Christmas was a wonderful time for me to spend with family this year, and having just had my third chemotherapy treatment, I felt remarkably well enough to enjoy much of the usual fare: gift exchanges, holiday treats, and Christmas movies.
For as well as I felt over the weekend, I have increasingly become more and more fatigued, and as of yesterday, I discovered through a blood test that my white blood cell count has bottomed out. This means my risk of infection is high, and if I do develop a virus or infection, my body does not have the resources to fight it. So, my oncology nurse has ordered me to stay home this weekend, away from all the germs and bacteria.
Not that I feel much like getting out, anyway.
The timing of my white blood cell count bottoming out has corresponded ironically with my soul feeling sort of bottomed out. As much as I enjoyed Christmas with my family, I felt a little cold toward Jesus. Nausea and fatigue, though not horrible, feel a little overwhelming by their constant drain. I don’t know that I’m looking for a “normal” life. Most days I’d be happy just to feel like doing my own laundry. Jesus could do something about this couldn’t he?
My spiritual malaise has been complemented by my lack of desire to pray and read the Bible. So this morning, in an effort to show Jesus I care just a little, I pulled out the prayer book and found Psalm 18 suitably assigned for today. When I got there, I felt rewarded for my little effort by words like, “You protect me with salvation-armor; you hold me up with a firm hand, caress me with your gentle ways. You cleared the ground under me so my footing was firm,” and “I love you, God— you make me strong,” and “I sing to God, the Praise-Lofty, and find myself safe and saved.”
The words didn’t make me feel better, necessarily. But they did help me feel understood. Once again I found my Lord allowing me to express disappointment and grief, and then dealing with me lovingly. He is, afterall, a man acquainted with sorrows.
And then, with my heart feeling a little more alive again, I read these words from Michael Card from A Sacred Sorrow, which captured exactly what is happening in my heart.
“I acknowledge before You, Lord, the glaring gap in the difference between what I feel and what I believe. Right now, I feel like you don’t really care. So many situations in my life are out of control. Why don’t You just fix them? So much in and around me hurts right now. Why don’t you just heal them? Were I willing to take more time to pray, I’m feeling right now that from my side of things, this could become a shouting business. DO SOMETHING!
“But, You have already done something, haven’t you? You did what it took to become familiar with all the sorrows I feel pressing in on me even this very moment. You felt the gap between what You felt and what You believed, didn’t You? Jesus, I’m so sorry I said You didn’t care. Is there anything I could say that would have caused you more pain than that? You didn’t come to fix things for me, did You? You came to join me. Thank You. Would You, in the sacrament of this moment, enter right now into the holy of holies that is my hurt? Come in, not to fix but to simply be present. Be Immanuel inside that sacred, hurting place, even if it’s for only a few precious moments.”
So, I keep going, telling this little story of mine. Cancer and white blood cell counts and discouraged hearts and prayerless days will come and go, but Jesus is with me for good.