Even if He does not

You can learn in any number of ways.  But one of the most intense ways to learn and grow is to (either purposely or involuntarily) dive into the depths.  The physical and psychological places where fear originates and persists.  

The past 9 months or so, I was pushed closer and closer to the edge of that precipice with each doctor’s appointment and lab result.  At first I fought, clawing my way back, unwilling to “go there.”  But at some point, I stopped fighting, got up and walked to the edge on my own power and…jumped.  
It was icky down there.  (Not that I’m out of it entirely, now.) Confronting pain, suffering and the distinct possibility of not ever being whole again or even death.  That shadowy place of frightening possibilities.  Of sharp edges and dangerous creatures.  
It’s been a daily battle, to varying degrees, facing whatever lurks in the darkness, while going about my routine of dealing with traffic, workplace adventures and a preschooler who wants to wear the same dress three days in a row.  There’s an over dramatized musical montage in my mind of me slaying beasts with a bloody sword while wearing heels and approving a proposal via cell phone, while ordering a latte at Starbucks, late to pick up my kid from school.  Those were the good days.  Other days, the beasts were kind of winning.  
But that’s where Jesus shows up, right?  Well, not shows up so much as gently clears his throat and waves, reminding me he was here all along.  I kind of picture him looking like Ryan Gosling.  Hey, Girl.  Cheering me on.  Holding my hand.  Cutting a hole in my swollen eyelid like that scene in one of the Rocky movies so I could keep fighting.  Offering rest.  Hope.  Some cucumber water.
I got good news from my oncologist on Friday.  Still waiting for the official word from a radiologist, but my meticulous doctor smiled at the weird gray images of my organs on the screen and said things look good for now.  
What amazing words.  But I find myself wondering if they’re too good to be true.  I hesitate a wee bit to embrace the good news just because I’m pretty familiar with bad news.  But!  Just because I’m not assuming the good news is reliable just yet doesn’t mean anything except that, well, I’m realistic.  I’m not particularly afraid of bad news or convinced the news will be bad.  But I’m not doing the victory dance quite yet.  
This is interesting – some people of faith seem to chastise me a bit when I don’t, say, proclaim that I am healed.  Look, you can do what you want, but that’s not how it works from my perspective.  Sometimes the news isn’t good no matter how much we say we believe it will be.  No matter how much we pray it will be.  Sometimes we need to go through a tough thing.  Sometimes that is God’s will for us.  Saying out loud that God has healed me will not make it so.  Don’t get me wrong, I pray like gangbusters and expect you to, as well.  Prayer is glorious and mysterious and required of us.  And hope is beautiful.  I’m not saying don’t pray and I’m not saying don’t hope – I’m saying this “name it and claim it” stuff is crazy.  You know what’s way more powerful (in my opinion) than trying to (sorry if this offends) manipulate God into healing you?  Trusting Him no matter what.  Trusting Him in the darkness.  I mean…have you read the Bible?  People suffered, yo.  And beauty came from their eternal perspective.  Like, umm, Jesus? And Job.  And Paul.  
I love the passage in Daniel where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are about to get tossed into the fiery furnace and they say (paraphrased) “Our God will save us…but even if He does not…we will not worship you instead of Him.”  Basically they know God can save them, they think He will, but more importantly, they trust Him no matter what.  EVEN IF HE DOES NOT.  To me, that’s real faith.  
Turns out, they get tossed in.  I wonder if they thought maybe God would send angels to scoop them up before they hit the fire.  And when He didn’t…was there an “Oh, crap” moment?  Instead of an angelic air lift rescue mission, into the flames they went.  But they were not burned.  And Jesus (or possibly an angel, depending on your interpretation) was in there with them.  
I’ll probably always wonder if the cancer will come back.  That doesn’t mean I’m not trusting God.  I’m not trusting Him to make my life easy because He never said He would.  I’m trusting Him no matter what crazy thing happens.  


Tomorrow is round 5 of chemo.  That’s not what’s on my mind, though.  Tomorrow I get the results of my CT scan.  Basically we’ll find out if my cancer is spreading or not.  It feels big.  Like I might be plunged into a scarier place than I already am.  

But a good scan this month doesn’t mean I’ll never have a bad one.  People get cancer, get better, and then get it again.  Two years later or ten years later.  Some people have 20 cancer free years and then have a stroke.  Some perfectly healthy person is going to get hit by the bus.  Or bitten by the snake.  Or choke on some Skittles.  
What I’m saying is while I am praying and hoping for good news tomorrow, I’m not putting my hope in scans or news from a doctor.  They matter, of course.  But they aren’t final.  There is always something dreadful to fear if you don’t put your hope and faith in something bigger and better and more significant than any earthly thing.  
I’m tempted to put my hope in the scan results.  I know I’ll feel relieved by good news and scared of bad news.  But I choose to trust God no matter what lies ahead.  I’m not all that good at it, mind you.  My emotions can flail in the wind like anyone’s.  But I come back to the truth that God is worthy of our trust and works all things for our good no matter how outrageously crazy and unfair some things may feel.  He knows more.  He knows better. I’m in His capable hands.  
In the Scriptures He promises “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”  That’s better than the admittedly sought after good news of a clean scan.  Way better.  I want that good news.  I really do.  But what I want more is unshakable faith – to understand who God is so much that no news can undermine my trust in Him.  I’m not there yet, but I’m moving in the right direction.  Are you?

Cancer and Mom Jeans

Do you have any character flaws?

Hahahahahaha.  Of course you do.  Me too.  Lots!  Here are a few:
I enjoy being right a little more than I should
I am stingy toward people I think are foolish
I’m messy to a degree that is impolite
I have numerous double standards
I have the sense of humor of an 11 year old boy at times
I expect people to read my mind 
I often think people should just “suck it up”
I am stubborn and prideful
I buy too many black shirts
I care more about tasks than people when under pressure
I avoid disapproval of those I deeply respect
I am impatient with my daughter
I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Bono from U2 
I judge you if you wear mom jeans

So, one of the things I am prayerful of during this wild ride of being a cancer patient is that these impurities will rise to the surface like those present in gold do, in the fire.  Cancer is the fire.  I’m the gold…granted, a sub-par, bargain basement variety, presently.  The intolerance for mom jeans, for example is the impurity that will rise to the surface to be burned off or scooped out and flung into the pile of arrogance, insecurity, rage, control, cowardice, vanity, etc.  
But how?  How can trials such as this make us better?  
I’m not entirely sure but I do know that knowing God in the midst of the suffering is the key.  Somehow our communion with Him is where it’s at.  
Not what He does or doesn’t do for us.  
Sometimes we think we’ll pray and He’ll answer in the exact way we want and that’s how we know and then our faith is strengthened.  That happens.  Now and again.  But that’s not the fullness of it.  We tend to think of God as this figure who either grants our wishes immediately and in a particular way like a genie or who doesn’t exist at all.  We come to the table with an agenda.  Heal the disease.  Keep me safe.  Free me from pain.  Give me the money.  Make him love me back.  
We can’t handle it that God is so much bigger and wiser and possesses much more full and accurate perspective than we do. Suffering in His presence, seeking to trust His ways, reaching out bit by bit in faith…that’s how it happens.  We see Him at work.  We feel more secure.  Our fears shrink.  Our hope grows.  Our eyes open more, our perspective shifts, our hearts grow bigger and softer.  We begin to desire His will more than our self-centered, immature, limited desires.  Because we begin to understand that even though it’s beyond our finite minds to fully grasp, that somehow, He is always hard at work for our good.