I’ve been feeling sorry for myself the past couple of days.
Yesterday at church I saw my name in the bulletin for prayer, and though I love that people care about me and pray for me, it made me sad that it’s my name there. It was selfish and self serving. I certainly don’t want someone else’s name there instead. But it made me cry, made me cry out to God about how desperately I hate cancer.
When I got home and made lunch and ate it by myself, I began to feel that this life that I am clinging so hard to isn’t really worth it. I’ve spent most of my life planning for the future, and if I don’t know whether or not I have a future to plan for, what’s the point? Sitting there by myself, I again felt the sting of no husband, no children, multiplied by cancer.
I felt alone and felt sorry for myself, eating ratatouille by myself on a Sunday afternoon.
This morning, I was sitting in another doctor’s office, starting to feel sorry for myself again as the waiting room filled up around me with aging, shrinking people, hobbling in with walkers, leaning on the arm of a daughter or sister to help them into the chair. I’m living my old age too early, I thought to myself. And I didn’t feel any better when a young couple came in later. At least they have each other, I thought, self pity creating a stench around me.
As it happened, I had just finished filling out the last of the office medical forms when I remembered I had brought along Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones. Having a few minutes to wait, I cracked open the book to begin forming some thoughts for my book club post. Chapter 8, Learning to Risk.
The words about Luci’s sailing trip across Lake Michigan were only just registering in my mind when I realized that they were for me. Today.
The following is a story of my struggle with risk, tides, reefs, and islands, which I think speaks to faith and to challenges, and also speaks to the life of the artist, to those who wish to live in creative challenge, charting a course and not knowing how it might all play out.
Can I really look at my life and imagine that this cancer, this disease that keeps haunting and taunting me, might actually be an adventure of a lifetime?
Yesterday, I jotted down a simple question in my journal; it was directed to Jesus. “Is there any hope that I will be alive at age 50?” Having managed one milestone last year – alive at 40 – for some reason I am already looking to the next one.
But where does this question come from? Is my life only worthwhile if it is given in 10 year increments? What of 41? or 42? Or 47, even? How well will this theory hold up when I am 70 or 80, when 10 years would be more of a miracle than an expectation? Am I really willing to risk every subsequent year for the thrill of the milestone? If I make it to 50, chances are I’ll just want to make it to 60.
Reading back on my journal from yesterday, I realize I need a better plan. Adding up years is a fool’s way to make a life count. Rather than checking off days as if this life is just a prison sentence I need to be released from, I’d rather think of life as a classroom, filled with endless opportunities to learn. Or even better, I’d rather be standing next to the wall with a pen in hand, marking off the ways I’ve grown.
When I stop growing, I’ll be with Jesus. I’m praying that I’m 10 feet tall before that day comes.
Growth. Creativity. By definition they are never static. All growth implies and requires change. And change suggests risk, a move into unknown territory, a step into the dark. This sounds dangerous, and it may certainly bring its perils with it, but it is also inevitable. – Luci Shaw
I told the doctor today, a urologist, that I had been trying to avoid him for years.
“Nothing personal,” I said, apologetically.
“Understandable,” he said, as he jotted a note in my chart.
As I left the office later, my blood pressure having recovered from white-coat syndrome, I had this thought — I really did — what if I just abandoned myself to this. The whole thing. To the doctor’s visits and the surgeries and the radiation therapy. What if I just accepted the blood draws and the urine samples. What if these medical professionals became like teachers, and what if I learned more from them than just medical jargon.
In other words, what if I quit resisting and instead grew up into the kind of person that sees hard times as the only way I will ever truly become like Jesus?
If I were to read a book about a 40-year-old woman who, despite health problems, managed to live a meaningful, creative, God honoring life, how would that story go? What would the author include in that narrative that would make me think she was living well, that would keep me from feeling sorry for her and just make me feel thankful?
This is the story I want Jesus to write for me. This is the story I want others to read of my life.