy for me, St Paul? I asked, more than a tad annoyed with the saint who’s always there for me with words I least want to hear. But the quote did its trick. We had all come down with a bad clot of flu; yet, miserable as it was, it was nothing compared to what the mystery person alluded to by St Paul and others had to endure with far worse illnesses.

          But I also knew my God would not want me to aspire to be strong by ignoring our own illness and struggles nor making light of them. He had a better way and He showed me.

Help me to suffer this and to bring glory to You, O Lord.

          Over and over, I prayed this entreaty. Slowly, the strength to cook and clean came. The hours and days passed, and one by one, the family began the slow trek to recovery.

          On Friday, another saint, one whom I love with all my heart, came to sit by my window. As always, he stayed only long enough to leave me a gentle invite, wraithing into unseen-ess before I could hold on to him. I looked down into what he had left for me, saint who had saved my life.

Novena to St John of the Cross

Novena to love our crosses

          I jumped back and away like one scalded. No, no, no, Lord, I moaned. I’ve had it with these crosses. I’ve had it with being put through fire. No more crosses, Lord, please.

          Still, when a dear~heart friend invites you to his precious abode of light, despite the reluctance that roosts strong within you, you go. As I did. Running my heart along words of the novena,

…intercede for me and obtain from God for me

a love of suffering,

together with strength and grace

to bear with firmness of mind

all the trials and adversities

which are the sure means

to the happy attainment of all that awaits me in heaven…

the words were like thorns, drawing pain because I had not healed yet from the suddenness of this recent test, all of us being ill at the same time. The fear, the worry. Will we make it? Why were we so ill after all the good home care? Will the children make it if they are away from us?

          When afternoon came today, I felt an unusual call in my heart from the garden. There, in its sunny peace, as the breezes wreathed their hymns in ribbons around me, I knew the Mother of God was bidding me to pause and rest in Her maternal heart, to let Her care for me in the way no one else on earth could.

          As the winds gently danced around me, Our Lady turned my gaze over this old garden I’ve come to love so much, its beds of bachelor’s buttons, zinnias and chrysanthemums which the children have coaxed the earth to love and yield. The flowers I’ve grown myself – the gardenias, jasmines and old fashioned roses, the starflowers, periwinkles and celosia, each one with their own story of teetering at the cliff edge of life, then, somehow having the tide turn in their favour.

          I suddenly saw something countless gardeners must have long known, that our gardens often reflect our own paths through life, from strife and drought and fear to joy and peace and glory. And that our life journeys are often cyclical rather than falling along linear paths.

          You need to encounter pain over and over in order to meet with joy over and over as well, said Mother to me. Sorrow before Joy.

          And with that, I saw once more Her old words to me, that dark, breezy dawn 14 years ago when I didn’t believe joy would ever be possible again.

          Yes, sorrow must come before joy. Each time. Over and over.

11 comments

  1. Your dizzying faith and joyful heart remind me again and again what I need to do. I am inclined to avoid pain and suffering but I know that I need to embrace the way of the suffering servant so that I too can find the joy. Hope you are feeling stronger and doubly blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Val. We’re all slowly recovering, though it may take awhile before we’re fully mended. It’s been a few years since we’ve been so ill so it’s been a good lesson on being faithful and grateful, I guess.

      Like

  2. This is truly beautiful in its honesty and truth of struggle. I was raised RC as well so your words resonate. I have been struggling with my role as care giver for my husband and your words are like balm for my soul today. Yes, sorrow does come before joy. I remember my mentor once telling me that life itself is a paschal mystery with its never ending waves of sorrow and joy. The sorrows teach lessons that enable us to live with joy, even while a tempest is upon us, even when crosses seem too much to bear. How can this be? it is indeed a paschal mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, it makes me so happy that you found something here that helps. Yours is indeed an immense cross. It is very understandable if it bites too hard and we wish for something that hurts less. So often I’ve complained that it isn’t fair to me. But this is always His reply,
      Dearest, this is My Cross. All I ask is that you help Me carry it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this moving and honest reminder why we shouldn’t try to avoid suffering, and shouldn’t become despondent about it. Joy does follow, even if not as quickly as we like. And I’m glad you and your family are feeling better!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Suffering gets a bad rap sometimes because the word sounds so dark and negative. The bible was not written in English, and “suffering” is a translation which can confuse people to think this means only bad things. To suffer something is not only to endure, but to persevere, to rise to the challenge. It needn’t be calamity that has befallen one, but can be a difficult task taken on out of senses of love, duty, loyalty and commitment.
    When faced with the situation, did a wise man once say “Suffer unto me the little children.”?

    “It’s not the load that will wear you down, but how you carry it.”
    -Lena Horne

    Seek peace,

    Paz

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Pazlo,
      I never thought of it that way, you know. But I think you’re right. The negative connotations associated with suffering is likely making us fear it. Still, I believe there will come the day when our suffering will be revealed for what it truly is. And on that day, we will truly rejoice.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am glad that you are feeling better. Your garden sounds so enchanting. I love flowers! I can picture you there in the midst of so much beauty. The garden is one of God’s great gifts to us where we can find rest and peace. Rest is so crucial to our well-being when we have been ill. And yet, we often deny ourselves that gift. There are always so many things that need to be done. Rest makes it possible for us to carry on again. We must pause and reflect from time to time; it is then that we see our blessings spread out before us.

    Liked by 1 person

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