A year ago I wrote this. It has been a year since we were told the cancer was terminal. It seems like it must have been someone else’s writing though. So much had transpired since this day. The archives of our journey through cancer, seems like it may have been written for the future me. God has walked close, I have “seen His goodness in the land of the living” and “I have seen Him holding all things together.” May He use this reflection from the past, to shine brightly on the future.
It was a long week, filled with battles and weariness. I have been looking back over these past 3 months. Thinking and pondering what I have learned and the many changes that have taken place. And as I walked with Chris through this week I wondered… when things do seem fall apart or seem to explode all around us… what will we be left holding onto?
Explosions are usually sudden and often without warning, causing things shatter to thousands of pieces… ending up in all different places. It is not unlike some circumstances in our lives. We are often caught off guard and rarely have time to run for cover (plan ahead for it). It hits us as fast as it leaves…. and the aftermath (thousands of pieces everywhere) is usually a longer lived than its precursor (the explosion/news that ushered in the difficult circumstance). Day after day, following the “explosion,” there is struggle with shock and the brokenness of it all. As days turn into weeks the truth is faced, that we must persevere through a new sort of “normal.” And though the reality of it is awful, we do find knowing just what we are up against helps in planning our next move and to pick through the shards. Weeks roll into months, and we battle impatience and fatigue. Knowing that giving in is not an option, but wanting to if even for a few brief moments of reprieve. It is much like being on a treadmill that will not stop, you must just keep walking or fall. Somewhere along this journey, a discovery is made… we are not alone. And at the end of the day, realization that we made it through that day sheds light on the strength that was given to us to do it. In life’s explosions, a very big, very loving and very merciful God stands guard. Not one shard from that circumstance goes where He has not directed. Some penetrate our hearts, some fall to the ground and some disappear.
Those shards that become pierced in our hearts, cause us pain and leave us wounded. For a time, they can even impair our once normal activities, our judgement and our ability to give and pour out ourselves into others. These “circumstantial” shards, that have impaled our lives, can also fester and become infected, causing us to, not only cry out in pain, but ask “why?” Festering frustration, anger, fatigue and feeling isolated are all symptoms of an infected wound of the heart and soul. But like all infections there is usually a cure. The cure is a choice. We can ask for help or we can allow it to become worse. We, however, need to understand that the cure is not always the removal of that painful shard. It is a cure for the infection, that festering ooze of frustration and anger and any other adverse side affects. Sometimes the Great Physician, will remove that shard and sometimes He will give us the strength and courage to fight the difficulties it brings.
Some shards miss us, falling to the ground around our feet and in our path; piling up and impeding our ability to move forward. These kind of shards, create obstacles in the road we’ve been traveling. Though these shards have not physically touched us, they make traveling difficult. We must constantly pick our way through the rubble, treading carefully so that we do not fall into traps of doubt and fear. Each step becomes a painful reminder of the explosion in our life, that has caused us to have to journey differently. A once fairly clear path, is now littered with painful reminders and will never look quite the same. Life and living will never look the way it did and our journey, for a time, will be filled with small steps instead of long strides. As we pick our way through the shattered pieces of what once was, we have become more sensitive to small details, and we see things we never seen before, do things we never did before and feel things we never knew existed inside us.
Some of those flying shards will simply disappear. Pieces of our life before the explosion… will not be a part of us anymore. Things we though were so important or valuable will, somehow, just not be missed. Those kind of shards, will do something to our clocks. A strange oxymoron if you will. There will be days that seem to stand still as the hands of the clock tick away time loudly. Second after second, seem like a week. Those days seem as though we journey in slow motion, but just outside our window, life rushes on normally. We stand here watching, as if in some weird stupor. The other thing that happens to our clock is that there doesn’t seem like enough time to do everything we’d hoped to do. It really gets down to what is most important. Those shards that we never see again are reminders also of how our lives are being redesigned.
All these shards, whether in us, on our path or gone forever; serve to remind us that our circumstances were masterfully design in spite of difficulties, to define us and show us who we are. Children of the king with an inheritance, no matter what we endure or face here on earth. We are not the shards that are so deeply embedded in us; this painful circumstance is not who we are. Though it sculpts us and leaves its marks within our hearts and souls, these shards are not what we are left holding at the end of the day. We are not the shards that are scattered all along the path we traverse. The holes and obstacles we encounter with every step, are not what we are left with after life seems to have fallen apart. Likewise, there was nothing of us in the shards that have disappeared forever. Though this may be the hardest to believe. These were only pieces of what made us who we are today, but not fully who we are. God merely used them for a time, to shape us, to paint on our hearts and to build character within us. Those shards are no longer necessary. God leaves in our hearts the shards that are still needed to transform us into who He made us to be from the beginning of our lives, those things that matter. He lays before us the shards that we still need to walk through and see each day. And He removes the shards that we no longer need, to prevent us from harm and to help us to focus on what matters most.
What we are left holding after the shards have settled where they must, are beautiful treasures. Our hearts have experienced a special kind of love. This circumstance has opened doors and windows we never knew existed. And treasures are found within. In this vulnerable place there is fellowship and in that fellowship there is depth and in that depth there is a love for each other that would otherwise have been unknown without the shards it took to open up our hearts. We have also discovered beautiful blessings. Blessings of grace, in the gifts we do not deserve. Blessings of time, encouragement, truth, unconditional love, hugs and sharing hearts. We have been left holding all this and the assurance that God will never leave us or forsake us. This gift we hold never promised to be safe or without difficulties; it has promised we will never walk alone and that we will always know God’s goodness, Christ in us.
What was shattered may never be put back together the same way, but it will be put back together the way God wants it to be. Nothing will be missing, out of place or painfully protruding from our hearts. And… we hold much in the end…. much more than we started with…. much more than we lost.