Monday, June 5, 2017

Where Was God When I Had Cancer?

I haven't said much about God while talking about all the crappiness that's been going on in my life.  That's more because it takes a lot of explaining, than that He hasn't been there!

As I went through the waiting for a diagnosis, eventual confirmation of cancer and then surgery, He was there like a warm, comforting presence.  Not saying anything or expecting anything of me, just there for me to lean on.  And then He wasn't.  I wasn't concerned, but I was aware that that closeness wasn't there any more.

As you know, if you've read any of my other posts, I love gardening.  It makes me happy, and sometimes also produces veges and flowers. :)  One of the things I found particularly hard, going through chemo while spring happened around me, was that I wasn't able to do even quarter of the gardening I usually would.  I didn't grow anything from seed this year, despite having lots and lots of packets of seeds begging to be planted.

I was complaining to God about this, around the time of my first chemo round, and He told me that this spring, I was the seed.  I had been planted.  And when I didn't like the sound of that, He said 'Peace, be still.'

For all my lovely friends who are now thinking that this was most probably chemo-brain and I have obviously lost my mind if I think I can hear God, relax, calm down, and let me unpack that a little for you.  Yes, I believe God speaks to me.  And sometimes, I hear Him!  No, I don't hear a voice speaking, with my physical ears.  What usually happens is a thought cuts across my train of thought, which is different to what I was thinking, with a very different perspective to my own.  Sometimes the thought comes with a picture, sometimes it doesn't.  But there is always something about the thought that is so different to my own, that I know it wasn't my own thought.

There is also something consistent, every time, about the thought, and this is the hard bit to explain.  You know the times you hear the first few notes of a song, and immediately know who it's by, even if you haven't heard it before?  Or the times you start reading a book/article/blog post, and the style of writing is so familiar that you know who wrote it, even before you see the author?  That's what it's like when I hear God.  There is always the same feeling to what is said, and I am familiar with it now.  What I hear is always better than myself - kinder, more loving, forgiving, and often funny.  The perspective the thought brings is bigger than my own.  What I hear isn't always about me, sometimes it's about other people.  And no, I can't make it happen. Sure, I can pretend, and make stuff up... but it's like the difference between seeing a three year old's painting of a sunrise, and seeing the real thing.

So, God had told me that I was a seed, that had been planted.  As I was going through the awfulness that is chemotherapy, I mulled over this thought.  I thought a lot about seeds, and dirt and growing conditions, and I eventually realised a few things.  First, a seed has no control over what happens to it.  It does not choose when it is planted, or where.  When it has been planted, it has no control over creating the conditions it needs to sprout - it can't make the dirt warm up, or bring the right amount of moisture.  All a seed can do, is wait for the time to be right.

I didn't like the thought that I'd been planted in the dirt - that sounded an awful lot like burial to me, which isn't a very comforting metaphor when you've got cancer!  So I ignored that bit, and focused on the seed.  One thing really intrigued me, which was that I had no indication at all of what kind of seed I was - dandelion, maple, mangrove, apple, coconut or carnation?  It was a mystery.  I sincerely hoped that I wasn't the type of seed that needed a forest fire to sprout!

And then there was the 'Peace, be still' bit.  I knew that this was the exact expression Jesus used when calming a storm - which seemed appropriate!  I had been talking with a friend about breath prayers, and I found that this phrase fitted perfectly.  So when my mind was churning in the middle of the night, and I was scared and worried, I would lie in the dark and focus on my breathing.  Every time I breathed in, I would think 'Peace'.  And every time I breathed out, I would think 'Be still'.  And I would remember that I was a seed that had been planted, and all I could do was wait.  However, there was one thing I could do that a seed couldn't - I could hope.

So I did.  I waited, and breathed, and hoped, and spoke peace to my body and soul in the middle of the storm.

To be continued...

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