I lay in bed, but the room continued to spin. I shut my eyes and stayed as still as I could. I was a prisoner of my illness, unable to leave the bed, the room or the house unless someone else came to help me.
I thought of Jesus, laying in a ciborium, locked in a tabernacle, often by Himself, unable to move unless someone came to get Him. “Why would you choose this, Lord? Who would choose this?”
During the homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, I began to feel itchy in my throat. It was odd. It felt like an allergic reaction, even though I hadn’t eaten anything. By Wednesday, my throat was terribly sore. And after our Saturday Family Game Night, I was so unsteady I needed help from my husband and daughter to hobble to the bathroom. “Why can’t I walk?” I asked them in an increasing panic.
In the morning, my four-year old asked me for a cup of water and I pulled myself across the floor with my hands. I managed to quickly grab a cup from the drying rack and told her she had to fill it herself as I lay back on the cold floor and tried to quell the intense nausea. I wasn’t dying, but this situation was debilitating.
At the emergency room (with normal results for a CT scan, urine test, blood test, EKG and the MRI scan that took three doses of Valium and a nurse yelling at me before I would go into that horrible contraption of claustrophobia), I was told I probably had a viral inner ear infection that causes balance and vision problems. The ear, nose and throat doctor confirmed that the next day as I slumped over a pillow in a wheelchair my husband borrowed from our church.
For two weeks, I mostly lay in bed, unable to lift my spinning head. My husband took over my duties with the children and household. He also had to take over the duties of my own bathing and dressing. I thought of the words of Saint Paul: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (2 Corinthians 11:30).” But in human terms, weakness is not enjoyable. Being weak is not usually something people want.
Who would choose this? On purpose? And my thoughts turned to the One who did.
I marveled in contemplation of Jesus, waiting for the priest to lift Him in the form of bread in the Eucharistic prayer. “Why would you choose this, Lord?”
He is perfectly capable of getting out of a locked door. I’ve read about it. He did it with the Apostles after His Resurrection (John 20:19). He is perfectly capable of flying away. I read about how He did that at the Ascension (Acts 1:9). But Jesus stays in the tabernacle, lying helpless in a ciborium behind the door. This limitless God waits for the humans His Father created to remove Him at the time those humans appoint. He waits for them to come visit, either to cry over their problems or just to keep Him company. He didn’t just choose weakness on the Cross. He chooses it every day.
I lay in bed, the time filled with sleep or prayer because watching DVDs and reading books was nauseating. I considered how Jesus, a voluntary prisoner of the tabernacle, is filled with humility, patience and trust. He lets His Father care for Him, bringing people at the right time to talk to Him, to care for His needs, to bring Him out into the world.
How much more difficult it is for humans to be humble, to be patient and to trust. I lay in bed, trying to offer up the wait for food or other things as my overwhelmed husband worked to balance my needs with the children, the FMLA paperwork, a car disabled placard and his own needs. I have never appreciated the sacrament of matrimony more than in that experience. I was helpless and the world went on because God worked through my husband.
After a time, my parents drove in to cook, clean, buy groceries, take us to daily Mass and help distract my children who were worried and bored. My parents are good at care giving. They’ve done it longer than I have. I have never appreciated parents as much as I did then.
I was greatly humbled by friends who came to visit or gave me words of support. They showered me with love through gifts, prayers, watching my girls, driving us to piano lessons, housekeeping, dinners, coffee, pickles, cheesecake and cupcakes. I have never appreciated my friends more.
And I was greatly humbled by the Eucharistic Jesus, who came to visit. Even though He can fly if He wants to, He rode in a pyx in the car of my neighbor and friend who leads the homebound ministry. How profound for Jesus to come under my actual roof. I have never appreciated more the gift of receiving Jesus and worshiping in community.
My exercise in being incapacitated led me to need people’s help in ways I probably would have never allowed if I were well. And because of this, I was loved in ways that were deeper than I have ever allowed. I pondered how Jesus in the form of bread gains more of our love through His vulnerability and weakness, as we are called to treat Him with greater charity, gentleness and reverence. Jesus asks us to be humble, patient and trusting, so He continues to model that 2,000 years after He proclaimed a blessed and broken loaf to be His Body.
Eight weeks after my initial sore throat, I finally had enough balance and regained enough of my atrophied muscle to go for a short walk near my house. I pondered the Lord being trapped in the tabernacle and inspiring more love than if He were free. “Lord, You can do more from the tabernacle than You can out in the world. Truly, You do more with weakness than strength.”
“…for power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9