Friday, December 31, 2010

A Revealing

The Orion Nebula
Photographed by the Hubbel Telescope
iPhone App,  Star Walk

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
   to whom belong wisdom and might...
he reveals deep and hidden things;
   he knows what is in the darkness
   and the light dwells with him. 
                                             Daniel 2:20-22

Another rush to ER, another middle of the night dash for help. Desperately ill, vulnerable and exceedingly afraid. 

The things I think of with my head in a bucket. "Through his griefs, Job came to his heritage." I couldn't remember where I read it - probably a favorite devotional. Unable to remember the writer's point, it struck me that recent December morning that it's one thing to think about Job's heritage sitting in the comfort of one's favorite chair wrapped in a cozy blanket and quite another at 2:00 a.m. sitting in the middle of ER on a cold plastic chair with kind husband gently answering Admitting Nurse's questions while also seeing to it that I had another clean bucket to hurl into. Too ill to even care that my public wretching was harshing everyone's mello, I was afraid. And fear can make me amazingly stupid. 

"I am so done with this," I thought. While I'm not sure what it was that I had in mind, it did have something to do with exiting the building and leaving behind like strips of discarded snake skin all the years of cancer fight, chemo nonsense and traumatized body parts. Yep. Be a Real Man or, in my case, a Real Wo-man. "Just stand up and walk away," I thought. As I said, the things I think of with my head in a bucket. 

But it was the appearance of Nurse Cratchett with her instrument of torture, the dreaded NG tube, that snapped me back to reality and herded me to another brink of despair. "I can't bear this again. Really, I can't." And for just a moment I was sure that was the truest truth I had ever spoken. But smiling and confident (after all it wasn't HER nasal passage and throat that were about to be brutalized!) Nurse C said, "Now you will want to push me away, but remember to just keep swallowing. It will be over before you know it." She was right and she was wrong. It was over quickly but I didn't want to push her away; I wanted to shove her off a very high cliff. 

It is in the dark hours - no longer night but not yet morning - when I'm most inclined to give way to despair. Bad possibilities can sound reasonable while hope is diminished to wishful thinking. It was the dark hours of my second day when I began to replay my medical team's latest findings. Set on Replay, I heard over and over "A new lesion in a new area;" "We suspect a new malignancy but can't see the area well enough to be sure;" "More tests are needed;" "Given your history, Mrs. Guerino, we have concerns." Given your history...given your history...given your history. Oh to be a Real Wo-man and just get up and walk away. Constricted by uncomfortable tubes down my throat, crying was not an option. Nevertheless, hot tears began to chase each other down both sides of my face pooling near the back of my head.  Never have I felt so alone. How, I cried to God, does authentic faith survive to the morning?

Perhaps that answer depends upon what it is one has faith in. One's self? One's medical team? One's medicines? Or perhaps faith in a perceived right: A right to not suffer, to not be alone, to continually enjoy comfort and health.

One of my favorite apps on my iPhone lets me point to the sky (or ground) and view the constellations and stars in real time. The photo above came from "The Picture of the Day" found there. Taking my phone from under the covers, I aimed it at the ceiling of that lonely hospital room and for the next little while I held magic in my hands. The Heavens were mine. Those cold, dark and frightening hours became a place of wonder. It was as though God was revealing it all just for me. Even Nurse Cratchett's heinous device could not steal my joy. What I was looking at brought to mind the glory of God, His grace and mercy poured out on all of us—at His own unimaginable expense. I began to recall years of countless answers to prayer, very real help in troubles past. I remembered how He taught me 

that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

I remembered that in times past I have found
His light in my darkness,...
His joy in my sorrow,
His grace in my sin,
His riches in my poverty,
His glory in my valley.
     The Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

As light dwells with Him, He knows what is in the darkness. A small thing then to know what dwells within the dark recesses of a body and out of the sight of the most advanced CT scanning equipment. How does my faith survive until morning? By looking away from the oh-so-smallness of me, myself and I and onto Him who created everything out of nothing with His spoken word and very breath. Humbled, I can say with Job, "Thy will be done" and am enlarged—indeed I have room to breathe. Perhaps that was, at least in part, Job's heritage. How does faith survive until morning? By holding tight to courage and remembering that all generations are but a vapour and then gone yet in Him is life as it is meant to be lived: confidentally, fully and forever. 

Someone has said, "Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity." It does. It has. And it will.