How do you live your life when you literally don’t know what the next day holds? Will I be at work on Wednesday or will I be in Seattle? Should I say yes to that invitation for brunch this coming Saturday morning? Should I call to set up a date for our friends to come over for dinner? Should I do my errands today or the laundry or should I set everything aside and spend the day at the park doing Allistaire’s favorite things because it may be her last day at home? What should I make for dinner tonight – what if it’s our last dinner together? Should I insist that Allistaire walk up the stairs herself or should I carry her as she demands? Every choice feels weighty, but little feels weighty enough because time passes regardless; there is no stopping the future from becoming the present, the unknown from becoming known. The afternoon sun sits average in the sky, nothing to mark this day as any different from the rest. I sit in my chair by the window, the house quiet again as Allistaire is taking her nap, Solveig is in school and Sten is at work. The only sound is the rushing wind in the trees and the creaks of the door, giving under the pressure of the invisible force. I know that it is entirely possible that today is the very last day that we might all four be together, living a fairly normal life. I feel foolish and melodramatic to say it, but I have also seen enough to know it may be truth. We are having chocolate chip and apple pancakes for dinner tonight and I hope I can enjoy it and not simply cry. Logic tells our brains that life as we know it, is always vulnerable to change – how in a flash it can all be different. We have all heard countless stories that inform us that this is true, yet here in our midst is this pervasive reality that infiltrates all the hours of our life. This truth, that we can neither know or control the future, has settled heavy into our depths. We lug this reality into every day from the first opening of my eyes in the darkness of early morning, throughout every activity of the day and, there, it lies beside me at night. Try as I might I cannot make it go away; I cannot pretend not to see it and I catch on it and my heart snags over and over. Joy feels constantly counter-balanced by sorrow. Every delight reminds me that I may no longer know it, it might be whisked away.
I want so much to say that I know today, perfect rest and peace. I want to say that in these past 14 days, sorrow and fear have been defeated. An hour has not passed that I have not wrestled, wrestled with my God, pleading, bargaining, submitting, resting and then crying out again. There is no good outcome if Allistaire’s cancer is back. Even if her life is spared, there will, nevertheless, be great cost. But I am oddly comforted in this, Christ Jesus was said to be a man of sorrows. He looked sickness and death and poverty and betrayal and evil in the face and called it wrong, declared it to be other than as things should be. He did not overlook these woes, nor did He falsely call them good. He was a man who wept and whose heart knew compassion. The truth is, He came into this world to undo them, to put an end to them and, most amazingly, to transform them. And Jesus’s sorrow was not only for the pain experienced by others outside of Himself, but it was also for the horror of what God the Father called Him to do. I keep circling back around to seeing Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have felt shame for my breaking heart, as though knowing God should make me impenetrable to the pains of this life. Nothing could be further from the truth. For as I peer into the Garden on that night, I am told that Christ literally sweat blood in His anguish, in His troubled Spirit. He bowed before the Lord God and asked if “this cup” might be taken from Him. He did not run joyfully to the cross, nor did He approach it stoically with no emotion. He was in great anguish and asked the Lord to take away this reality. I am not Christ and yielding my life and Allistaire’s life to God is not anywhere near bearing the sins of the world, yet, yet, I know great anguish, and I ask the Lord to not let this be, please have mercy and allow this to pass me by.
This is not the end of the story of Gethsemane though. Each time Jesus asked God the Father to take this cup from Him, He also said, not my will, but your will be done. While He was in tremendous turmoil in His heart and He repeatedly asked God for another reality, He also repeatedly submitted, yielded, acquiesced to the will of His Father in Heaven. In the ultimate way, He trusted His Father and saw Him as good and out of that vision of His Father, He yielded, He laid down His life in obedience to what He was called to. The peace I have on this afternoon is drawn out of the vision of my Father. I know that tonight could be the last night I put Allistaire to bed in her crib in her room at our house. Tonight’s dinner could be our last dinner the four of us share in this house. I might not see the passing of winter at our house this year. Tonight might be my last night to lay down to sleep in my own bed for a very, very long time. I may have already picked Solveig up from the bus stop for the last time for months and months. I am in anguish as tomorrow approaches. I am keenly aware of our possible loss. And yet, right next to my sorrow, side by side, sits weighty my hope in the Lord, the yielding of my will to His will. God does not call Allistaire’s sickness or her possible death good…but…He is the God of resurrection, He is the God of Redemption, He is the God of Transfiguration, He is the God who breathes life into the lifeless, who turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, who purifies the ragged refuse of our hearts and make us clean, who took the five loaves of bread and the three fish and fed tens of thousands, He is the God who brought the Israelites out of slavery, He is the God who breaks the bars of our slavery and allows us to walk with heads held high, He is the overcoming God, He is eternal and His purposes are eternal and His ways are eternal and far beyond and way, way out into the far-flung universe and beyond is our God. He is the God who dwells in darkness because He turns it into light. The future I fear looming before me is not static. I cannot see beyond the edge of the horizon but there is an eternal landscape of glory and beauty and fullness of life and it is there, even if at this present time I cannot see it. There is horror before me and it seems that my insides might split open under the weight of it, but I bend my knee, I yield, I yield, I go low and I wait, I wait on the Lord. I am looking at my God of transfiguration, who in the long view of all of this will bring life, even out of death and bounty even out of loss.
Allistaire may be perfectly fine and I pray she is. She may not be. I have not yet fully learned the practice of walking in fullness of rest with the Lord. I still wrestle; I still know turmoil, but like Jacob, I will not stop, I will not stop calling out to the Lord to bless me. Make your face known Oh God! Make my face radiant because I behold you! Be faithful to all your promises – for your name’s sake!
Thank you for all of your prayers – for all of them -and for the many beloved sisters in Christ I have only recently come to know – I love that I am bound to you and you to me. I know we are surrounded on all sides by those that love us dearly and cherish Allistaire. I know that you all form a great wall of strength and love around our lives. And yet, I have to say, I am so thankful that there is yet greater hope, there is yet greater strength and love to appeal to! I am not reliant on “positive thoughts,” to see us through, nor on science and amazing medicine. I am utterly indebted to these, yet I need more, ever so much more to carry us through.
“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He and I will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you, I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:3-4
This is a video of our simple happy life I am so inexpressibly thankful for: