The Gift of Compassion

I wrote once, years ago now, about an article in America Magazine called “A Fiery Gift,” in which the author argued that there are important spiritual insights to be gained from a natural birthing experience.  Essentially, she claimed (and I agree) that the pattern of birthing occurs often is our spiritual lives, and having the experience of physically birthing a child gives us a context against which to compare the movements we make toward growth in our souls.

In our Engaging Spirituality group we have discussed the different kinds of deaths we face – of ideas, dreams, plans, youth, etc., but birth has been largely left out until tonight.  But one of our group members, during centering prayer, came to a very similar conclusion to the author of that article.

Which got me thinking.  We try so hard to avoid suffering, or anything messy, really.  So much of life is messy!  Especially some of the best parts – birthing, making love, making mud pies.  And women’s bodies are messy, so we try to control them and clean them up.  Heaven forbid we be too smelly, or hairy, or anyone find out we have our period.  But like with birthing, when we push this all away, what are we missing?  The whole world works on beautiful, simple cycles of birth and death.  It is the Pascal Mystery – life, death, resurrection.  And our bodies do it every month, if only we allow them.  We complain about the discomfort of PMS or cramps, or crying for no apparent reason.  But what if God has really just given us a gift of tears that we aren’t humble enough to accept?  What if the “no reason” that sets us off at “that time of the month” is really the greatest reason of all – compassion, true suffering-with, for all those unnamed sufferers in our world?  Our ES group has been learning about the importance of holding the world in all its suffering in our hearts and lifting it up in prayer.  It sounds like a daunting task, but what if God created women – mothers all of us, biologically or not – to do just this caring, comforting, weeping at the foot of the cross, and to do it naturally, easily, every month?

I have to admit, I am more stable emotionally when I am pregnant or nursing than when I am am cycling.  And as I move back towards those constantly changing hormones, I feel the mood swings and sudden onset of tears acutely.  But I am grateful for the insight this prayer group, these readings, and these fellow sojourners in faith have gifted me with.  So that maybe, instead of cursing my body for being so inconvenient, I can now learn to welcome and bless God’s gift of tears as the opportunity for a deepening compassion.