Kevin has his scans today. Our calendar stops at this Wednesday. We simply cannot plan a thing past that day, since we have no idea what will be happening next. Maybe the scans will show progress and we will rejoice and return for the third round of IL-2 next Monday. Maybe they will show no progress, and we will cry and then take a deep breath and discuss further treatment options. Maybe they will show that not only has the treatment not helped things, but the cancer has continued to grow and spread. And we will mourn. And we will pray. And we will try to trust God. Maybe.
But today, I cannot live in maybe. I can only live in today, and try not to worry about the maybe. Kevin decided to go to work this morning because it is good for him and he is, amazingly, able to set aside his worries and fears and focus on his job. Work is a wonderful distraction for him when he feels well enough. I decided to go up to a coffee shop that I have recently discovered. It rests hidden in the back of a wooded apartment complex, overlooking the Chattahoochee River, right up against national park and trails. It is one of the most peaceful and relaxing places I have ever been, and I go there and walk among the rocks at the edge of the water and meet with God.
This morning my neighbor called me up. She has twin girls who have a birthday today. Sweet little Ra’Niya is turning twelve. But her sister Sa’Miya died when she was six months old from SIDS. Maiya was calling to see if I was around for a visit, but I had already headed up to the coffee shop. I listened to her share about how Ra’Niya woke up at 4AM this morning crying, mourning the death of a sister she had never known, but who still holds a piece of her heart. I cannot imagine losing my own twin, or even the very idea of having one but having never known her, only having known your mother’s grief as the years’ milestones pass by… birthdays, deathdays, holidays. Even twelve years later, the wound is still deep and painful.
I invited Maiya and Ra’Niya to come up and meet me here at the coffee shop, knowing that it would be a special place where we could pray and perhaps God could meet with them the way He has been meeting with me out on the water or on the trails. They are coming up, but first, said Maiya, she needed to pay a visit to a friend who was admitted to the hospital last night because the treatment is not working and the cancer has spread to her brain. They are going to sit with her friend for a while, and then come and join me and we will cry and pray together.
In her own grief, Maiya is making time to minister to another. She comforts her daughter while enduring the pain of her own loss. I can not fathom the pain of the loss of a child. Nor the painfully intertwined emotions of having a twin that survived while one did not. Daily reminders of joy and pain, gifts and loss.
In going through this time of such and pain and loss for our family I too often forget how many others are grieving. Kevin is still here with me. We woke up this morning and were granted another day. Yet there is still loss. Life will never be the same, no matter how this whole thing turns out. He will never be the same and neither will I or even our children for that matter. There are wounds that will take the rest of our lifetime to heal and grief over missed opportunities and lost time.
Yet this morning, I find myself drawn the thought that I must die to self. That in dying to self, to my own grief and fears, I can minister to others who are grieving and who are hurting. As I pondered that thought, I knew what I wanted to write about today. I opened my computer and looked up the verse on dying to self. I was surprised that all the translations I found did not use the word “dying.” The word used in nearly every translation I found was to “deny” ourselves. The command is from Jesus.
He says in Mark 8:34-35
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
I don’t know, I’m not a theologian, and I haven’t taken the time to really study this verse in context. But what it says to me today is that I can, in fact I must set down my own fears, my own worries in order to follow Christ. And in doing so, Christ will be able to use me to minister to others. And I’m not just bailing on my own needs either. Because if things work out the way He is commanding, then someone else will deny themselves and follow Christ and be led to minister to me. In trusting that God works things out this way, He allows all of us to minister and be ministered to. He allows us all to be a part of His overflowing love.
I spoke with a friend and mentor yesterday about my current struggles not with why did Kevin get cancer, why did God allow it, etc. But my struggles are currently a little bigger, more like, why God, in Your perfect design and wisdom, would you have even created a world that had the possibility of evil to begin with? It all seems a little absurd that if You could design ANYthing in ANY way you wanted, you would really create it all this way. Sometimes it seems like everything after the fall is just like this great crazy compromise.
I am blessed to know I am not alone in my doubts and questions. This issue is one that has been studied and debated throughout all of the history of Christianity.
John shared with me one idea that God was so overflowing with His own love and goodness that He wanted to create man to share it with and to add to His own expression of His love. And even before the fall, God created man to be in relationship with other humans, again as an expression of His goodness. He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” And then He created woman.
So anyway, as I meditated this morning on this denying self and ministering to others who were grieving and hurting, I came back to what John shared. In His love and goodness and wisdom, God created it this way. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God tells us that He created us to reflect and pour out HIS love through ourselves and into others. And to receive HIS love into ourselves from others.
And so today, instead of borrowing worries from tomorrow, I choose to die to self, to deny myself, and to allow God to use me instead to comfort another. And in so doing, I am myself comforted. Thank you God for your wisdom in this mysterious design.