Sunday, September 18, 2016


All of your own problems suddenly look small when a friend calls crying and says her marriage is ending.

I have known things have been rocky, for months off and on, for this couple, but there have been patches of good, too. But I didn't know that her husband, who apparently now spends all his time -- when not at work -- on the phone with his best friend and his mother won't talk to her, is sleeping on the couch, is worried over the finances which he controls but is angry with her when she doesn't know things are tight -- but how can she know if he won't tell her, won't let her help? -- and won't go for the counseling she suggests. She doesn't know if he's seeing someone else. She has a home-based business, and home schools their kids, but is terrified of the uncertainty, and is trying to scrape together whatever she can in case he decides not to make her monthly car payment, or if she suddenly has to find a place of her own. She's been out of the professional working world for years and feels --wrongly -- that she has no marketable skills. She is somehow ashamed of her own supposed failure, and hesitates to tell any of her other friends. Her faith -- on so many levels -- is shattered.

I don't need to know -- don't want to know, really -- the details she shares, but I don't stop her recitation because she has been carrying these things for so long by herself. I am ashamed at the sense of relief that floods me when she suddenly switches conversational tacks of her own accord, because she is tired of thinking about it, too.

Holy family, pray for them!

I have spent so much time praying for them, for healing for both of them, for the children, for a reconciliation if God wills it, and while I know my prayers are heard, other than pray, there is nothing I can do, and it makes me feel guilty that I haven't done more, haven't called more, completely selfish and just...useless.

As I sit on my living room rug later, petting the drowsy dog more or less lounged in my lap -- she pokes at me with her paw when my hand stops moving for more than 2.3 seconds, the glutton -- I am thankful all of a sudden for the quiet, largely drama-free life I lead. While I so often lament my singleness, am I wrong to be grateful for it when someone I care for is suffering?

Then I read a post by Meg Hunter-Kilmer about Our Lady of Sorrows, who's feast was this past week. And it helped so much in making sense of how I felt. Meg wrote:

"Normally, identifying with the Blessed Mother is a good thing, a sign that you’re doing something right. You’re trusting God or pointing people to him or interceding. But when the people you love are being tortured, being Mary just means you’re standing there doing nothing.

I don’t want to do nothing. I want to fix it. I want to love them out of their pain or take it over for them. I at least want to do something, say something to make it better, even just a little, even just wiping the sweat out of their eyes.
But I’m not Simon. I don’t get to carry their crosses with them or for them. And I’m not Veronica. I don’t get to give them a moment’s peace. I’m Mary. I only get to be there with them, loving them in utter futility as a sword pierces my heart.
I hate being Our Lady of Sorrows. I hate standing there doing nothing, watching the people I love suffer. I hate waiting for a diagnosis, hearing about infidelity, watching depression. I hate going to prayer and begging, begging, begging to take their crosses from them and being told no. I hate being useless in the face of catastrophic pain.
And yet.
And yet, with all that he could have asked of his Mother in that moment of his greatest need, this is what he asked: just be with me. Just stand there and watch me suffer. Just love me in my pain.
And somehow, that nothing that she did was everything that he needed. Somehow, it bore fruit down through the ages for every one of us. Somehow, it is in her silent suffering with that Mary fulfills God’s plan for her. I’m sure she also wanted to be Simon or Veronica or Peter whipping out a sword or anyone doing anything. But she knew that being there and “useless” was good and right and beautiful."