“It’s a good thing you weren’t born Catholic,” my husband said. “You would have become a nun.”
We were in the car together, without kids, a rare occurrence. It was shortly after his first detox from alcohol relapse back in October (but not the one that would stick). We hadn’t been speaking very much over the past six months, and certainly not about anything deep. Being in the car reduced the awkwardness.
I thought about what he said. Finally, I replied, “You know, you’re right. I think I’d enjoy being a nun.”
This was maybe not the best thing to admit to one’s husband, that one would enjoy a lifetime of celibacy foregoing marriage and family. He certainly pretended to be offended. However, at the time the prospect was (and is) appealing. While he was in the trenches of alcoholism, I was in the trenches of single parenthood. I had watched him circle the drain, stuffing my emotions way, deep down. I was enduring a tumultuous relationship with my children, who are intense, and need from me much more than I can give.
Give me a life of solitude, of sisterhood, of work and prayer. That would be a much lighter cross to bear.
There is a reason I wasn’t born Catholic. I really, truly, might have ended up a nun – and then I would have missed out on all this suffering.
I know that sounds backwards. And honestly, I don’t like how it works. But I have seen consistently in my life that suffering brings me closer to God. It was true in college when I was making my way in the world and my grandparents all died within a year. It was true when I had my heart broken in a devastating way in my early 20’s. And it was true watching my husband lost to addiction.
If it weren’t for this recent suffering, I don’t know if I would have been led to the Catholic Church. But suddenly, my experience of God wasn’t enough anymore. The beautiful thing is, once I began investigating Catholicism, I found such a meaningful theology of suffering.
According to my cradle Catholic friend, “offer it up” is something she heard over and over growing up, to the point that it almost lost its meaning. But for this Protestant girl, the concept was novel and revolutionary: we can give our sufferings to God as an offering. When we suffer, we unite ourselves to Christ in his suffering for us and thereby become more like him.
I am writing this today because I’m not in a good place emotionally. I’m fighting a hormonal depression that has caused me to act in ways that I know are not truly me. I’ve done things that I feel incredible guilt over, and yes, shame, mostly in my parenting. The honest truth is that motherhood is a cross for me. I never, ever thought that I would be so bad at it, or want to run from it so much. But God made me a wife and mother, not a nun, and I know that if I allow him, he will bring me closer to his heart through this.
Even though I don’t feel worthy, even though it doesn’t seem like He should want it, I am offering it up.