I recently finished reading My Sisters, the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell (which I mostly enjoyed, with a few reservations). It’s a spiritual memoir that centres around her deepening relationship with the saints as she faces struggles with infertility and her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s. It’s a quick, easy read that I recommend for people on all stages of their spiritual journey!
Anyway, at one point in the book, Campbell recounts a conversation with her mother that goes something like this:
Campbell: I could handle the cross of infertility if I just knew for sure that we would never conceive, or else that we would, eventually.
Her mother: The waiting and not knowing *is* the cross.
It struck me that this could be applicable to many of us, who hope for our spouse’s conversion or reversion to Catholicism. I can’t speak for any of you, but I know that sometimes I get weary of praying when I think “is this ever actually going to happen? Will I spend my whole life praying and bear no fruit?” But of course, holding that uncertainty in prayer is exactly what God is asking of us. He isn’t going to say “If you pray for the next 12 years, 4 months, and 6 days, then your dear husband will come home to the Church”!
Faith asks us to pray in the face of uncertainty, and to believe in the goodness of God even when He doesn’t give us what we want. The more I think about it, the more “the cross *is* the wait” unifies the spiritual struggles of every Christian. Whether you are praying for a relative to be miraculously healed, or for a positive response to that job application, or to find a spouse, or for a child’s suffering to end… The cross lies largely in the not-knowing. And even when we have “answers” (you didn’t get the job, your parent dies a difficult death, your child struggles with a hard diagnosis), then the cross becomes the uncertainty of knowing how we will manage life with this new burden. Will we ever be OK again? Will our earthly lives be forever underpinned by sorrow? We don’t know. We can’t know.
I don’t want to be glib. So many people face suffering that I cannot begin to imagine. I have been blessed by a life which has so far been fairly free of major sorrow. I would not deign to tell someone who has faced excruciating heartbreak that “this is just your cross!”
However, it brought me some comfort to consider that in many ways, my cross – the cross of an unbelieving husband – is united with the crosses of all other Christians in its essence, and dare I say it, even with the cross of Christ.