"What we term suffering is only discipline"

Subject: strange...:"The Guest List

Once again, the timing of your writing amazes me. For many years I have struggled with the concept of suffering. It always seemed to make very little sense to me when people attributed positive spiritual value to suffering, though of course, I know theologically how central it is to the mystery of the Eucharist. It always seemed to me that suffering only reduced the effectiveness of my own ability to pray, to pursue the understanding that I seek with so much of my mind and heart. I have always feared suffering because I thought I could not be as fully present and compassionate to those I love if I was distracted by my own issues.

Those points are somewhat valid, I think. I used them this last weekend in my lengthy arguments with God, but they didn't change His plan for me.

I awoke to find myself back in the hospital for the fifth time in 6 weeks on Saturday. Mike tells me I had a seizure, which lasted for quite a long time, the ER doctor witnessed it this time. I read yesterday that status seizures like that have a 32% mortality rate. The hospital staff tortured me for four days with assorted tests. They are planning to send me to the University of Florida teaching hospital for 3-5 days of more tests in a few weeks.

In the dark of the night I had to face my deepest fears alone. I saw how short life is, and how fragile our hold on it. I realized with startling clarity that I will die. I am mortal. And as if watching a play, every character that appeared at my bedside brought me a message that was an integral part of the lesson I am beginning to learn. When I felt alone and abandoned, the cleaning woman came in to find me crying. She nearly cried herself, and spoke soft and gentle words to comfort me. When I felt so weak that I could not go on another minute, a nurse stopped by to say good-bye for the day, then added that he admired my strength and patience. When I whimpered and whined in my mind, " show yourself to me, Lord." I turned around to see the Eucharistic minister walk into my room to bring me communion.

Physically, I am worn and weaker than I was a week ago, but spiritually I am energized and strong. I called several people to thank them for their prayers, and was told that I sounded joyful. The American symbol of independence and freedom has been taken from me. (I am not supposed to drive till after all my tests, and because of the anti-seizure medication) But I am so free, independent of so many things that used to hold me back. I told a friend of 25 years that I loved them, for the first time this week. Suddenly, I feel compelled to share the story of my own salvation, the miracle that sets us free.

Yes, what we term suffering is only discipline. Discipline is not punishment, thought it might seem like it at the time. This weekend I remembered taking my daughter for her Measles, Mumps and Rubella inoculations when she was a baby. I hated to see her pricked with a needle, she cried, and I cried. She ran a fever the next day. But the pain was required to make her stronger, better able to resist illness, and she has grown up healthy and well. If discipline shows the love of God, them I am dearly loved. Nothing else matters but that love.

You are still in my prayers every day.

JoAnne

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