Days ago this quote came to my inbox: “All the honey that can be gathered from the flowers of this world has less sweetness than the vinegar and gall of Jesus Christ our Lord” (Ignatius of Loyola). Days ago I had a root canal done on tooth #5. Days ago I decided to offer up any suffering associated with said root canal for whoever God needed to use it for. Now, please, do not mistake suffering for lack of medication to alleviate the pain of a root canal. I had medication, plenty of it, because while I was willing to offer up my own personal suffering, as a patient I don’t like to make my dentist suffer anymore than necessary and medication helps us all suffer less.
As I lay there, numb up to my eye I prayed and thought about all those I know and love who suffer due to chronic illness and was able to forget about what was happening to tooth #5. I could put aside the annoyance of the noise of the tools and bad taste in my mouth for a greater good. And as I lay there, mouth wide open, poised to grab the armrests in pain, I was able to let go. To trust that if I was numb up to my eye I wasn’t going to feel pain. I was uncomfortable, sure, but I knew it would pass while simultaneously realizing that for many it doesn’t pass. I could lean into the pain and make peace with it, heck I almost relaxed (likely due to meds).
For a microcosm of a second, there was sweetness in my suffering. And this quote began to make some sense. We know Jesus died for us and his death on a cross was brutal, painful, and humiliating. Yet he did it for me and you, for us. He offered all the bitterness of humanity up to his Father so that we could have eternal life. And there is no greater sweetness.