When a raindrop strikes the surface of a lake, its volume increases and ripples form around the impact point, extending outward. These ripples intersect with other ripples, formed from the impact of other raindrops. So, too, are our lives; the ripples that form from impacts we experience intersect with others’ ripples.
None of us are living in a vacuum, and most people aren’t living on a frozen lake.
Take, for instance, Simon of Cyrene. One fateful spring day, the “ripples” of his life intersected with the ones from a Roman crucifixion. He was pressed into service by Roman soldiers to carry the cross of the condemned (Mk 15:21, Lk 23:26, Mt 27:32), lest the condemned Man die ahead of schedule.
Jesus could have chosen not to need help; He’s God. Instead, He chose not to be “stingy” with His cross, and He allowed Himself to need help. At one time or another, every one of us needs a hand carrying our crosses. In modeling ourselves on Christ, we can remember Simon, who helped Jesus carry His cross, and we can also pay attention to the Roman soldiers in our own lives. We can accept the help we need.
When carrying the cross of infertility, what constitutes a “ripple”? Honestly, I’m not sure, but I recall three particularly spectacular surface disturbances in my own life: my oldest friend’s pregnancy, another friend’s daughter’s unwelcome pregnancy, and my mother’s loneliness. Hindsight being 20/20, I realize now that I handled all three of them wrong.
I’m not a crier; I just don’t cry. Those tears really welled up, though, when I was with my friend during a visit. She was unexpectedly pregnant with her youngest child. My friend doubtlessly noticed my discomfort, and kindly ignored it, as I was the one driving at the time. But I denied her the opportunity to mention it later, too, and pretended it never happened. I thought, at the time, it would diminish her feelings to validate my own. I was wrong. Maybe I did the right thing then, maybe not. Maybe I missed a chance to deepen our friendship by being vulnerable and honest with her. I was Simon to her a lot on that trip, but refused her aid as my Simon, in the name of being strong. All that really did was freeze my lake and shut her out.
After His Resurrection, Jesus was generous again, allowing Thomas to probe His wounds. (Jn 20:27) He could easily have said no to having them probed. I would have! I’m more likely to say, don’t look at me, don’t see my scars, and please don’t probe my wounds, than to expose my hurts face to face.
I ought to have given voice to the anger I felt over my other friend’s daughter, who considered her growing child unwelcome. By not speaking up, I trapped that mother in her own pain while she was in my presence. I could have ministered to her emotions by admitting my own; I could have been a Simon and helped her carry that cross, by allowing us to validate one another’s emotions. I gave her no room for that, though, by sealing myself away and being stingy with my wounds. I wonder what would have happened had I allowed them to be probed.
By silencing myself, allowing my tears to fall on the frozen lake without a ripple, I silenced others as well.
That brings me to my own mother. By not revealing to her how I felt about my infertility, I left her no room to speak about the grandchildren she doesn’t get to have to comfort her in her senior years. Her peers revel in their grandchildren, but she has been denied that joy because I’m infertile. And because I’ve been silent until now as my raindrops fell, she’s had to be silent, too, when we could have helped each other grieve. I was not Simon to her, and I denied her the opportunity to be Simon to me.
This is not to say we should break down wailing at every baby shower we’re invited to attend, no! There is a time and place for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), and when to give voice to our emotions will vary person to person, family to family, and situation to situation. What I am saying is this: we are not meant to suffer alone and in silence for the showered child’s entire life. There is an appropriate time to cry over the announcement, a time to send regrets and a lovely gift, and a time to join in the revelry. And there is a time to allow others into our grief and pain, so they can support us, and so we are eventually able to join in the revelry, after we have cried over the invitation.
Since becoming disabled seven years ago, I have learned something. It is a form of service to allow ourselves to be ministered to. Doing so gives others permission to have their own emotions around our vulnerability – in this case, infertility. So, it’s important to be like Simon, helping others, but be like Jesus, too, and accept help. Share the cross, both yours and theirs.
This post was written by Contributor Delsonora.