I’m officially in survival mode.
There isn’t a single room in my 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home that could be considered clean at the moment. Things aren’t just untidy, they are actually dirty from months of the homemaker being off duty. My decorative hutch has been turned into a battle station cluttered with medications, mints, toiletries, and even a clean pair of underwear. A blue mop bucket (that hasn’t exactly been used for mopping in some time) sits faithfully under the coffee table, ready to be put to use at any moment.
And if you look under the quilt that has converted the couch into a makeshift bed, you’ll find the permanent indent of a body. My body. That has been lying or sitting there for the past six months. It’s where I’ve eaten my meals (and struggled to keep them down). It’s where I’ve cried, felt great pain and despair, and, quite frankly, had some of my darkest thoughts.
But, the couch is also where I’ve received hugs and kisses everyday from my 20 month old son. Where I’ve read several inspiring and uplifting books centered around the faith. Where I’ve prayed with a depth I never knew I could. Where I’ve learned what it truly means to offer suffering for the sake of another person. Where I’ve gazed up at my crucifix and contemplated Jesus’ wounds in a whole new way.
This couch is where I’ve felt the presence of Jesus.
If there is anything my battle with “HG” (a pregnancy complication characterized by severe nausea) has taught me, it’s that Jesus is with me. He is with you. He is among all of us, especially in the suffering — in the survival mode. He isn’t some invisible force in the clouds watching my life play out from a distance as I had once thought. Nor is He letting me fend for myself on this domestic battlefield. On the contrary, He is close. So close. His presence is in the strength I physically feel being given to me each day and in the people around me. He is in my husband who stands vigilant to care for my every need. He is in my mother who speaks love and comfort to me in my most difficult moments. He is in every single person who is praying for me and offering their service toward my family.
Jesus comes to us fully in the Eucharist, but it’s often in our suffering, in our survival mode, that we can experience His omnipresence most deeply. Have you ever been asked, “How did you do it?” after going through something really difficult and then struggled to come up with an answer? After all, there was no strategy, really. You just did it, you made it out on the other side. You know there was something that helped you through, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
I think that “something” is the presence of Jesus.
He knew what I was about to step into when He allowed me to conceive this baby. He knew that my life would be flipped upside down and my “normal” would change. And He knew it was exactly what I needed. I needed to be broken and remade. My perfectly clean house and carefully kept plans weren’t doing anything to increase my holiness or bring me closer to Him. I needed to be forced into a change of pace that demanded my faith be challenged and my outlook on suffering be forever changed. He desired for me to embrace redemptive suffering and, as a result, experience His daily presence in my life — something He calls each one of us to do at some point, in some way.
It is in our human nature to buck suffering; to shy away from any discomfort because surely no good can come of it. This is exactly what I did during my first pregnancy, when I battled this illness for the first time. I let anger and fear keep me from taking part in Jesus’ plan for me and, therefore, ignored His gracious presence. But this time, the moment I let go of my self-centered thoughts, the graces began to flow. My suffering has become so much more to me than a bodily affliction; it has become a cornerstone in my relationship with Jesus. An opportunity to share in His Passion – something I can now recognize as a gift.