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We had made it to October of 2009, almost a year to the day from my stint in the psych ward, I was at home recovering from major surgery, and nothing, absolutely nothing seemed to get better from one year to the next. I needed help to do everything. The medications I had to take required a physics degree to not mix and match, some with food others without. I was in pain with each breath and I could not bring myself to look at the gaping scars from the surgery solely meant to save my life.
We were studying John at the time in our life-group and for the first time- ever, I understood what it meant to have a crisis of faith. Everything I ever thought to be true, suddenly were questions in my heart and in my mind. How would a loving God continue to throw darts at me? When was it going to end? Would my heart ever heal from the pain of a divorce? Would it heal from the reality that this person wanted to kill me? Did it matter that I loved God with all of my heart and all of my being? The nausea I felt from the drugs and the surgery was only matched by the stomach turning nausea of cliché’ Christianity.
If God is good all the time and all the time God is good, would somebody please explain this to me? If His plans were to prosper me and not to harm me, would somebody explain that to me too? I lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling, because that was the only “comfortable” position. So I lay there, taking pain meds as often as the doctor would let me, and it did it’s job, it numbed the pain—both physical and emotional, but I was haunted by these questions. And God and I had lots of talks; well I talked a lot. And, I landed in one place. But before I tell you that part of the story, let me take you back about 25 years.
I was 10 years old and I had my head buried in the lap of whatever “dad” we had at the time. He was a good one, I think. He and my mom brought Lisa and me into the living room to talk to us. It was cold, and I remember that because we had one space heater in the whole apartment and that is the only warm place in the house. “Your mom has cancer”. Never in my life will I forget those words. I think it was the time I turned into the world’s youngest adult. As ill equipped as she was to be a mom, she was still everything to me, I guess it is that way for all mother’s and daughters. But I had a handful of memories of her—teaching me multiplication tables; drilling me on spelling words; and her dancing after her one limit drink on Christmas Eve. They were so few, but so precious to me, they still are.
All I heard when I heard the word cancer was that she was going to die. It was 1981, the only answer to her type of cancer was radical; and that is what she did. I watched her recoup from that surgery and I would walk into her room every morning to watch her chest to see if she was still breathing. I was so afraid that this horrible disease was going to take her from us—and even though she was rarely present she was still my mom. My most precious memory to this day was on time she actually acted maternal when I was sick. She rubbed my forehead and pushed my white blonde hair out of my eyes. After many months she recovered from that surgery; but it left marks on me; marks that still are with me to this day.
So, on a warm Florida August day in 2009 when I FINALLY decided to get my first screening for the same type of cancer (5 years after the recommended time given the nature of the cancer—very genetic), it was just another test, another painless procedure that was over in 10 minutes.
And then 7 days later my phone rang and suddenly I am 10 years old again—except this time it was my name and “cancer” was being mentioned in the same sentence. There was not a certain diagnosis, but we all knew we weren’t going to take chances.
It is 2009 and the surgery is not as radical, but the approach to the disease is just as aggressive and it meant major surgery for me—actually it meant 3 major surgeries for me. And that–that was when I could not agree to “God is good all the time and all the time God is good”. It was just way too much. Like a robot I signed up for the surgery, which involved 2 doctors and a cardiologist on stand-by—because you know my heart was damaged from a virus—another gift from my 12- year marriage.
Crissy would beg me to come out of my room. I refused. I shuffled from my room to the bathroom and occasionally to a recliner for visitors. I was done. I had not yet figured out if all that I had learned and believed about God was true until one night, literally in the middle of the night, I got my answer. It came from music, of coarse.
“Scattered words and empty thoughts, seem to pour from my heart. I have never felt so torn before, it seems I don’t know where to start. But it is now I feel Your Grace fall like rain, from every fingertip washing away my pain. I still believe in Your Faithfulness, I still believe in Your Truth, I still believe in Your Holy Word, even when I can not see, I still believe” Jeremy Camp, “I Still Believe”.
So, where did this leave me? I still had questions. It became apparent to me that I was going to be a voice to counter-act cliché Christianity. The words, which were memorized, repeated in my mind. I found my phone, found the song, and listened to the rest of it.
“Though the questions still fog up my mind, with promises I still seem to bear, even when answers slowly unwind, it’s my heart I see You prepare. But it’s now that I feel Your grace fall like rain, from every finger tip, washing away my pain.”
You know that “shuffle” button on your iPod/iPhone? Yeah, for hours in the middle of the night, I played this song over and over. I don’t have time to tell you the pain that brought Jeremy Camp to write this song; but I knew these were words coming from somebody that understood pain, and actually admitted throwing his Bible across the room, and questioning God on every level you can imagine. I was in good company.
By now, I was sobbing and I couldn’t move to get a tissue or anything to wipe away the tears; and I pictured the tears like Grace like rain, washing away, at least the pain that made me feel like I was going to die. Jeremy ends the song with these words:
“The only place I can go is into Your arms where I throw to you my feeble prayers—in brokenness I can see that this was Your will for me, help me to know You are near”
That night, I wasn’t sure how, but I knew that I had to figure out how God is good when life isn’t. I had to figure out how to tell a world looking for a fairy god- father in the sky, that it isn’t that way at all. I had to figure out how to tell the world that this world is not our home, and if we expect it to be comfortable all the time, we will be sorely disappointed. I had to figure out a way to tell the world that given abandonment, divorce, a cancer scare, and much more to come, that my Jesus loves me like nobody else ever could. There was still plenty more pain in store for me; but that next morning I got up and decided to fight. It was at the moment I knew that I had to figure out a way to tell this story to all who would listen. I knew I had to figure out how to demonstrate God as loving, and just, and at the same time confusing—but most of all, good.
Jeremy Camp, Rock the Universe, September 2009