I am reminded of the wonderful weekend I had after my first chemo treatment (which was on Thurs. Jan 13). The infusion itself was mostly painless and my sweet mom stayed with me for that very long day. After that, I think I was so high about getting that first chemo treatment behind me that I was flying for a day or so. I'm sure the doses of steroids helped too. The best part was that I was able to attend a peaceful, though too-brief, retreat with a lot of women from my church...and I would've hated to miss it. Matt & I’ve been a part of this PCA church for 6+ years now and it’s finally like being wrapped in a warm blanket, to look around and see people who are like family to us and others that we’re eager to know. It feels like something special is happening there these days, in that community, and I love being a part of it now more than ever. Our church has been through some tough "stuff" together that should've made us fall apart. But holding on to the truth of the gospel alone, through those devastating relational storms, has been a powerful (dare I say supernatural) experience.
And now that cancer (and the treatment) is making my body weak, I'm trying to relish this tangible experience of God’s strength. The way my church and friends (near and far!) and family are loving on me is one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had. It’s like a compass, pointing me again and again to the way Jesus loved/s. It also gives me a sweet glimpse of the way God wants to temper this ugly, fallen world with a taste of heaven...so I won't grow faint, or lose heart. Witnessing His love from this breathtaking vantage point is exciting! And He keeps sending faithful, selfless, loving angels to hold me up (my husband being one of the biggest!) I find myself hoping that I can be that faithful, that selfless, that loving too! It’s a circular kind of thing, this divine love. When you’re being loved on, you want to give love more. It’s really a perfect system.
Then the enemy comes around and whispers how unfair it is that I should receive so much. That there are so many women I know right now who could use some angels in their lives and a dose of that "loving-on"! Ah yes, my close friend Guilt. But truly, I have friends/sisters, who suffer silently, have problems that are near debilitating life-stresses, and these have not earned _them_ a meal calendar or surprise gifts or tweets of love. I feel bad that cancer should get so much attention when there's plenty of unseen suffering all around. So I’ve made this note-to-self: everyone is fighting a battle, sometimes fighting for her spiritual life. We're all walking wounded. Everyone needs to be loved-on. Don’t forget that. And don't forget to see the angels. Or be an angel. Ever.
Before I had cancer and for a long time I often engaged in futile attempts to yank my life, myself, into complete control so I’d be good enough, and smart enough, so that (doggone it) people would like me. I was near suicidal after a broken engagement at 21 but didn’t want to go to hell. I sought out validation like an addict seeks heroin. By the time I was 26, I was completely burned out with a failed marriage in my wake. (Huge pause of shock and awe that this grad of a Christian college ended up divorced!) Okay...so in my shock and awe I worked overtime to console myself, indulge myself, remake myself, empower myself...in various ways. It was thrilling, powerful, and ultimately empty. I remember striking a deal with God: “Lord, I feel like a fish caught on a line and you’re holding the pole. Give me some slack...let me run with this! Oh, but don’t let me go. I have to get out there, away from you, and figure this out for myself. I’m absolutely sure you’ve been holding out on me. Oh yeah, but don’t let me go.” Talk about futility. I kept swimming round and round in circles, looking for the answer in the midst of whatever the pain, uncertainty, confusion was at the time. What I really wanted was for God to prove He loved me and reel me back in...not LET me get away. Getting it through my head that the battle over my soul was fought long ago, finished, complete, and I couldn’t do a thing but receive that rescue, will be a lifelong process. Thankfully, He is a patient, jealous, merciful God! I have learned this if nothing else.
Which brings me back to the women’s retreat. That particular weekend I really enjoyed being reminded that Jesus beat back my biggest idols because I couldn't possibly! I keep engaging them, true, but that's Eve's fault! (Ha ha.) No really, the fact that I keep stumbling around doesn't change the fact that Jesus is the only one who can and will clean up my self-centeredness, impatience, narcissism, pride, self-righteousness...if I'll just go to Him and trust that He's got me covered. He really suffered for that "privilege" too. Took on separation from his Father on that cross....excruciating loneliness! All so that He could face the enemy and claim me (us!) for Heaven? So He can love on us eternally?
I am overwhelmed with gratitude to accept that rescue...that perfect system! If that's not complete redemption, I don't wanna play. Actually, how can I do anything but fall down at His feet in my unworthiness? My ineffectualness. I could never initiate such a perfect love. Every time I return like a prodigal daughter, He reminds me that He loves me, adopted me, even designed me! And that there is a real veil of tears between the now and the not yet that I'll keep bumping in to on this side of heaven. It'll be okay, if I hold on to the truth. He reeled all of us in with his blood...saved us from a life of legalism that would be impossible to succeed at, or atone for. The omnipotent God of the universe can’t even look at sin! So where does that leave me, because every day I find a way to sin against Him? Without Jesus’ rescue, God can’t even look at me, no matter what song and dance I do to impress Him. That’s just the fact. And if it’s not, then that’s not a god I want to worship. Seriously, if there’s some requirement for a successful performance to secure a ticket to eternal life, forget it! Game over.
But holding on to the truth of The Gospel (and not some dynamic speaker’s idea of it) is tricky and requires community. I've learned that for sure! Prayers help. Love helps. Scripture helps (actually, it's quite necessary.) Things might get worse before they get better. If so, I can only hope it shows me more of heaven. So far, it has. I'm convinced that the best remedy for any suffering is the truth of the gospel because it is alive _and_ it never changes! What else in the world can you say that about? Really. Think about it. I guess that’s why this job of fighting cancer (i.e. "suffering") is actually exciting. And why I believe the best way to do it is to simply practice receiving. Receiving doesn't come easy for most of us. But cancer makes it easier somehow. Just saying "thank you!" for the free gift of life, of love, from the Great I Am, the Lord Most High, God Himself, is the beginning of that perfect, breathtaking system. And why it's the best medicine to take on the road to restored health. On the road to life!
Jer 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."