Benedictions of Peace
When I was first diagnosed few things stand out in my mind more than a feeling of being torn open, tender and raw. Those initial months I thought the tears would never stop flowing. I spent nearly every breath pleading with the God of possibility for a way out. I formed a mantra that went something like this.
Please don't let me die.
Please consider my children.
Please don't break my heart.
I could literally see the cliff that I was about to fall off of and I begged God a thousand times for a bridge that would lead me across to more of this life.
Finding out I had stage four cancer and realizing my life here was probably going to be shorter than expected was like looking down at myself from the ceiling of the emergency room and watching as I stepped up to the precipice. There were only two things I was aware of, The before diagnosis and the after diagnosis. And I guessed it would be like that for always.
Time froze as I realized that this disease would unravel everything I had ever wanted, worked towards and hoped for the future. My soulmate, my devoted parents and sister, my two beautiful babies, my extended family, my life sisters, my graduate work, and my passion of walking alongside the children and families that meant so much to me. I pictured all of it carefully tucked into a large sheet, tied up and heaved onto the altar with nothing left but to strike a match.
I didn't know it at the time but the after of my dim prognosis would, VERY SLOWLY, become a bit of a surprise. Sort of like discovering a secret to the universe that only few get to experience. I've realized that this is the part of life everyone desperately wants to skip. It probably explains all the curiosity, questions and stares I get on a daily basis.
Sort of like, Whoa, look at that girl without any hair. I wonder if she's sick. She looks sick. But she's so young. That must be terrible. I wonder what I would do if I got cancer. I would lose everything I love. Oh man, I do not want to think about that. (Runs in the other direction.)
But maybe it's the most important part.
Maybe it's the part that makes us who we really are supposed to be.
Maybe it forces us to trust in a God who will strip us naked and then clothe us with Life.
Isn't it true that life always begins in the dark. It is inescapable.
Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us that whether it's a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in a tomb, we must learn how to BE in the dark to find our purpose. I can't help but think of Jonah spending three days in the pitch black belly of a fish, just waiting to see what God was going to do with him. Psalm 46 has become one of my life lines during this battle because it reminds me to hope in the light on the other side of all these shadows.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
When morning dawns. Not when the first sign of night falls but after the path of darkness has been traveled.
It has taken me almost three years of ugly crying, wrestling, questioning, calling out, tuning my ears, applying my heart, reflecting on God's promises, studying his poetry, searching for wisdom, and gasping for breath to even glimpse the peace that passes understanding.
It was an embattled peace from the very beginning.
Like Job I've questioned God but deep inside I've also sensed that I have no other option than to follow after Jesus. I've never had a life verse but if I were to choose one it would probably be John 6:68.
After many disciples abandoned him Jesus asks the twelve, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Simon Peter then answers him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." No matter how lost everything seems I know that I have nowhere else to turn. Jesus has given me everything. The treasures hidden in my little plot of land hold incalculable value.
There's just something about getting sick and deciding to put all your chips on the one wild and precious life you're already living. At first I thought it was a curse. How cruel to make me so keenly aware of the weight of beauty around me, only to have it stripped away.
Yet....yet...yet...when I really look around me . I mean really look at the LOVE in my life, I couldn't be more grateful to have been so devastated about losing it all.
I truly believe that God will redeem this path, my pain and the hurt of those around me for His glory and our family's good. Yes, there's a loss of future time in the sense that my limited eyes can see, but my heart has been opened to the inescapable beauty of my right now. It's one of the hardest tensions I've ever known. It's learning to live in Kairos time.
Rebekah in Real Life - Rebekah lives in Oregon
with her two sweet children and amazing husband.