It’s called The Balancing Rock. An astounding natural phenomenon found in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. When I saw it a few days ago, I wanted to rename it. It looked more like a Teetering Rock. An About-to-Fall-Off Rock. A Wounded and Toppling Rock. As I photographed it a dozen times, I found myself feeling sorry for the precariously balanced sandstone mass. And then I realized how much it reminded me of…me.
Three weeks ago, I stood in front of a roomful of women at Blanchard Alliance and spoke about my two cancers. I used Psalm 84 as a basis for my talk, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you—they go from strength to strength.” From strength (cancer #1) to strength (cancer #2). On that night, I was blessed to report how God’s strength had carried me through the dual storm and sustained my spirit while my body healed.
Just a few days after my evening at Blanchard, my doctor ran a blood test called CA-125, which checks for “cancer markers,” signs that a body is fighting the disease. Mine were slightly elevated. Out of an abundance of caution, my GP sent me to an oncologist. An ultrasound revealed three uterine masses. A biopsy on the two smaller masses came back benign, but the larger mass is external to the organ and can’t be tested in the same way. I’m going in for an MRI tonight. It should determine the nature of this mass and the course of my immediate future. Regardless of the diagnosis, it looks like there is surgery ahead for me…
When the phone call came on February 16 informing me of the “abnormal ultrasound,” one of my first thoughts was, “But wait—you said ‘strength to strength,’ Lord. Not strength to strength to strength…” The verse that had carried me in the darkness of 2008 didn’t seem to apply to the possibility of Cancer Number Three, and I felt bereft without its peace-imparting solace.
But though I was blindsided with the possibility of another form of the disease gnawing away at my life, God was not.
Let me backtrack a little. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you read the post I wrote about “Mace and Angels,” in which I introduced you to a wonderful woman called Marilyn Scribner. (Click here to be taken to that post.) She was my bowling and self-defense professor when I attended Wheaton. Today, at age 80-something, she’s still teaching, and her sparkling wit, fierce loyalty and profound spirituality haven’t been eroded by the passage of time.
It was Marilyn who mentioned “He Giveth More Grace” during a Bible study I attend on Wednesday mornings. She begged me to sing the hymn for the group, and I (stubbornly) refused, but she was so eager to hear the powerful lyrics of the song that I lived in guilt for a couple of days. So on a cloudy afternoon, I holed up in my bedroom with my laptop and recorded the song for her, minus instrumentation and fancy technology: now she can listen to it as often as she likes and I won’t have to embarrass myself in public! (By posting it above, I’m defeating that logic–click to listen at your own risk.)
Not for the first time, Miss Scribner spoke God to me. It only took a few minutes after that February phone call for me to realize that He had used her to give me the words that would sustain me through this storm…and possibly through my third cancer in three years. The lyrics that touch me?
“To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.”
And the conclusion, which I can’t even type without tears coming to my eyes:
“He giveth (cancer #1) and giveth (cancer #2) and giveth (uncertainty #3) again.”
I haven’t made this medical drama public until now. I figured I’d wait until I had some concrete answers before blogging my “State of the Uterus” address. But as I was driving home from Walgreens today with a precious prescription for pre-MRI Valium in my purse (the curse of the claustrophobic), I took stock of my spirit and wondered if my silence on this matter, save for a handful of friends, was due to modesty or to doubt. I grew up in France—that rules out modesty! But doubt? One of the reasons I write into the void of this bloggosphere is that I believe it humbles and sharpens my faith. It’s easy to have private convictions, quiet beliefs safely guarded by silence. But making my spirituality public requires a greater certainty, one that will withstand the questions and scrutiny of a more or less invested readership.
I don’t want to be silent as I wait for these results. I don’t want anyone (particularly the students I’ve mentored over the years) to wonder if this Number Three is finally toppling my innermost serenity. I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m angry at God or despairing of my future. I don’t want my silence to signify defeat.
So as I teeter on the edge of what might be a precipice and as I wait for the results that may sway the course of my life, at least for a season, I must with utter clarity and certainty repeat the Truths that cover and comfort me even as the winds of life in a fallen world buffet my serenity:
God is love.
God is power.
God is strength.
God is sustenance.
God is unsurprisable.
God is compassionate.
God has prepared me for this.
God will never–NEVER–abandon me.
Is there fear? Yes—of course there is. Is there confusion and battle-fatigue? Absolutely. But there is also a white-knuckled grip on His promise that “When I have exhausted my store of endurance, He giveth…and giveth…and giveth again.”
UPDATE (March 11, ’11):
JUST HEARD FROM THE DOCTOR AND
IT’S NOT CANCER!!
Will find out on Wednesday what kind of treatment/surgery is ahead.