What’s harder than going through cancer yourself?
Watching another go through it.
And I’m not just talking about the people who pass you by in the hallway, or are in the elevator, or in the hospital waiting rooms with you but the ones you get to know deeply and intimately. (Which, when I always think back, our friendships did start here in these places, these spaces.)
It’s funny because I feel like the tables have been not just been turned, but flipped forcefully, completely broken now, wooden splinters in my hands now.
I’m always the one telling someone that I have cancer, that my cancer has returned. I’ve never been the friend receiving the news.
Today, I’m that recipient-friend.
I hung out with a brother-survivor. He is my brother is the fullest of senses, of true realities. We are bonded not just by diagnosis or chemotherapy drugs or medications but by the Spirit that is in us both. We are His chosen son and daughter. And I am so grateful for how many times my brother reminds me of this Ultimate Truth in light of my cancer, of these circumstances. His heart is of a preacher heart for sure, strong and certain of the promises given to us by our Father. I am grateful for his heart.
Over pizza he tells me that recent scans suggest that something, something is growing inside of him. What? WHAT?! I hope my eyes don’t flash and project all of the thoughts from rage to saddness to frustration for this man of God in front of me.
(So this is how my friends and family felt the first, second, third time I told them. I could read your eyes, screens projecting emotions to me, but here I am now being speared by your exact thoughts, sharp arrows into my heart, my faith, my soul, oh. Oh friends and family, I know.)
He doesn’t even have to say the questions and thoughts he’s experiencing. I know them. You see, I’ve been scaling down, downward into the caverns of my heart, of my faith, with only a Light in hand, looking intently at the stalactite and stalagmite questions of my soul. Worry drip, drips from within, creating stalagmite questions—
How do I prepare for the future?
How do I keep moving forward in relationships?
Brother-survivor, I don’t even know of these answers fully as I sit and meditate with the Light in hand, trying to observe closely the rock, wanting to understand it too.
Dear brother-survivor, I both hate and am grateful that I have gone ahead of you in the path down, down the caverns of our hearts to sit and study these questions, alone and quietly in the cave with only Him as my nature guide, the Ultimate Nature and Trail/Trial Guide who can (remember!) explain the intricacies of the formation/questions/doubts of our hearts.
I pray desperately that you don’t have to travel down the cave with me, back onto the cancer journey with me, but that you are stopped at the mouth of the cave, only having to peer in from it there, because it’s not actually cancer.
If you have to come down, if the Trail Guide leads you there, you will find me only a few steps ahead of you.
I promise, I will sit next to you as you ponder, observe, study your stalactite/stalagmite questions and together we will ask the Guide to explain the formations to us, waiting for Him to open his mouth when he so choses. He knows the correct timing.
The Nature Guide is chosing to speak tonight:
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
This is hard to listen to Teacher Guide. I want to get up and run away (but to what: darkness? away from the Light?) I know, I know that I’ve sat under this lesson before, but today is testing my heart-belief in it. And I know that is the only way to solidify the deep, deep spiritual truths to be firmly planted in the dirt hearth of my soul. But this gardening lesson is hard.
I am saddened by this news. Deeply, from the soul. Holy Spirit within me is weeping alongside me, I feel it. Yet as He hands me handkerchief like my own father does, He whispers in my ear: there is hope.
I lean into Him closely to clearly hear the sliver-whisper: there is hope.
there is hope.