Maundy Thursday, the day before the bloodletting, and I knew I was in for some pain of my own. I had only been at this church for a few months and here I was, preparing for the busiest week in the Christian calendar and I was about to get walloped by all the hormones. I was also coming to the surprisingly hurtful conclusion that I was now fully entering the menopause phase of my life. All those years of praying for my period to come, not come; repeating that cycle over and over and here I was looking into the mirror and thinking what I always thought, “Why today?” These things never happen on our schedule.
I stood there for a moment, holding onto the counter and feeling sorry for myself. This was a new congregation and I needed to impress them. Unlike my mother’s gentle experience, menopause has been coming in like a wrecking ball for me. What once had been a minor interference that was over in 3 days had lately become a serious blood sport lasting a full week at minimum. I have a group of women preacher friends who connect daily via Facebook Messenger and I shared the now well known to them Gif of the elevator doors opening in The Shining. If you have seen the movie you remember the scene. Danny Torance has a vision of the door of the elevator opening to release a flood of blood that sweeps towards him in a raging rapid, smashing against the walls and moving inexorably closer. My Gif was immediately answered with comments like,
Ugh indeed. Worse than the copious blood loss was the insidious exhaustion. I have never been this kind of tired. Not when I was pregnant and not even as I was experiencing a miscarriage. This exhaustion insisted I go back to bed and stay there for at least a week. But we women, we do not simply go back to bed. I have often been amazed at just how easily people judge women as the lesser because we bleed each month. While we bleed we still get up and go to work. Women around the world get up and get their work done day in and day out and often while their entire body is rebelling against them. And yet we are weaker sex? Hardly.
After my little pity party began to wind down I started seeing this in a slightly different light. My focus shifted from “why me?” to “what do I need to get through this?” At times like this I would sit back, take stock of what was on my to do list and balance those needs with the needs of my body. I was looking at four services over the next four days not including all the prep and fellowship time that came with them. My child still needed to get to and from school and my husband was caught up with his own duties. As I began to understand that the next four days were going to be long and difficult I realized something else. Something that, strangely perhaps, brought me incredible peace.
Over the next four days I would be in pain and bleeding just as Jesus had been in pain and bleeding.
The second realization, that what I was about to go through was so insignificant compared to what Jesus had endured, made me laugh out loud and the fog of woe is me misery finally lifted. But still I found comfort in the thought that the next four days, four days to relive the torture, murder and resurrection of Jesus, I would be bleeding with him.
The constant ache in my belly would remind me of what He suffered so that I might have eternal life.
The exhaustion I felt as I went about my work would bring my thoughts to the extreme exhaustion He felt when He stumbled beneath the cross He carried for me.
The relief I felt as the symptoms gave way echoed the release he would have felt as he broke His earthly tether, just for a little while.
I honestly do not remember much about those four days. I was so busy and in such pain that I simply moved from service to service but I do remember the feeling that Jesus was right there. Next to me. Behind me. Sitting in the Sanctuary. It gave me an odd kind of comfort to know that my pain echoed His, however faintly.
For four days I accepted whatever happened to me and learned a deeper love for the man I have built my life around. I felt the fringes of His cloak swirling around me as I moved from place to place, speaking the familiar words and praying the heartfelt prayers. His fringes swept lightly across my forehead, soothing the heat there and wiping away the sweat. Those fringes tickled my nose and made me laugh, waking me up and giving me the strength to move on.
No, these things never happen on our schedule but they do happen on God’s. And God knows what God is doing. I felt a connection to my Saviour that Holy Week that I had never felt before. Menopause had become a way to grow nearer to my God and I give thanks for that. I can still feel the gentle touch of that fringe as it reminded me I was never alone and my pain, this pain at least, was fleeting. I am grateful for that constant reminder of what my God suffered. I am grateful I was reminded to be humble and thankful. I have a feeling I will be receiving such reminders off and on for the rest of my life.