The Thorn in My Side


July 30  

Ask something of me and I will give it to you (1 Kgs 3:5).

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Rm 8:28).

As I prepared for this Sunday’s readings, I kept coming back to these two lines of Scripture. It was not until the middle of the night that I understood why.

I woke up and thought to argue this one through.

Seriously, what I have been going through all these many months is my thorn in my side? You mean like Saint Paul?

I had always thought of Saint Paul’s thorn in his side as being physical suffering—perhaps imagining a real thorn. This child-like interpretation stuck with me, although I realized there were spiritual ramifications.

The thorn in my side arrived rather dramatically less than a year ago. I made a move towards forgiveness and reconciliation amongst my children that ended up being premature. Amazingly, and for the first time in my life, there was no getting the genie back in the bottle. An ember of hurt and destruction became a wildfire. When the heat and smoke diminished, all that was left were two camps.

This thorn has me crying every day (though hidden). It has affected a loss of desire to read and study. I am still shell-shocked that this could have happened in my family: shocked because the one consistent drive from me to my fourteen children has been no division. And yet, that has become the thorn in my side.

It is painful. It is heartbreaking. It is like a fog enshrouding my soul, a constant threat to my peace. It confuses me. It renders me helpless. It isolates me from those I love the most. It is lonely. It seems like it will last forever; perhaps it will have the final say . . . and then I will be gone.

At first, I was prideful—no way was this going to dominate my family. I was the mother. I had the responsibility to raise them up, even if they were all adults. Always a mother.

And while some of these thoughts are true, the Truth was what the soul-searching God asked of me. Where had I let the kids down? It became clear: the times I was consumed on the search-and-rescue mission for the lost one. The times I didn’t permit—and therefore did not listen to—the heartache of the kids who were affected in various ways. At those moments I judged them to be hard-hearted, stubborn, and unforgiving, and still I would not listen to their responses. All of this led some of them to feel abandoned and to believe I was not trustworthy.

I decided to approach the ones who were estranged and to individually ask for forgiveness. Not for the lost one and the years of turmoil, but for my absence, my judgementalism, my withdrawal of love and affection. I still have one more to go.

The Lord has given me a thorn. He has also given me the hope and love to believe that all of this will work for the good. We as a family will get through this chapter, and each of us will take the gifts the Lord has bestowed. For some it will be wisdom, for others it will be experience that will help them on their journeys. For me it will be more tears than I knew I had, which lands me on the doorstep of my Father God. He will take care of all, not me.

For all things work for good for those who love God.

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  • Wow. I’ve been feeling alone for the past two hours. Reading this, I feel consoled and loved, cared for, not alone, in solidarity with you and all mothers seeking the Lord.

    • Hello Catherine, I so appreciate the solidarity…I get the alone-ness which is different from lonely. So to be reminded that “we” are mothers- together- is a holy balm. God Bless, gail

  • Gail, I couldn’t read your post fast enough…I was enthralled. I have my own pains and divisions. Yours seem more serious, more painful. I have 6 children, you have 14. For you humbly and honestly to lay your horrible experience before us is such a gift because it helps me re-scale my own. And if YOU can find resolution in Romans 8:28 then surely I can too. I cannot express the faith-building and hope-giving impact of your words on me this morning. I’m so glad I get to carry you and your witness in my heart to Mass this morning. I will pray for you! Thank you!

  • I think that’s normal in a large family. People feel neglected and over looked. I mean it’s only 2 adults and 14 children.most times the family has a set of children and the. Another set whom are younger and the older ones feel abandoned. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself .the children we raise our #1 goal is our responsibility to instill the word of God.These are Gods children ,not our own.

    • Dear San Antonio parishioner,
      Thank you do much for your response. I agree it is normal in a large family to have 2 sets of ages…and the older ones are apt to comment “Wow! That would never have happened when we were younger!” And that is actually a good thing. As parents we grow as well, we learn from our mistakes, and we get better as time goes on dealing with particular issues. We also encounter issues we never had before. It is all part of God’s economy. I do not agree that the older ones feel abandoned, at least mine did not. And I don’t agree that it would necessarily be normal in a large family for one to feel neglected and overlooked. Why? Because it is not about the numbers it is about relationship and living life in the Spirit. It is true, there were nights when my head hit the pillow and I remembered a thing undone, or a need that was unmet. But there were many moments of looking at my children and being in aware at their capacity to give to each other and to care for one another. In our family we all worked hard to instill the Word of God. And, whether child or parent, to live that Word. This looked like lots of love and forgiveness, fighting and playing, laughing and crying…and tons of praying. We also have lived the ups and downs of our humanity. And this is why I do not feel pressure, I feel heartache. It is yearning for the souls of all may children to know and live the love of their merciful Father. God bless you.

  • With all my heart, thank you for your vulnerability and for everything you shared. May God bless you abundantly .

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