There are two simple truths I have held tightly in my fists over these last couple of years. So tight that at times it felt as though my nails were digging into my skin and making my hands bleed. These truths were so gritty for me because they produced a daunting courage and a tireless faith that I wasn’t expecting. One of these truths being that God’s character is good. The second being I would never leave Him.
The first truth was put to test almost immediately. When I was working at summer camp four years ago I thought I received a promise from the Lord that I was never to deal with cancer again. Since then it has relapsed twice. The second truth was thought to always be a surety but it was also made when I was on the mountain tops enjoying the views of my sugarcoated life. It was cemented when I was on my deathbed in the ICU.
I have absorbed a lot of trauma in the last two years. However, I have not stepped on my soapbox today to wallow. I would like to use these moments together to encourage and enlighten the community which has surrounded me with a radiant passion that showed me the Father’s love when I thought I could no longer feel it. So, settle in and stay awhile as I open this little bruised heart of mine to you.
If the earth were to split open and share a slice of what heaven looks like I believe it would be a big table with lots of chairs and elegant place cards engraved with our individual names. We would gather to feast, to commune, and to share our stories. We would listen as our neighbor told their story. We would cry when they cried and laugh when they laughed. We would enjoy listening. Our minds would’t be distracted by our agenda tomorrow and our eyes would be set on the soul right before us. The drinks would be good, our food divine, and our hearts overflowing.
I received word from my doctor that my preventative treatment wasn’t working and the cancer had come back a third time the day before I left for Paris. I remember my first time seeing the Eiffel Tower, I remember sitting in the middle of Notre Dame in awe of the silent beauty, and I remember sobbing in my bed begging the Lord to not let me go home to more sickness.
When I picture Jesus I see His eyes of fire and I hear His voice of rushing waters. My truest companion has taken many beatings from me. The trust I have in Him comes from the fact that I can sit and have a very real conversation and know that He isn’t afraid of my questions. Even the questions that come from deep rooted seeds of fear and resentment. He digs deep and doesn’t relent. He chips away and severs ties. He is gentle, fierce, and the most solid ground to stand on. He guides and opens doors of favor too great for my little mind to comprehend.
I chose to stop doing treatment when I got back from Paris because it didn’t make logical sense to me to continue doing something that wasn’t helping but was actually hurting me. At this point I was in a tremendous amount of pain every day due to avascular necrosis in my right hip. My body had endured so much chemotherapy that the bone tissue in my hip had died due to a lack of blood flow. I would rely on painkillers to get me through my standing shifts at work and it would take everything in me to just make it home and cook dinner for myself.
The funny thing about faith is that it is like a muscle. When you exercise it every day you are able to build up stamina for things. But when you fail to take care of it, it gets weaker and is not able to bear as much weight. Sometimes you do all the right things leading up to working out your faith. You put on the exercise clothes and you eat the good nutrition but you fail to ever make it to the gym. You go to church and sing the songs your supposed to but you don’t get alone with Him and invite Him into your every day routine. You put on a facade of doing right but there is turmoil and anxiety brewing inside.
I have spent the last two months researching ways to cure an adaptive and aggressive cancer. From diet to groundbreaking clinical trials my world was overwhelmed with confusing opinions and long waits on hold on the phone. I felt as though everyone needed a piece of me but there was nothing left to give. Death was not an uncommon thought but I also daydreamed of the things placed in my heart of what my future could be. So many doors were closed that I felt hopeless and scared. I would fight with doctors and send pleas to clinical trails asking if they would consider caring for a patient above financial compensation. It was daunting.
The Lord was working quietly behind the scenes the whole time. It was as though I was running a marathon with a cancerous body trying to keep up while everything collapsed around me and He was silently stitching together a beautiful story. He tapped me on the shoulder last week when I was at a house church and a lady had discovered my right leg was shorter than my left. She held my legs in her hands and I watched and felt as my leg grew out to be the same length. I stood up and touched my toes. I hadn’t been able to do that in over 6 months. He then kissed me on the cheek when the National Institute of Health called me and told me they would treat me for free. He opened my eyes when He told me He was sending me to Bethesda, Maryland. Bethesda is the name of the healing pool where the sick and dying would gather to wait for the water to move. They would jump in for a chance to be healed. Jesus saw a man that couldn’t fight for himself and told him to get up and walk. He had been paralyzed for 38 years.
I am going to the House of Loving Kindness to be healed. I will live to see my dreams fulfilled. I will gather my neighbors at my table and I will listen to their stories. I will prepare feasts and gather communities. I will be restored. But this is also not the end of struggle in my life. There will be more pain in all the beautiful years I get to share with the earth. So I will hold my truths tightly in my fists and I will open my heart to all of the experiences around me.
I hope you will too.