I have been spending the weeks of Lent following the stations of the cross as laid out in the book
Following Christ: A Lenten Reader to Stretch Your Soul by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. To read my previous post on this reader, click HERE.
I am currently studying, praying about and meditating on the suffering of Christ during his trial and walk to Golgotha, the place where he was crucified. We can imagine ourselves there, present and in the midst of all that was happening. We can sense the reality that Christ knew human suffering; emotional and physical suffering. Christ became human and connects with us through the bond of humanity. Christ was flogged and beaten. Christ was cursed at, mocked, humiliated and spat upon. His head was stuffed inside a crown of thorns, meant to both torture him and to humiliate him as "King of the Jews." After being tortured to the point of pure physical exhaustion, Christ was then made to carry a cross, speculated to weigh approximately 100 pounds, over challenging terrain to the mount where he would be crucified. Christ suffered.
I have often felt the comfort of knowing that Christ knows what its like to feel human pain. It is calming to an extent to know that when I suffer, I do not suffer alone and that Christ indeed suffers with me and suffered for me. And yet, I must admit, there are times when I wonder if Christ really knows MY pain. Christ, after all, was a man. Being of the male gender, Christ never experienced menstruation, child birth, infertility or any other pains that are unique to women. Given those facts, how can I make sense of my own suffering in a way that draws me closer to Christ? How can I see my pains in his eyes?
I have never suffered as Christ suffered. Not even close. But, I have suffered as we all have. We have all faced and continue to face various challenges in our lives that are emotionally and/or physically painful. For me, one that is excruciatingly fresh is infertility. I faced it before my son was born; I faced it for over 2 years. I was poked, prodded, medicated, tested, examined...I felt like a lab rat with no personal physical privacy left. I felt broken. After all, didn't God make me with a body designed to have babies? So here I was with empty arms, empty hopes and feeling as if I had failed as a woman and a wife. I felt forsaken, rejected and broken. I wondered then, "does Christ know what this feels like?" I wanted some voice from the Bible to speak to me and tell me they knew my suffering. Besides the amazing stories of women in the Bible who came before me and experienced life in at least this one way like I have, I also wanted to know if Jesus knew how I felt. Today is a little different. I've come along way in my spiritual journey since the days of my first round of infertility. Then I was still wandering in a desert. Today I'm out of that desert but on a journey. On this journey, I found myself in a new and different kind of desert. This is my second round of infertility and we've been trying this time for over 3 years now.
I guess I'm all emotional about this today because I have started back to doctors appointments, poking, prodding, exams, and yesterday was my first day of my new cycle of fertility meds. I'm just a mess of emotions. I think this is partly because of the side effects of these drugs, but also because I'm wanting to be pregnant already. I want the pain to stop. I am thankful though that while I'm waiting on the Lord that this time I have a strong faith to sustain me. I'm not sure if Christ knows what its like to be a woman and face infertility. Maybe, like my husband, he can compassionately understand to the best of his ability because he too has suffered. Suffering causes us to have a heart of compassion for those who we see are suffering. Christ is that friend that may never know the depth of what you feel, but loves you beyond words and will walk across fire, or rocky terrain, or suffer...for you. Christ may not know what infertility feels like, but I believe he cries with me.
One of the beautiful stories that comes from Christ's walk with the cross is the story of a man named Simon. Simon picked up the end of the cross and helped the suffering Christ endure the remainder of the pain of that journey. So maybe infertility is a cross I have to bare, but I am beyond grateful for the cross bearers who walk behind me. I feel their presence and their prayers. I know that Christ is there too.
There is joy in the suffering. I can see joy in the eyes of the son I have, the one I held in my arms after his birth and said "even if I have to do this all over again, it is worth it just for this one marvelous moment." We suffer. Christ suffered. We can't escape suffering in this life, but we can love ourselves and each other through it. Simon loved Christ through his suffering. I am forever grateful for those who are loving me through my suffering. And I will forever be convicted to love others through their suffering.