By Kitty Cleveland
On Memorial Day this year, I ended up in the ER with a dangerously slow heartbeat–somewhere between the 20’s and 40’s. They pumped me full of nausea-inducing dopamine to get my heart rate up, and then they told me I would be getting an itty bitty pacemaker as my parting gift.
After my pity party, I realized with joy that the surgery would take place on the Feast of the Visitation. It felt like a kiss from Mama Mary. Friends and family rallied with prayers, treats, visits to the ICU, and even a smuggled bottle of wine. To top it all off, an order of 50 nuns (providentially called the Servants of the Pierced Hearts) fasted for me on the day of my surgery. The Body of Christ lifted me up in love and carried me along on a cloud of grace. I had never been so at peace.
I also knew that this powerful, undeserved gift of intercessory prayer had to be for some special purpose. As my heart was being pierced in surgery, I knew that Jesus wanted to pierce my soul, too–making a way for a greater capacity for love, a greater receptivity and docility to the movement of the Holy Spirit within. What I didn’t know then was that he would do this through suffering.
The surgery went spectacularly well, and the doctor planned to discharge me the next day. He mentioned with a wry grin that I was quite “chatty” during the surgery, not only grilling him about what he was doing to me, but also singing “Holy Is His Name” for the surgical staff through my oxygen mask.
As I prepared to resume life as usual back at home (as much as possible with an immobilized left arm and a swollen chest wound), the “bigeminy arrhythmia” began. It felt like my heart was skipping every other beat, pulsing hard and slow in my throat like I was getting incessant jolts of adrenaline. It lasted for hours a day and throughout the night. As the weeks wore on it left me exhausted, immobile, short of breath, and depressed. My weight crept up, and much of my hair fell out. The doc said there was really no cure, just trying different meds to manage it. I did my best to smile for my family, but I couldn’t see how I could go on living like that. I didn’t want to die, but I was bereft of any comfort or consolation.
Then, just as quickly as the bigeminy came on, it suddenly disappeared. My only response could be–and still is–profound gratitude. (If you prayed for me, thank you! I’m back to my sassy old self). But the trial left me humbled and with a greater compassion for those who suffer, both physically and morally.
Are you hurting right now? Do you feel–like I did–that God has abandoned you? Know that God loves you more than you can fathom, and He has plans to work all of this for your good–and the good of others, too (Rom. 8:28). As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, one of the greatest tragedies is wasted suffering. Let’s not waste these opportunities to unite our burdens to the cross of Christ as a powerful prayer for others.
Hold on, my friends. God desires your ultimate good, and he will not allow you to suffer without providing the grace for the day–all you need do is humbly ask and receive (“Give us this day our daily bread…”). The Lord is very close.
In the meantime:
1). Be encouraged. Miracles happen every day. Pray with an expectant faith.
2). Be sure to ask others to pray for you, as well. The body of Christ will lift you up when you don’t have the strength.
3). Praise God in the midst of–and even because of–the trial, making an act of faith that He will work it for the good. This not only gives great glory to God, it guards our hearts and minds against despair. This, too, shall pass, and you will come out purified and stronger on the other end.
“God is close to the broken-hearted; those who are crushed in spirit, he saves.” Ps. 34:18
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:4-7
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” Col. 1:24
“Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
And from Sirach 2: “My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to him and do not leave him, so that you may be honored at the end of your days. Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and the chosen in the furnace of humiliation. Trust him and he will uphold you, follow a straight path and hope in him. You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not turn aside, for fear you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust him, and you will not be robbed of your reward. You who fear the Lord, hope for those good gifts of his, everlasting joy and mercy. Look at the generations of old and see: whoever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? Or whoever, steadfastly fearing him, was forsaken? Or whoever called to him and was ignored? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful, he forgives sins and saves in the time of distress.”
Hold on, dear one. The best is yet to come.
With love in Christ, Kitty
About the Author:
Kitty Cleveland is a Catholic singer-songwriter and inspirational singer from the New Orleans area, where she lives with her musician husband and daughter adopted from China. She is thrilled to be speaking and singing at the upcoming WINE National Catholic Women’s Conference in Philadelphia on October 21, 2017. www.kittycleveland.com