Scars Ripped Open

I’ve wanted to write. ¬†I’ve wanted to lower my pail into the cool, refreshing well of ideas and pull it up gloating in it’s abundance; but I must confess, I thought my well was dry. ¬†Then, out of desperation, hope came. ¬†Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t going deep enough. ¬†I lengthened the rope on my pail and lowered it again, deeper, and deeper, still. ¬†I heard the echoing splash as my pail hit water; felt the tug of the rope in my hands as the weight of water filled its emptiness. ¬†My heart felt it’s fullness. ¬†I pulled, marveling at the heaviness of its contents. ¬†The weight was almost more than I could struggle to pull up. ¬†Finally, I reached for the wet, dripping bucket and looked at the surface of water contained there. ¬†The ripples soothed themselves within contained walls and granted me my reflection on its surface. ¬†I look away, shamed. ¬†I know what I must write.

As I sat amongst a group of friends, the subject of forgiveness was raised. ¬†Quietly, I listened as these voices around me shared their experiences, their beliefs. ¬†“What do you do‚Ķhow do you forgive‚Ķwhen the same person hurts you over and over?” ¬†I saw tears in the eyes of some. ¬†The question itself had brought back painful memories. ¬†That was all it took for that same hurt to enter the heart of the injured. ¬†Quivering voices spoke their truths and struggles with forgiveness. ¬†I sat in my chair as if alone and kept my lips tightly sealed. ¬†My mind, though, betrayed me and let my past hurts bubble up. ¬†I constricted my throat and choked those feelings down. ¬†I wasn’t ready to share.

I believe this: ¬†that when you are deeply and tragically hurt by someone you love that it is like a physical wound. ¬†You look down at this gaping slash in your quivering flesh and it fills you with shock. ¬†Surely, you don’t see what you think you see. ¬†It just isn’t possible that someone who claims to love you could do what they just did to you. ¬†When the shock wears off, ¬†you practice some self-care. ¬†You apply whatever salve you can find: ¬†God, food, movies, books, sleep, and then, you carefully protect your wound. ¬†It helps some if the offender seems truly sorry. ¬†It is like an antibiotic that keeps the ragged flesh from festering. ¬†Finally, after time has passed, the wound closes and heals, leaving a ugly scar on your once perfect skin.

Now, let’s look at what happens when that same offense is repeated; the same offense‚Ķthe same offender. ¬†They take their finger and rip open your scar. ¬†They know exactly where to poke. ¬†They know exactly how to hurt you. ¬†The pain is magnified. ¬†The flesh that you thought was healed was somehow, more vulnerable‚Ķlike an “X” that marked the spot. ¬†Shock again hits you with its blow. How could this be happening again? ¬†How could you have ever trusted this person? ¬†Why did you let them near?

You retract to heal. ¬†This time, you seal the gash up tight with stitches. ¬†You cover it with bandages. ¬†The words “I’m sorry” ¬†don’t ring as true. ¬†Sometimes, you learn to keep your distance. ¬†You run. ¬†You find some little corner and build up your wall of defense. ¬†You stock up the things you need and prepare for the worst.

I’ve thought this to myself; I’ve prayed this: how can I ever forgive, truly forgive, if I can’t forget? ¬†It is not only the offender who can rip open my wounds. ¬†A word, a phrase, a story, a flash-back‚Ķthese are simple, innocent things that can turn what was once healed into angry, infected cuts in my being. ¬†Peace can not come when you can’t forgive.

It is easy to become filled with righteous indignation. ¬†Your own pain can blind you to the hurts you inflict on others. ¬†Bitterness is an evil companion. ¬†“Evil company corrupts good habits.” ¬†I Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV) ¬†You can find yourself blaming the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. ¬†The armor can be thick. ¬†It may protect you, but it is very heavy. ¬†Try to picture a joyous person frolicking through a glorious field of wildflowers with a full set of armor on. ¬†There is something comical about that vision. ¬†We must be free and unencumbered to be truly happy.

