I happen to experience the dreaded week before my period, PMS, very acutely. So much that I have learned to plan around it.
Hormones do not affect all women the same. There are women completely unaffected by their monthy cycle, and plenty of (male) preachers teaching that it is all in our head. I know for a fact that hormones do very real things to our bodies which we cannot control; it was hormones which caused my body to react so violently to each of my pregnancies, resulting in uncontrollable vomiting known as hyperemesis. It was also hormones which triggered my body to grow these three amazing children. Obviously, hormones are capable of some unpleasant but mostly miraculous things.
The way that hormones affect me on a smaller level, monthly, is just as real. On these weeks everything is different; I smell things I don't normally smell, my body aches, I experience insomnia. I retain water and gain a couple pounds.
I am even more aware of what is happening to me mentally. This is the week when I forget things, my mind is foggy, I can't plan or concentrate, I make simple, annoying mistakes.
And bigger than all of that is the emotional change during this week. On this week everything hurts. I can be weepy or anxious over small things, easily bruised, sad for unexplainable reasons.
I have found redemption in even this. In fact I now think of this as my most spiritual week.
It is a time to weep.
We are created for joy but in this world that is not yet made new, there is plenty to grieve.
Physically, pms occurs after ovulation. An egg has been released but was unfertilized resulting in death. I have come to think of pms as our body grieving over death. And maybe too this week we grieve for all loss, for all disorder and conflict, everything that is fallen or broken, out of harmony with the Giver of Life.
I have learned to lean into my grief this week, to allow myself to feel the hurt that is in the world, to weep with those who weep.
It is a time of weakness.
I am so very aware, this week, of my helplessness. I feel out of control- my mind, my emotions, my body- so very weak and wounded, acting and reacting in ways that I hate.
Prayer, Tim Keller says, is helplessness. And maybe, helplessness is prayer.
This week I find myself falling before God more regularly, more desperately. I know- I know, know, know- that I am incapable of any good apart from Him. Which is, of course, true of every week, but easy to forget or not fully believe in my stronger weeks.
When I am weak, then I am strong. This becomes my mantra during PMS week, my constant prayer.
It is a time of repentance.
This week, I am exposed. Even if no one knows but me, even when I am able by God's grace to possess self-control, I know what is in my heart. The week unearths ugliness and sin that other weeks I can gloss over or sweep under the rug. I am wretched, helpless, undone. Who shall deliver me from this body of death?
And then, when I am at the end of myself, in my great weakness, there is cleansing, renewal . . . salvation.
Every month, twelve times a year, I relive the gospel. My ache and need, my grief for all that is not as it should be, my utter helplessness and sin, my great need of salvation.
I fought shame and guilt for many years, but now I think of PMS as an offering, a spiritual journey, a form of prayer.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.