A slice of life from the cancer warriors:
We get lots of offers, these days, from people who want to pray with us. It’s really quite amazing. Sometimes, even virtual strangers offer to stand in the LORD’s presence with us. Today, for instance, while Pam and I were waiting for her radiation treatment to begin, we fell into a conversation with a man who was being treated for prostate cancer and with a friend from his church, a retired gentleman who was providing him with transportation. The man who was being treated told us that his cancer was in complete remission.
“It’s the power of prayer,” he assured us, “Prayer really works.”
Well, the four of us joined hands in the waiting room and the man whose cancer is in remission spoke, “Oh Lord, I know how good you are and I believe. I believe in you and your goodness and I just know that you are going to heal our sister, here.”
I took note of the fact that he left no room for doubt. Pamela was going to be healed, and God was going to heal her. It was as if he could see the future, and the future was set, and in the future Pam’s cancer was in remission. The man believed, and his faith made him certain.
My faith must be built out of different stuff than his. As I grow closer to the LORD I find that my faith grows as well. I don’t find, however, that faith gives me certainty. I’m not certain that Pam will be well in the future. I’m not certain that I will be well in the future. Neither am I certain that either of us will be sick. When it comes to the future, I live in a state of suspense.
I have no idea what the future will bring, except to say that it will bring God along. Of that, I am certain. I’m staring into an uncertain future and that very uncertainty challenges me to endure ambiguity, to endure confusion, to endure powerlessness. Uncertainty also tempts me to pretend, somehow, that I will be granted choice in the matter of what the future will be. If the choice is mine, of course, I am spared ambiguity, spared confusion, spared powerlessness. If the choice is mine I can be relieved of suspense.
Now, I’m not saying that this is right, but I actually have a fondness for suspense. Because of suspense, there is more in my world than what ‘is’ and what ‘is not’. There is also what ‘might be’. Certainty drains the life out of ‘might be’. In a world of certainty there is only hardness — the hardness of ‘yes’ pitted against the hardness of ‘no’. In the world of suspense there is also a softness to cushion the clash of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. In the world of suspense there is also ‘maybe’.
Maybe Pam will be well in the future. There’s a joy in that ‘maybe’. Maybe her future will be sickness and decline. Maybe. There is even blessing in that maybe. The possibility of a dark future adds a touch of urgency to the present moment. To acknowledge what can’t be controlled is to be focused on what can be. We all have the option of embracing the life that’s embedded in the precious now, just as we each have the option of letting it slide by. If I live in a state of panic, of course, I’ll be incapable of embracing the life God offers me. On the other hand, though, a state of urgency might make me more capable of embracing life. ‘Suspense’ to ‘Maybe’ to ‘Urgency’ to ‘Life’. Could it be that the life spawned by suspense is actually better than a life of certainty?
There is a song you may have heard a while back. I’m actually thinking you do know this particular song because it had a choke hold on the radio playlists back in 2004. It’s a Tim McGraw song called, “Live Like You Were Dying”. The song was written around the time Tim’s father Tug was given a terminal prognosis for cancer. The lyrics purport to describe a conversation between the young man and the older man facing the ‘maybe’ of death.
Here, with absolutely no permission from the publisher, is part of the song’s story:
I asked him, “When it sank in that this might really be the real end,
how’s it hit you when you get that kind of news? Man, what’d you do?”
He said, “I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said, “Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying”
I’ve seen the way suspense has worked its magic on my wife. I’ve noticed elements of vitality that had previously been jammed between the hardness of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ be freed up by the tidal wave of ‘maybe’ that has recently entered our lives. Suspense has been supplying color to my own precious now. I really do “love deeper” and “speak sweeter”. These changes aren’t the result of some self-improvement regime I’ve undertaken; they’re simply a sample of the quiet benefits that come along with uncertainty.
I do pray, and I do hope, but I’m not giving God any instructions. Faith, the faith I have, leads me to believe that God blessed us when he opened the future up to suspense. I will say nothing of certainty about the future except to say that I’ll get there — and when I get there God will be with me.