…is an unusual word for this passage from Paul, yet it is the one word that I believe best sums up its meaning.

I recently had a mammogram, and the very next day, I received a call from my doctor’s office informing me that more images were necessary. As I sat in the waiting room with the other women who received similar calls that week, I realized that we were all struggling with the reality of our situations. Some of us were going to learn that we had a battle to fight, ready or not.

As luck would have it, I was reading the chapter on “Surrendering to the Future” in James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything. In this chapter, Martin explains how his spiritual mentors helped him come to terms with his reality and to accept it for what it is. Paul’s words about readying for battle read the same to me. Instead of a triumphalist tone in the passage, I hear resignation. In today’s language, he’s saying, “This is the situation, and we have to deal with it, like it or not.”

Fortunately for me those additional images confirmed that the suspected tumors were actually tiny lymph nodes. While I was trying to make sense of my situation, I asked my spiritual director, “How does one surrender to such a reality?” I received the wise and simple answer—together. Battles are not fought alone.

—JoEllen Windau-Cattapan is the Atlanta area director for the Contemplative Leaders in Action, a program of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality, USA Northeast Province.