Now, to what really fills my soul with shame…

Picture Jesus, our Lord. ¬†He is covered with severed flesh. ¬†Each wound caused by my sin. ¬†Look at Him. ¬†Remembering my own pain, is it possible to imagine how many times I’ve inflicted my Sweet Jesus with hurt? ¬†How many times have I ripped open those gashes again and again by committing the same sin over and over? ¬†How many times have I gotten down on these knees and begged Him to forgive me?

What if Jesus were like me? ¬†What if those nail-scarred hands turned me away each time I came to Him for forgiveness? ¬†What if He remembered every blow I’d dealt Him instead of looking down on me in Love, embracing me, kissing the top of my dirty head before sending me out to try again.

I’m not worthy of this love. ¬†My reflection shows it to me every day. ¬†How can I not see that every other man, woman, and child is just like me? ¬†“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 (NKJV)

In the words of Jesus: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. ¬†But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” ¬†Mark 11:25-26 (NKJV)

In the words of my husband, James: ¬†“That’s in the past. ¬†Every time you go back there, you know you’re going to run in to¬†something!”

Don’t dwell. ¬†Keep busy. ¬†Move on. ¬†Throw off your armor and go pick some wildflowers!

I’ll try to do the same.

Newness of Life

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I recently found out that someone close to our family has been diagnosed with lung cancer. ¬†This information, on top of my own mother’s battle with leukemia, lymphoma, and lung cancer over this past year, has left me thinking a lot about the disease. ¬†I know many of you have dealt with some form of this rotting, wasting, life-eating illness either yourself, or with a loved one. ¬†I realize the word itself provokes nightmarish fears for us and those we care about. ¬†My heart aches with each mention of it.

The year I turned 45, I was given the diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia which had already enlarged most of my lymph glands. ¬†I dreaded the diagnosis I would hear after one year of tests and a previous diagnosis of fibromyalgia. ¬†A dark cloud hung over me as I celebrated my grandson’s birthday, my youngest daughter’s glorious fall wedding on top of a mountain in Arkansas, my 45th birthday, itself. ¬†Thanksgiving was just around the corner. ¬†So much life to celebrate. ¬†I tried, but I was exhausted.

In between my birthday and Thanksgiving, I received a call from the surgeon who had done my biopsy. ¬†It was late in the afternoon. ¬†My friend, Marian had come to help me at my shop. ¬†Unpaid, she worked and held me up. ¬†When the call came and they insisted I come to their office that very day to talk to the doctor, I told Marian, “This can’t be good.” ¬†She said, “I’m coming with you.” ¬†And, she did. ¬†We closed up shop and drove about an hour to get to his office.

Once there, the doctor very gently told me the lymph gland was malignant,¬†but if you have to have cancer, this is the best kind to have. ¬†“We caught it early”, he said. ¬†He referred me to an oncologist who in turn recommended bone marrow biopsies. ¬†This lead to a specific diagnosis of CLL and gave him a course of treatment to recommend. ¬†Dr. Kirby, kindness himself, said, “You can get another opinion, but this is what I would suggest to a member of my own family.” ¬†I told him that I believed that God was in charge and that this whole process had led me to him. ¬†I talked it over with my family, did my research on the proposed drugs, and decided to go with the chemotherapy regimen.

Ignorance is bliss—isn’t that what they say? ¬†I had done my research. ¬†Still, I wasn’t prepared for what was on my bumpy road. ¬†I sat in a recliner one week of the month for six months, tubes and needles feeding me poison and antibodies, playing card games with my oldest, pregnant daughter. ¬†She drove all the way from Arkansas and spent those weeks away from her beloved husband to keep me distracted and upbeat. ¬†My other children had jobs that prevented them from being there for every treatment, but they did many thoughtful things to give me comfort and were there for me when they could be. ¬†My grandchildren were like a golden trophy held out for me to obtain and live for. ¬†Once my course was set, I trusted God.

