Thursday, August 30, 2012

Forgiveness

A philosopher (my dad) once asked me, "How can God forgive me for a sin I committed against another person?"
Or, another way to put it: "If someone sins against me, shouldn't I be the one in the position to grant forgiveness rather than God?"
I won't attempt to answer that question here (although it makes for a very interesting philosophical/theological debate), but it did make an important distinction in my mind.

I know that God loves me beyond measure. I know that He is kind and compassionate and merciful. I know there is nothing I need to do to earn His favor. I know that He forgives me and removes my sins as far as the east is from the west. I know Jesus died for all of my sins and the price was paid. But what about the people I hurt when I sin? What about the consequences of sin...not just for myself, but for those I hurt?

In my weakness, I hurt those I love - through neglect, through impatience and irritability, through my continual inability to balance my time and energy, through wrong thought patterns. It isn't intentional, of course. But I have witnessed plenty the depth of pain I can cause through unintentional offense. For my young children, who don't understand the implications of cancer, what pain have I caused them? What damage have I done?

I hate being weak. I hate not having control. Now the big test comes: Do I trust God in my weakness? Of course, I think that I do. I say that I do. But in this area, with the tender hearts of the ones I love, do I really trust God? Do I trust that He is able to overcome my weaknesses in their lives?

Probably the biggest lesson we all have to learn is forgiveness. It is not until we truly realize our own great need for forgiveness and experience that forgiveness, that we are free to forgive others. My kids have their own journey. God will use both my strengths and my weaknesses to shape them. And they will have to learn to forgive and to have a soft heart even in the midst of mistreatment (hopefully I won't be the primary tool for them to learn that lesson).

It is easy for me to forgive, for I have been forgiven much. And once more, through my failures, I learn the lesson of forgiveness. I desire forgiveness from both God and man. I'm so thankful that God has forgiven me, and that His mercies are new every morning. It is because of His great love for me that I can trust Him, even in my weakness. Especially in my weakness.

"Those who know your name trust in you,
  for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."  ~Psalm 9:10

"But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation."  ~Psalm 13:5

"The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us." ~Psalm 103:8-12


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Resistance

"Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper, the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven."  ~Psalm 107:28-30

Lord, calm my storm. Lead me to my desired haven. Heal my body. Fill me with power and strength.

I think God is trying to refine me - and I keep resisting. I thought two years of cancer treatment and recovery was enough. But God's refining process takes time. More time that we expect, and certainly more time than we desire. I've learned from experience that trials take us beyond our ability to endure. When we feel we have hit our limit, the trial is rarely near an end. It is when we hit that point that we begin to understand the grace of God and how to completely depend on him. Unless we get angry and resist.

I'm still trying to do things in my strength and have yet to learn how to depend on his. I still love so much of this world and am clinging on to things that I am unwilling to let go of.

A friend recently told me that I need to accept my new normal, that I have to stop comparing my life now to what it was before cancer. She's right. But, I don't want to. I want my life back. However, I can no longer do things by sheer determination. I always thought I could do whatever I set my mind to. That just isn't the case anymore.

So Lord, I yield. What are you trying to teach me?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Endings

I hesitate to write. Most of my thoughts these past months have been dark and hopeless, and probably not beneficial to share with anyone.
A friend recently challenged me to continue to share my journey, to be real, to portray cancer for what it is, even at this point when many think it is over...and that I have had my happy ending.

Let me try to explain life after cancer...

I have this friend. She is one of the best friends to have when you are facing cancer. She is compassionate and encouraging. She validates your pain and at the same time, lifts you out of it. She gathers an army of people around to fight with you.
Even her face radiates encouragement. Her smile is so big I sometimes wonder if her face can contain it. Best of all, she is really, really funny. Anyone battling cancer needs someone who can make them laugh...since laughter comes with much difficulty.
God has gifted her with the grace and ability to come alongside those with cancer, to encourage them, to carry their burdens, and to relieve their loneliness. She has had many friends (too many), whom she has walked this journey with. Some with happy endings. Some without.

The funny thing about this amazing friend of mine is that she is terrified of cancer. Paralyzingly horrified. I once asked her why and she told me this story.

"When I was a little girl, my cousin Matt, that I was very, very close to, got cancer.
Hodgekin's Disease.
We were 10. He was more of my brother than a cousin. We were always together.
One minute we were swimming, walking to Hucks to get candy, lighting fireworks on his bed (yes, we started a fire:), and playing kickball and the next thing you know, he is losing his hair in my kitchen sink, throwing up constantly, and laying in bed for days on end.
He lived, but, he was never the same after that.
It changed him forever.
He was this super outgoing, fun loving, silly boy and then cancer came, and he became this withdrawn, insecure shell of himself.
We went to school together in highschool, and everyone would ask me where he moved to.
He never moved, he went to our school, but he was so withdrawn, no one even knew he was there.
Stephanie, I hate cancer. I hate it because, even when you survive it, it still has the power to steal your life.
I know that Jesus can even overcome cancer, And He can overcome the fear of cancer.
But, sometimes it just seems so, so big..."

I understand what she means now. I am but a shell of my former self. 
And I often wonder: What is the point? Why am I alive? 
So I can barely scrape by, doing the absolute minimum to survive?
Once a driven, ambitious, perfectionist, now a mediocre (if that) wife, mother, friend.
I accomplish the bare minimum, with no energy remaining to invest in the relationships that make life matter. I waste away the time finding meaningless ways to escape these tormenting thoughts.

People often ask me how I am and I long to be able to honestly say, "I'm doing great!"
I want to give them hope.
I want to give them a happy ending.
But I can't. 

With cancer there are no happy endings.
Some live and some die.
Those who live keep fighting, battling to get back what they have lost physically and emotionally. They try to move on and, at times, can even trick themselves into thinking they have. But the person they were before is gone. Even though I live, so much of me has already died. Yet the battle goes on...day, after day, after day.