“It’s a gray day,” an old Scottish cobbler once replied, “Yes, but didn’t ya see the patch of blue?” Ah, I’m here to admit that last week, I lost the blue patch. I’m sure you have before too. Thank goodness, these lines in my devotional, Streams in the Desert, served to remind.
Last week I lost my balance. A close family member was struck down with a sudden and life threatening affliction. Uncertain, indeterminate. A week of tests revealed some physical changes that may or may not account for the problem and as we waited for answers, I crumbled. My own diagnostic tests were scheduled for the same week. I was not so much concerned for the results for I had been told my inflammation was shrinking and changing in size and density. Thank you for your belief. But I was very concerned about the actual mammogram itself. How am I going to put my thick, inflamed, painful breast between two pieces of plastic and let them pull the trigger? My dread increased as the week progressed.
And still nothing definitive about my cousin. My anger grew, my indignation mounted and more and more I became the source of my own frustration and suffering. My neighbor was struck down by a stroke and died in three days, I envied her sudden and definitive departure. As we walked toward the church and her funeral, a woman passed, screaming on her cell phone. I felt outrage all over. What is this woman doing on the street screaming, I thought darkly. She looks so stressed, so angry, so out of control, surely she should be the one with cancer. Choose somebody else this time, Lord. Choose somebody else, not me, I pleaded, out loud, so ungraciously. As if I could pass this on, slip a few fingers under my right breast and lift this painful growth, so vigorously inserted into my body, mind and spirit.
“Out, out damned spot.” Lady MacBeth mourns her evil deed, beseeching blood to leave her robe as her now delusional thinking exposes her very own hand in the killing of the King. Out out damned spot, I say as well. But this time not with patience and understanding but urgency and insistence. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” It doesn’t say, however, blessed are they that are angry, blessed are those that hold harsh judgments against others, that they will be blessed with peace and the ease of well being. Seeking comfort, I only served to agitate.
Even Job in his long suffering, while never condemning God or forsaking his love for Him did wonder. Remember? And his friends wondered with him. Forsake this God who has cursed both you and your family so that you may be released from this life he has foisted upon you. You have the power to free yourself from your infirmities. But Job stood fast in his devotion to God, never forsaking the Sovereign Lord who gave him life. The Infinite One who controlled every aspect of his illness, his family’s illnesses and his financial ruin.
Last week I was questioning. Angrily, I denounced my ability to fit into this world, to find peace in this illness. Searching through my encounters with others for someone to blame, someplace to rest my angry breast. Pleading please, God please, let me turn and walk away from this trial. Stop these endless diagnostic workups that look for changes. Twelve more weeks of infusions to end in surgery followed by radiation followed by more diagnostic workups looking for what where and then what. I won’t be this person. I won’t take this cancer. I won’t allow my life to be shattered by this monster that stings me like a scorpion especially at night but is invisible to all. This cancer robs my energy so that I can barely load one washer of laundry. Leaves me lying on the sofa, examining my day’s activities and coming up short again. And now another family member lies in-hospital, waiting. I certainly won’t sit by while another friend and family member gets struck down too. But in the end of course I will, won’t I? Sit by, meditate on pain and the suffering of myself and others, sit on my cushion and pray for equanimity. Pray to hold my suffering gently with love and release the judgments that light a fire in my belly and hurt no one but me.
Liberty also came in the form of a book by Toni Bernhard, How to be Sick. The first sentence in the second chapter, the first Noble Truth. Life is suffering. How easy it is to forget what you already know, especially when you really need it. And as I read this simple phrase, a dramatic shift in perspective occurs. A long and much needed exhalation, relaxed my chest and changed my position. Life is suffering. And where there is happiness there will be suffering. But also where there is suffering there will be happiness. If I let it find me. If I let it be.
Happiness is having coffee in the mornings with my husband who stays with me now instead of rushing off to work. Happiness is having my daughter hold my hand and read the 91st Psalm, as the nurse pushes Cytoxin. Happiness in receiving Snap-chats from my sons, holding my beloved dog or making crazy faces. Happiness is my dog snuggling beside me when I am too weary to leave the sofa. Happiness in email inquiries from friends encouraging me and praising my last blog post. Happiness in writing about the Holy Spirit that lifts me up through the prayers of hundreds of friends when I am too weak to lift myself. Happiness in walking around my garden when I can’t walk down the street. Happiness happiness happiness.
I find in order to live I must cast aside my judgments, my fears of tests results and the future. Through our disasters, we dance with joy and sing praises. We find grace in our trials and our tribulations when we look and look once more. My own life is sweet and yes, made sweeter by this strange malady. My family is closer and my friends read the Bible and pray in concert, blessing me and sending vibrations of love and light, earnest pleadings for healing. A friend uses music and touch to bring healing light to my body. And so on forever the tidings of great joy come without ceasing.
I tell you the story of my bitter anger not so you will judge me but so that you will see me as human. Joining so many others who have lifted the cry, not me Lord, not this, not now. Changing as soon as possible the refrain to one of contentment, thank you Lord, thank you for this moment, this peace, this well being and love, this release from all suffering, this freedom from fear. Thanks for this little patch of blue shining so strongly out of the gray.