The poison went in and did its work. ¬†It killed off the cancer cells, but was no respecter of cells. ¬†It murdered the good ones as well. ¬†I received shots to boost my white count. ¬†They would rise weakly, only to fall flat on their faces. ¬†They were pooped. ¬†I had asked too much of them. ¬†It was during this time that death started to look like my very near future. ¬†Maybe I should have just rested knowing that heaven was on the other side, but I am a weak sinner. ¬†I love life. ¬†I love my family. ¬†There was so much that I felt I hadn’t done.

I read a book and found out about a holistic clinic in Dallas. ¬†They didn’t accept insurance because insurance companies won’t pay for holistic therapies. ¬†I felt like hope was wrapped up in their treatment plan. ¬†I was to detox and eat only certain foods, plus take supplements. ¬†I was a good patient and followed their plan to the letter. ¬†By the time I went back for my blood work at Texas Oncology, my blood count was finally out of the danger zone. ¬†Finally, I could do things, normal things, like go the movies, stay in my pew if someone had a coughing fit in church, floss my teeth, go shopping, shave my legs without worrying about cutting myself. ¬†It has never dipped back down. ¬†I am still in remission.

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I wish I could say that I learned my lesson, that I take super-duper good care of myself, eat the perfect diet, do yoga and meditation, and pray…well, I¬†do¬†pray and I do half-heartedly try to be good. ¬†But, that “loving life” thing keeps getting me.

Well, like I stated from the beginning, this has all been on my mind—a lot. ¬†Thinking one thing usually leads to another and I’ve come to this conclusion, right or wrong. ¬†I think that cancer is like sin. ¬†There I’ve said it! ¬†Just mull this over: ¬†all of us, according to scientists, have cancerous cells dormant in our bodies. ¬†It plays nice with all the other cells, pretending it is harmless. ¬†Then, one day, you let the stress of business, children, marriage, or some other illness get you down and the evil cells say “Whoo-hoo!!! ¬†It’s time to take over, boys!”

Our souls, pure from birth, develop cracks like our skin develops wrinkles. ¬†Sure they are just tiny little cracks at first. ¬†You can’t even see them. ¬†Oh, but Satan is so tricky! ¬†A crack is all he needs. ¬†Just like cancer, or the opposing poison in my veins, he wants to take over. ¬†He sees that crack and waits, patiently waits until you open it just wide enough for him to get his wedge in. ¬†He works at it until he himself is in and BOOM, before you know it, the cancerous sin is trying to take over. ¬†Keeping sin at bay is a lot harder than fighting off cancer. ¬†A lost battle with either one is serious, but which would you rather lose—death to the body, or death to the soul?

How do you fight it? ¬†Same as cancer, friend. ¬†You get down on your knees and ask your God for help. ¬†You let Jesus’ blood wash you clean. ¬†And once He gets it out, you fill that space back up with Good. ¬†Let God’s Spirit direct your path. ¬†Stay on it. Stay in the Word. ¬†And if you wander off, (like I, to my shame, do) you fall back on your knees. ¬†God loves you. ¬†He wants you at home, just like my family did. ¬†He will be faithful to lift you up if you come to Him and worship Him.

I realize that all who want a cancer cure will not find it. ¬†I know many battles will be lost, because let’s face it, we all have to go some way, don’t we? I know this sounds extremely harsh to the ear. ¬†I am sorry. We may wish we could pick our fate, but all is not in our hands. ¬†The good news is, God has laid out a plan. ¬†He is the Kind Doctor. ¬†He knows what will heal our souls. ¬†Get out a bible, if you haven’t already done so, and see what treatment plan He has prescribed. ¬†Then, follow His steps. ¬†He will lead you to eternal life, where there is no sickness or dying. ¬†Isn’t that the healing we all really need?

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. ¬†There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”¬†Revelations 21: 4 (NKJV)

Romans 6:3-5 says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? ¬†Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”(NKJV)

NEWNESS OF LIFE…personally, I like the sound of that!

Love to you all!

Author: Taken by James Smith
Author: Taken by James Smith