St. Teresa of Calcutta is known for telling others to “love until it hurts.” Many of us find ourselves in situations in which loving until it hurts becomes obligatory such as when a loved one becomes ill or is dying. It is much more difficult to seek out pain in order to love, and yet, that is what Christ calls each one of us to do. It isn’t easy. It requires grace and fortitude. Love always comes with the possibility of pain because it is freely given to our fellow Fallen men and women who are capable of hurting us. We also live in a world where death and loss are daily realities. In the past six months, God gave me the task of loving until it hurts. I am not going to lie. It has been deeply painful, at times, agonizing, but it has opened my heart to greater love and selflessness.
A few short weeks after my fourth miscarriage last August, I was asked to help a woman who was considering an abortion at 20 weeks. A woman in the local 40 Days for Life campaign approached me when she saw my sign: “I’ve had four miscarriages. I know the agony of lost motherhood. I’m here to help.” She wanted to know if I would meet with this woman and even consider adoption if necessary. I said yes. I was stunned that out of all of the people in our campaign, I was asked. I was still in the throes of grief.
Before I met with this woman to listen to her and be a resource for her, I discovered that her due date was extremely close to what mine was supposed to be. I told God I did not understand why He chose me out of everyone in our pro-life community. I cried a lot. There were exasperated, confused, and at times, angry prayers and discussions with God. Regardless, I went and met with her. I listened to her story. She told me about her life, her friends, family, and those pushing an abortion. I realized that she had very little healthy support in her life and I felt great compassion for her. I am a mother to one beautiful daughter and I cannot imagine being in the situation this woman was, and still is in, with little support.
I began to meet with her every couple of weeks and my husband and I helped her in whatever way we could. I wanted, and still want, her to know that she is not alone. I’ve become friends with her and enjoy the time I spend with her. It has not been easy for me. I’ve had to talk with her about baby names, ultrasounds, watch her grow throughout her pregnancy, all of this with my own broken heart. I even gave her baby items we had purchased for the baby we lost. That was a very difficult moment of relinquishing of self. I knew that when March came, she would give birth to a beautiful baby boy, and I would not. I have cried many tears and asked God repeatedly why He chose me. The pain of my own grief has been intense at times, but I have also been deeply blessed in helping this woman. It is possible to feel joy and sorrow at the same time.
She gave birth to her son a few days ago, and I am overjoyed for her, but I must admit that I have cried a lot recently. I knew March would be hard for me. The due date anniversary is hard after a miscarriage. I will never understand, for example, why my due date anniversary is on the same day I began miscarrying my second child I lost. It’s a double dose of salt in an already gaping wound. I am also helping this woman who now has a beautiful baby boy during the month I was going to have a baby. God continues to ask me to set aside my own grief and love her and her son. I keep walking forward in faith and trust.
For this Lent, I randomly selected a virtue to focus on throughout this holy season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I selected fortitude. We are only a few days into Lent and I now see why the Holy Spirit gave me this virtue. I need it as I continue to serve this woman and her baby boy. I must, by God’s grace, persevere through my own grief and pain in order to love this woman and her baby. Holding and visiting her baby boy will be difficult for me in the beginning. It’s the constant reminder of the baby I recently lost and the other three I have lost, but it is coupled with the joy that this baby boy has escaped with his life from the scourge of abortion.
God has truly asked me to love until it hurts and then some. He has asked me to walk alongside this woman on the path I thought I would be walking these last few months. To walk beside a mother going through the stages of pregnancy and childbirth that I was supposed to go through at the same time. I will admit, it has felt like torture at times. In those moments, I have allowed faith to guide me completely. I continued, and continue, to place one foot in front of the other, trusting that God is using me in some way to help this mother and child. He is using my pain for good.
We are truly called to love until it hurts. Selflessness, even in the face of immense sorrow and suffering, is a part of growing in holiness. We cannot be refined, purified, and made new if we constantly avoid the inevitable suffering of this life. God wants to make us good and holy. This requires the oftentimes agonizing pruning of self and ego. It means offering up our own grief in love, so that others may see the face of Christ. This type of love requires our whole selves, unreservedly offered to God in unification with the Cross. We do not know God’s plan for others and He asks us to trust and love others without knowing the reasons for our own pain. We must learn, albeit slowly, to trust that God desires what is best for us, which is to make us saints. It means that we must be willing to allow the Divine Surgeon to cut us open and give us new hearts, even in the midst of terrible suffering, pain, and grief. If we love until it hurts, we will be made new.
“And I will give them another heart and a new spirit I will put within them. From their bodies I will remove the hearts of stone, and give them hearts of flesh, so that they walk according to my statutes, taking care to keep my ordinances. Thus they will be my people, and I will be their God.”