These two women hold a piece of our story and are a part of it too. It’s sometimes hard to remember we’re all a part of a bigger story together.
And the thing is although they’ve only known us for a short time they feel like family. Because that’s how it is when we walk through a valley, those who walk beside us become kindred spirits.
Yesterday afternoon we climbed up the 17 steps which lead up to the cancer clinic. Joe counted these steps daily during his treatments. He knew if he could walk up these steps, he could get through whatever waited for him.
The chairs lining the waiting room were filled again with weary people, fighting for their lives.
I wondered if we looked that way as we sat in those same seats day after day. . .
I suppose we did .
As we walked through the cold bleak corridor which lead to the clinic I told Joe how it felt strange to be there. I said it was as if we were returning to a bad dream. In which he replied, ” It’s more like a nightmare”.
He was right, it’s the kind of thing that keeps you awake at night.
All of the feelings we experienced there flooded us as we wondered how we even made it through it all . . .
You know hope is an odd thing in a place like this and yet it’s exactly what gets these brave souls through it.
Hope . . .When things seem bleak and you’re fighting an unimaginable battle.
Hope . . . When something crashes into your life that you never expected to.
Hope , , , For all of the tomorrows and all the years you’re dreaming to come.
I felt a bit guilty coming here different.
Because it’s very strange to return to a place of such deep pain and to come back quite different; a lot had changed.
Although we didn’t even know we’d changed.
In fact it wasn’t until both of these nurses were surprised to see us that we even realized they didn’t recognize Joe.
And at first he didn’t know how to respond to their surprise, until they reassured him it was a good thing.
You see, we hadn’t considered how sick and weary he looked back then.
We were suffering through long and sleepless nights and everyone who saw us just kept telling us how good Joe looked.
I get it, I really do.
Because people say these kinds of things when they don’t know what else to say.
They have no idea how you’re feeling like crud.
They have no idea the battles you’re fighting within.
They don’t know that standing is even a hard thing to do.
They don’t know you have no control over your body and the pain that you’re feeling.
And I get it how would they know, because we aren’t telling these things.
And i get it it’s hard to know what to say to someone who’s hurting.
So yesterday when they told us this, it actually felt good.
Because its good to be reminded how impactful empathy can be to those who are suffering.
And the thing I needed to remember was these nurses only knew Joe with cancer, they’d never known him before.
They didn’t know what his hair looked like.
They didn’t know what he like when he was healthy.
But here we were, healed and standing taller, looking more like ourselves.
And when the doctor told us Joe’s scans were clear and that he’s in ‘complete remission’ we both were stunned with joy.
I threw my arms around Joe and with tear stained eyes I cried out tears of joy.
I had no idea what those words would mean to us.
I had no idea what those words would do for us.
I didn’t know how deep they would reach into our souls and heal us.
Because it’s not everyday you get to walk out of something being told you’re healed.
And even though we know the cancer can come back and we know there’s percentages to factor in, for now we are choosing to celebrate and thank God for more time.
When this thing entered our lives I was scared.
I didn’t want to be a widow, I didn’t want to lose the father of our children and the love of my life.
I didn’t want to know this kind of valley.
I didn’t know what life would look like and I honestly didn’t want to find out.
So, you know what I did?
I gave words to my fears and I shared them with Joe and some of our close friends, but most of all I told them to God.
And God did something with all these fears, he hushed them.
He didn’t quiet them with the assurance of life or a promise of complete healing, he actually just calmed my soul with reminders of his provisions throughout my life.
And this was enough to allow my soul to rest.
We have so many great memories of God providing . . . like when he brought Joe to me over thirty years ago while I was in Southwest Philadelphia doing missions work, or the way he’s kept us growing closer together despite my jagged edges and my broken pain, or the time he filled our empty freezer full of meat or one of my favorite memories of his provision when he gave us our four sons even after losing four other children.
You see, when God’s goodness is counted, it far outweighs the pain.
I think we can all play games with God.
Like the one I played for years. It was rooted deep within that if I did enough good for God, he would keep suffering from me. I believed my suffering was somehow connected to my performance. And when you play with this equation, nothing makes sense.
But it wasn’t God who didn’t make sense – it was my system that was off.
There’s something deep within our brains which wires us to believe these kinds of things. That tells us these kinds of lies so easy to believe.
And when it something awful happens, it hits a very deep place within us and it challenges what we’ve let ourselves believe.
But the truth is no one is exempt from pain and suffering, it comes in one way or another to all of us.
It’s part of being human.
And it’s honestly the part of human that scares us the most.
The very thing I’m learning these days from all of this. . . is even in the darkest of times, hidden in them is a beautiful gift from God.
You see, had we not known this disease we would never be able to fully appreciate Joe’s ‘complete remission’.
We wouldn’t know the miracle of his healing.
And healing friend, isn’t exempt from pain.
Sometimes healing comes after a season of deep suffering.
In the days before Joe’s cancer we didn’t live with a heart full of gratitude like we live now. Out of this holy season God has given us co-sufferers, those who are walking through a valley of their own.
And because of all of this we’re invited into their story.
They’ve let us see their ugly wounds even when they’re bleeding out.
I suppose those steps leading up to that clinic will forever be hard to climb, because every step retells a painful story.
But something big in which I was reminded of yesterday is – nobody remains in suffering forever.
And this is the sacred place I’m choosing to rest my soul today.
All wounds will one day be healed and until then it’s by our scars we tell our stories.