(continued from March 30, 2007)
My sense of self-sufficiency followed me into adulthood and middle age. Even moving around the globe and across the nation didn’t shake it more than temporarily. The idea that “whatever life dished out, I could take or even fix,” remained firmly a part of my psyche.
Until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly I couldn’t even “fix” me!
It isn’t that there have not been other crises of faith in my life. Just before we left for the South American jungle with two boys aged eighteen months and two years old, I came face to face with the fact that I could not protect them, not even here at home. Through a couple of near-miss accidents, God taught me that I really had no power over the life or death of my children in the tamest of circumstances. At that juncture, I trusted God completely for the safety of my children. Looking back now, especially through a grandmother’s eyes, I marvel that I didn’t worry about the boys. I believed they were firmly held in God’s hands, whatever happened.
And they were!
With an amazing lack of fear, we moved into a cottage in the jungle, five miles from town. The first week, we killed an eight foot Bushmaster (the snake, not the firearm) who had taken refuge under our house. The Bushmaster, lachesis muta muta is the largest Pit Viper in the world with a nasty reputation as a "cruel dude". Granted, we did cut down all the bushes around the foundation in order to not provide adequate cover for cruel dude’s brother or mate. And although I would periodically peer under the house to check for predators, (Eventually I learned to watch the behavior of the chickens. If the hens wouldn’t go under the house, I kept the boys inside until someone found out what was there.) the boys still played outside in the yard with me in the house – far away if one is thinking of a Bushmaster attack. Often they accompanied our neighbors’ twelve year old son back into the jungle to harvest bananas or other crops. They’d return excitedly chatting about the sights they’d seen which sometimes included wild boars, jungle cats, and snakes other times it was colorful birds, a monkey or an armadillo. Was I out of my mind?!! No. I just knew for sure that on the back of that burro, accompanied by a twelve year old, they were as safe in the hands of God as if they’d been asleep in their beds at home.
However, there’s a major difference between having faith that bad things won’t happen, that God’s protecting hand is upon you and your children, and having faith in that same God when something bad has already happened. That is the supreme test of faith: to have faith that it is all in God’s hands, even when evils befall.
And I haven’t even been given a terrible prognosis. Doctors are optimistic that all the cancer has been removed by surgery or neutralized by the chemotherapy. It’s a matter of healing from wounds and chemo effects. And believing that it will not reoccur.
Since my diagnosis, I read statistics on breast cancer. I read obituaries in the newspaper of marvelous women who have fallen to the onslaught of the disease. I think it’s a bit like owning a white car. I was totally oblivious to white cars until my own car was white. Now, it seems that every third car on the road is white. Or is every third car on the road was always white, and I’ve just never noticed before? Every single day I read that there is someone dying from breast cancer. And my heart cries with David:
One of the things I most love about David and his Psalms is his complete honesty. When he was in despair, he cried out to the Lord. He made no bones about it. His anguish was clearly expressed.
But the next thing about David was that he never left himself there. God give me that vision, that resiliency of Spirit! It was as though once he got it off his chest, he could then see things differently. His very next words remember God’s unfailing love.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. 9 Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you. 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. 11 For your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. 12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. (Psalm 143:8-12)
He saw afresh the goodness of God and was able to thankful, even in the midst of storm. He was able to see victory, even on dark days. He could rely on God completely which means he didn’t have to be self-sufficient.
More than his attitude, David was also aware of a balance that’s difficult to strike, the balance between using our God-given talent and abilities (something we are supposed to do) and relying on God. Something else we’re supposed to do. David talked about that too.
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. - Psalm 127:1a
There’s a paradox here; God isn’t telling me to sit on my gluteus maximus, but he is telling me that my self-sufficiency doesn’t do anything at all in terms of the Kingdom. I don’t have to worry about my waning strength; it’s useless anyway. I must allow the Lord to build. And there’s more.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for He grants sleep to those He loves (Psalm 127:1-2).
God is saying don’t sweat the small stuff – and in eternal terms, it’s all small stuff. There’s a way to obey Him, allow Him to work in our lives that doesn’t depend on my strength. In fact I can rejoice in my weakness, because it will showcase His Sufficiency, His Strength. I don’t have to fuss and worry about what the outcome will be because He controls it. Sometimes that outcome is more than I deserve. Sometimes it is less than I had hoped for. But if I look to Him and His strength, I can be sure that He controls that outcome whatever it is.