I’m very numb these days. Numb and crumbly. All I want to do is sleep, watch Hulu or Netflix, read, crochet. And with each knot I make with my crochet hook, I’m knotting worry.
Back down in Cincinnati, Dr. P is realizing quickly that I am a stubbornly persistent and annoying patient. I will call you. I will hunt you down. I will fight you over the phone and question you. I am fighting for my life, and I am hoping that the team around me is also doing the same, sometimes I doubt this. And yet, when he removes himself from doctor-speak and his clinical trial colleagues, he reminds me that he is a human who can empathize and see my patient-perspective as well, my impatient patient self.
He knows by now to expect me to call me about every other afternoon at 3pm. I happened to figure out when he will most likely be in his office, and I think he is getting less surprised to have me be on the other end of the line whenever he picks up his phone. I admit, I’m stubborn. He calls it tenacious, says he admires this quality about me. An annoyed-admiration, I am sure! I wonder if he wishes Nick never sent me down there to Cincinnati at times, ha!
While he might be getting annoyed with my calls, I am getting annoyed with the waiting. I am anxious to know if I can be a part of this clinical trial or not. Dr. P is very thorough, and I am thoroughly annoyed by this!
I have had so much focus recently at the medicine, the clinical trials, all of the treatment stuff. I honestly feel more like a cancer patient than I ever have. Ok, so you think I would have felt this way before after having cancer 3 times, but it’s really hitting me now. Maybe its the fact I have to make all of these medical decisions. Maybe I feel like as a young adult now that I have so much more to lose. Maybe its because I finished treatment only a year ago.
I’m so used to having a set game plan to work with, but there is no “game plan.” Nick and I discuss together now as a team with my family which options would be best given that I can’t be a part of the clinical trial. He is no longer directing me but helping me guide to understand all the complex rules of the clinical trial land, which is a whole other different medicinal land that I have never stepped on fully and explored before until now.
How then also do I go to God to be my guide?
I am not a productive human being. I’m not working. I’m not in treatment. The closest thing I get to being “productive” is crocheting, with each stitch I am feeling more accomplished in what?…making a scarf? Oh geez, I am becoming a grandmother.
All I want to do is cry, and yet I can’t most of the time.
I’m a crumbly person these days.
I feel like I can crumble at any moment before you, but at the same time I don’t want to.
I hate being a crumbly person, and I can’t even hide it, the cracks in my personality, the chips that I am leaving.
I hate being crumbly, because if and when I crumble, I feel like there will be nothing left of me to give. If I crumble, I wonder if I, Jenna, still be there in front of you? Or is there really just the emptiness inside me that I feel all of the hallows of the caverns of my soul that you will finally look and see that its dark, dark indeed and there is really nothing there. Empty.
I’m afraid that if you walk into those caves of my soul, I will crumble around you and you will be trapped here with me, hard rock thoughts that seem so solid around me, around now us and the small cavern streams will start flooding us with tears.
I’ve been having a hard time accepting my crumbliness, my neediness, my brokenness. I literally want to cave in and be nothing. And at the same time, some small spark of Jenna-stubbornness hates thinking that way and detests it. She’s also somewhere small in these deep and dark caves, wanting and knowing that I must take time to strategically mine my mind because of the only way out of this mess is to go in and explore.
And yet, there is a small-whisper Spirit wind that also dwells in these caves, and it’s honestly the smallest and most annoying whisper that I want to ignore—
2 corinthians 4
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side,but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Oh yes, I get that I am a jar of clay because this clay body of mine is crumbling. And I am feeling all of the same weight of pressure, perplexing thoughts and being struck down. But I swear I am also feeling the full weight and extend of these things. I am hard pressed, and I’m also being crushed. Oh, how I am perplexed!, and I am going into deep despair. And yet, Paul too experienced these things, these hardships and yet there is this “but not…” separating him from experiencing the deepest of the depths of his torture and suffering. There is something blocking him, that is proving the “but not…” boat to steer him to safety during his suffering. What is that? What does he have?
