Fruit of the Mystery: Perseverance
Seen. Heard. Counted. Cared For.
I will never forget one hot summer day in 2018. I was driving home after a job interview, tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. I had a newborn at home who was barely a few weeks old and a one-year-old who could barely walk. I was mentally organizing my stressful, long to-do lists when the thought came to me: “I need to go to church.”
My chest tightened as the weight of the world pressed upon me, but a surge of hope, fueled by desperation, suddenly arose. Someway, somehow, I wound up in front of my parish. I walked into the empty, quiet church but knew that I was not alone. I crept down the carpeted aisle, fell to my knees at the steps of the altar, and looked up to the Tabernacle. I had no words, so I offered my tears instead. I cried. I wept. I mourned.
“Why, Jesus?” I cried. “Why did you let this happen to me?”
The pain rolled off my back and onto that altar. My despair seeped into those tears and onto that holy, sacred ground. After fighting, avoiding, and yelling at Jesus for months, I finally was too tired, too alone, too scared, and too certain that this was where I needed to be. So, I unpacked my pain, and I left my questions at His feet, demanding answers and pleading for understanding. I had many questions for this Nazarene who had told me to follow Him.
I asked Jesus why He had allowed me to return to my Catholic faith, only to allow me to enter into an abusive marriage? Why did He let me endure a crisis pregnancy on top of escaping this abusive marriage? Why had He allowed me to do everything “the right way” and still end up a single mother of two kids under two years of age? Why did He allow me to work so hard for a career, only to leave it behind as I abruptly relocated for safety? How was I going to feed these children with all the debt accrued in my name? Were we going to be safe? How did my life become a Lifetime movie? What were people going to think of me? What would my children think when they were old enough to understand? How could He let things go so wrong, so fast, so soon after I had recommitted my life to Him?
I looked at Jesus on the crucifix, above the altar, and realized that my answer had been in front of me the entire time. Sacrifice. Suffering. Death. “I know what you are going through,” I felt Jesus speak to my heart. I felt seen. Heard. Counted. Cared for. He had seen my suffering and had suffered with me. And prior to this moment, He had suffered for me.
He understood my feelings of hurt, rejection, betrayal, and agony — for He had experienced it first and for me. But then, to my dismay, Jesus told me, “You can’t have the Resurrection without the Crucifixion.”
It took my breath away. I felt Jesus around me, as He spoke gently to my broken heart. A cascade of thoughts and understandings enveloped me, and I was filled with peace and the courage to “go where I did not want to go.”
I understood that most of my life, I had avoided suffering, but running from it did not allow me to pick up my cross, grow in holiness, and die to my flesh and worldly attachments. Christ had allowed me, a Catholic revert, to digest the “milk” of my faith, but He had slowly been moving me toward the “meat.” With this new understanding, I could see that the pain I endured from my abusive marriage was not in vain. The agony I had experienced when sitting in a parking lot, wondering if I could make it through this crisis pregnancy, was not in vain. The heavy cross I bore, caring for two babies as a newly single mother, who was relearning who she was outside of a destructive marriage, was not in vain.
Jesus showed me how he never had abandoned me on that painful journey to Golgotha. Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the cross, and Jesus provided me with many Simons. My selfless parents welcomed my daughters and me into their home and provided for us in every way, expecting nothing in return. My generous friends offered me support in various ways. Many prayer warriors prayed and fasted for me. Yes, I was indeed blessed to have many “Simons” on the way, helping me carry my cross. Through their support, I was better able to persevere during the greatest trial in my life.
My suffering was not in vain, and my cross was not carried alone — but still, I had to die. That part, Jesus helped me understand, was mine to endure. And die I did. My pride had to die. I had to let go of what people could or would think about my being a newly single mother after just professing how much I loved Jesus and His Holy Catholic Church.
I had to die to my own desires and needs, as I cared for a one-year-old and one-month-old, tending to their daily needs and filling them with much-needed maternal love. I could not afford to drown in my pain, so I dug deep into a well that only God could fill, and I gave them everything I had. Regardless of how difficult it was, I had to hang on, dig in, and keep pressing on. Jesus was challenging me to love Him for His own sake, to love Him during hard times, to trust Him. I looked at that crucifix and I told Him, “Yes. I am willing to die to myself and to trust you, Jesus. I am willing to grow up in my faith and love you — even when it hurts.” I had received His answer, and I had given Him mine as well.
I could write that I lived happily ever after, but it would be a lie. I still cry when I think about some of the things I have been and still go through. I still prefer to not suffer — after all, I am human! However, I try to embrace suffering more, especially the pain that comes with my story and my journey as a single mother of two and survivor of domestic abuse. My experience has taught me that we can endure sacrifice and pain with joy when we keep our eyes on Jesus. I have grown deeper in my faith. I have grown even more immensely passionate about protecting the beautiful gift of life that Jesus may bless us with, even in trying times. I now look at the Crucifixion of Christ with more eager, joyful anticipation, because He has taught me that we must enter into the Passion before we experience the joys of Easter.
Thank You for this, Jesus.
Our Lady of Kibeho, pray for us.
About Linda: Linda W. is a Cradle Catholic and proud mother of 2 toddler girls who enjoys good food, good music and good company. She is passionate about spreading the Gospel, and proclaiming the sanctity and dignity of all life, from the womb to the tomb. For more from Linda follow her on Instagram.