One of my best friends has battled infertility for years. Professionals and relatives have recommended In Vitro Fertilization to help her conceive, but she and her husband felt it wasn’t the Lord’s will. They have tried other body-honoring methods, but they won’t be doing IVF. Recently I chatted with my friend over coffee while she held her baby daughter, adopted at two days old, and teared up at the light shining in both their eyes.
Another friend, a male, battles a longing to be female. He has been advised to transition genders; well-meaning voices in his life have wanted to see his suffering end. But ultimately my friend believed God created him male for a reason and resolved to trust his Creator’s loving plan above his own pain. He was confirmed into the Catholic Church this year.
In today’s reading, Saint Paul exhorts us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:1) I look at the courageous choices of these beloved friends of mine, and those of others I love who are living out hardships like celibacy or hyperfertility, and feel humbled by their trust. I, on the other hand, am committed to Church teaching on the body, but for years it was never a cross I personally had to bear.
That is until this Spring when I sat in the bathroom with a positive pregnancy test and burst into tears. I wasn’t ready for number four, and the timing couldn’t have seemed worse. But as the day went on, I felt twinges of gratitude: I was united to my brothers and sisters who have offered their bodies as a living sacrifice. I finally felt worthy to be counted among them in a faith lived out with physical integrity, even in trial.
Our society values ease and convenience: If you have a problem, find the fastest way to fix it. But what we lose in that exchange is an awareness of the connection between the physical and the spiritual. A life that bears suffering is not what we should most fear—our Lord modeled that for us Himself. Rather we should fear a life so insulated that hardship can’t find its way in; because neither then could grace and love, nor compassion for others. Our bodies affect our hearts: as we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, Christ will be faithful to expand our hearts.
Are you suffering physically or emotionally today? Re-read Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Take courage in opening up yourself to suffering rather than shying away from it. Seek support from the loved ones in your life as you undergo this trial.
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Shannon Evans is a Protestant missionary turned Catholic convert who lived to tell the tale. An adoptive and biological mom of two boys, she enjoys hosing mud off children, scrubbing sticky furniture, and rushing to the ER to have nails extracted from small intestines. You can find out more about her here.