One thing: hope.
Don’t I too? Isn’t it somewhere lost in the caves that I have to send Indiana Jones on a search party mission to find this treasure? Because it is indeed a treasure, like Paul himself says.
And yet, this mindset and perseverance and ability to withstand great trouble does not come from his own stubborn spirit and strength. I find it amazing that Paul is still in the midst of suffering: he’s hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted. Paul does not simply ignore the pain but admits it and calls it like it is (wow, so different from me who wants to run and hide away from it over and over and over.) It’s the treasure, the “all-surpassing power that is from God and not from us” that enables him to endure.
I haven’t been enduring well. Remember, I’ve been crumbly. And I’ve been forgetting that I too, if I crumble and break down, that I also have this same treasure of His power that can come out through me. There won’t just simply be nothing there, an empty me that I feel will be revealed. I’m having a hard time trusting and believing and remembering that.
Because I recognize that I can’t do this, and I go into despair. I can’t do this cancer-for-the-fourth-time thing at all, and I crumble at this weight and realization. I want to be strong enough to, determined enough to, stubborn enough to, but even those character-markings of me are in the smallest of measurements, a teaspoon in measurement.
And maybe, this is really the best state and place to be in, despite how much I at the same time hate it. Because when I crumble, I can be filled. When I’m needy, I have to ask and be dependent. When I’m broken, I can’t fix it. Maybe He wants a more broken me to show me and others that I could never have done this on my own and He wants to carry me and provide for me through it.
I mean, didn’t I learn this during my last relapse over and over, and why do I have to relearn it again now? Ugh.
I’ve been reaching out to many author-mentors once again, remembering how vital their thoughts were for me as I read from them and were instructed by them my last round of treatment.
My author-mentor list is long. I have tons of books that I am carrying from place to place, leaving on the coffee table and floor of my living room that I am sure my roommates are wondering where more and more books are coming from.
He reminded me recently of an author I read last time, Ann Voskamp, and her first book, A Thousand Gifts. I Google her, and surprise, she has a new book that came out couple months ago. Yes! And, of course, what is it called? The Broken Way. Should I cry or laugh at this book all on brokenness? Of course, He always knows.
How to remember there’s a Doctor in the house who ‘binds up the brokenhearted’ [Isaiah 61:1], a Wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom and crosses to resurrect hope and He never treats those who hurt on the inside as less than those who hurt on the outside. How do I remember that: ‘Hearts are broken in ten thousand ways, for this is a heart-breaking world; and Christ is good at healing all manner of heart-breaks’ [Charles H. Spurgeon]. How do I stand a thousand nights out on the creaking porch, lean over the pine rail, and look up: The same hand that unwraps the firmaments of winging stars wraps liniments around the wounded heart; the one whose breath births galaxies into being births healing into the heart of the broken.
How do you live with your one broken heart? All I can think is—only the wounds of God can heal our wounds. This is the truth, and I feel the rising of it: suffering is healed by suffering, wounds are healed by wounds. It jars me, shatters my fears into the softness of Him: bad brokenness is healed by His good brokenness. Bad brokenness is broken by good brokenness.
p. 21 of The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
And of course, later in the evening Megs and I open up the book we are reading, A Praying Life, and the chapter is titled “Learning to Be Helpless.”
Geez, I can’t escape it.
God wants us t come to him empty-handed, weary, and heavy-laden. Instinctively we want to get ride of our helplessness before we come to God.
Prayer is bringing your helplessness to Jesus.
p. 54 of A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
I could keep going about my author-mentors, but there would be too many but its clear they are gently instructing me in my despairing stubbornness that is isolating me from myself, God and others:
I’m realizing that maybe there is a humbly-crumbly state I am to be in. I can crumble and not have to go into despair over the details, the treatment options, the complex circumstances of my life. I can admit that I can’t do this because I can’t and yet He can and is more than willing to provide the spirit-power instead of me relying on fickle and feeble my stubborn-power.