I have just been deeply touched by a post on Wide Open Spaces. The author, Charity Singleton, is currently walking through radiation and chemotherapy, and my heart has wept with her as she does so with incredible courage, honesty and trust.
I’d love for you to go there and read the whole post, but since I find that people seldom click on links, here are a few highlights from her post:
Recently, when someone asked about my radiation treatments, they jokingly suggested I might be glowing when I finished. I laughed, and kind of wondered the same thing.
….a quick scan revealed my radition levels back to normal, and I left in the same hue I came. At least on the outside.
Yesterday, through the course of the day as many of your were praying the prayer that never fails, God was answering. It was his will that I had strength for the treatment, it was his will that I had a little relief from the nausea. As the day wore on, he revealed his will to have friends visit and my dad stay all night to help keep away the nightmares I’ve been having.
Today, I am radiating in his perfect will because I feel encouraged and hopeful again. Not in any new or big way, just for this day. To walk boldly through this trial right now. . . .
This is a story that’s much bigger than me. But perhaps it is the universal nature of the story that draws us together. You can learn from my chapter; I can learn from yours.
While I agree with Charity–the way she is walking through this continues to give me hope and courage for my own struggles–this last comment grieves me even while I see the joy in it. There have been times when I have been so helped in my own suffering by someone else who has also suffered. That always humbles me, but sometimes it makes me angry. I don’t want to benefit from your suffering. Even if it helps bring some purpose to what you’ve gone through to be able to help me now. I want that you didn’t have to suffer at all. I know that’s idealistic in this fallen world, but to somehow benefit from what you’ve gone through ends up connecting me to something that I still want to resist, fight, even deny, with all that is in me–suffering, whether yours or mine or the next person’s.
Charity goes on to expand on the metaphor of her cancer as story. She does so in a beautiful way.
It starts with the idea that our lives are a serial story, already written but revealed chapter by chapter over time. We are not the authors, but we do narrate. And like any unreliable narrator, we often get the facts a little mixed up. (Any good reader could tell you that!)
….Most good stories include a journey, a race, a fight. We find former glory restored. And we see amazing joy waiting to come.
Cancer has become a more significant part of my plot line now. It’s come and gone before as family and friends have suffered with this disease. Through my life, cancer has become a part of your plot line again, too. But whether this cancer for me is merely a complication or the climax, we’ll only know when we get to the end. Thankfully, the end we’ll only be revealed to us when it’s time.
No one likes to ruin a good story.
Thank you, Charity, for this picture. I continue to pray the prayer you have asked us to pray: “Your will be done” (really meaning it, even when I often wish God’s will were easier to understand or more in keeping with my own will. Yet I still trust Him enough to join with you in asking that His will be done)
As I read Charity’s post, I really do see her radiating. It reminds me of the passage in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. Here are some excerpts from the New Living Translation:
For [Moses’] face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory when the Holy Spirit is giving life?
…But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away. Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom. And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.
….For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. [and Charity, that reflection and light is shining in your face in beautiful ways.]
But this precious treasure–this light and power that now shine within us–is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.
So, yes, Charity is radiating–not with hues of radiation harnessed by doctors to fight cancer, but she is radiating the glory of God, and the faithfulness of God in an awful situation. Oh, how I’d love to see the faithfulness of God mean that he removed Charity’s cancer (without radiation and chemo, if I could put my order in, please God?!) But, Charity’s words, these chapters in her story, show the faithfulness of God and a deep trust in God, even when God doesn’t work the way we want (that’s when trust is proven to be trust, isn’t it?)
Charity, when I see you, I see someone (to summarize more of chapter 4) who is pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. Perplexed, but you don’t give up and quit. It seems you have been hunted down by trouble, but you cling to God and as I watch and hurt for you, I am given courage to keep believing that God never abandons us.
Okay, I can’t stop with the verses above. Normally I go on and on with my own words, but tonight, I want to go on and on with Paul’s words, because the rest of 2 Corinthians 4 is beautiful to me in a very paradoxical way. Right now, it is even more alive and beautiful, as I think about and pray for Charity as I read it. I type these words, rejoicing and worshiping, but with my heart weeping and lamenting at the same time.
Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be obvious in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but it has resulted in eternal life for you.
But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, and so I speak.” We know that the same God who raised our Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself along with you. All of these things are for your benefit. And as God’s grace brings more and more people to Christ, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
My troubles don’t always seem “quite small” and Charity’s troubles already seem like they’ve lasted too long, in my opinion. But, I choose, again, to bow down before God and say, “Thank you. And I still choose to trust you. Thank you for the story of trust that Charity has shared since her diagnosis with cancer, which helps me keep remembering the incomprehensible extent of your glory and the joys to come–as our stories (the stories we share as individual members of your Body) unfold on earth and in the eternity afterwards.”
UPDATE: For those who would be interested in some practical ways to stand with Charity, thoughts of a gyrovague is the place to go.