Wednesday, December 13, 2017

God With Us

I've just come through another scare. Right at Christmastime, again.

Funny how a routine visit to the doctor can turn into déjà vu . . . x2? x3? x4? How many times have I been down this road?

Three weeks ago I found a little spot near my most recent scar. Not a lump, exactly ~ but something that felt different to me. Was it scar tissue? Had it been there before? I couldn't be sure.

The next day I had an already-scheduled appointment with my family doctor to discuss my colonoscopy screening and some heart issues I've been having, so in the course of the visit I mentioned the spot to her.

She felt it and wasn't overly concerned, but suggested that I check in with my oncologist. I had a six-month check-up scheduled in a few weeks anyway. So I tabled the issue and went on with my life.

Then last Wednesday, I saw my oncologist. I always look forward to my visits with her. She has such a way of putting me at ease, talking me through my concerns and giving me hope. 

When I showed her the spot, she wasn't worried, either. But she said it wouldn't hurt to do a breast ultrasound, just to check it out and document the location. I readily agreed ~ better safe than sorry.

But as I left her office, the doubts and fears began to creep in. And after I'd shared the situation with Greg, we both began sliding into a dark hole, the same dark hole that we've been in several times before. 

All the memories came flooding back: for me, of tests and treatments and isolating fears; for Greg, of walking through this with me twice before . . . but even more deeply, of losing his own mom to cancer when he was only 15 years old. These memories may fade, but they can re-appear in full colour in a heartbeat.

The hospital scheduled my ultrasound within just two days. But those 48 hours were still long enough for us to convince ourselves that the results would not be good.

In the darkness of Friday morning, as I woke on the day of the test, I whispered from my heart, "God, please remind me that you are with me today."

And He whispered back, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

The Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp, is an Advent book of devotionals I've been walking through this month. On that morning, December 8, the reading was from Genesis 28 ~ God's promise to Jacob: "Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go . . . I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."¹ Another word from the Lord!

Then I turned to the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke. My son had recently shared with me how moved he was by Mary's response to her impossible assignment. So that morning before the ultrasound, I decided to read it again.

Sometimes a passage of Scripture, so quotable it's become cliché, suddenly pulses with powerful meaning for me in the moment. This was one of those times. And though the words were spoken to a specific Jewish girl at a specific time in history, their message resonated across two thousand years and sank deep into my soul.

"The Lord is with you."²

"Do not be afraid."³

"Nothing will be impossible with God."⁴

And then Mary's sweet response:  "Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Be it unto me according to your word."⁵

I carried those words with me to the hospital. And God was there for me! In the next 48 hours as I waited for the results, He gave me so many reminders of His favor ~ not the least of which was the opportunity to empathize with several others who are facing their own medical tests.

It's a funny thing about worrying while you wait. If the news turns out to be good, then all that energy spent on worry has been wasted. But if the news turns out to be bad, all that worry won't help you deal with it when the time comes.

I'm not sure it will even soften the blow. By Sunday night my heart was lurching every time I imagined a phone call from my doctor's office the next day. I finally had to just hang onto the hope that everything would be fine ~ although my sleep was still restless.

And then, early Monday morning, the call came: "Nothing to worry about." Hallelujah! Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Of course, I still want to meet with my doctor and ask some more questions, but now that can wait until after the new year. I feel like I've been given a new lease on life!  

Sometimes I wonder, will I ever be completely free of this fear? Will there ever come a day when my gut doesn't wrench and my heart doesn't clutch with the thought of what could be? Knowing myself, probably not. But I also know that God will be there to walk with me, whether through life or through death. 

And that's what we celebrate at Christmastime ~ Jesus . . . 
                                                                                  Immanuel . . . 
                                                                                      God with us.⁶

Typography by my friend Victoria

¹Genesis 28:15
² Luke 1:28
³ Luke 1:30
⁴ Luke 1:37
⁵ Luke 1:38
⁶ Matthew 1:23

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