On Sundays, the service usually starts out with a couple of songs, then we pause for announcements and a few minutes to greet the people sitting near you. Yesterday, during the "meet and greet" a friend asked me if I was all over the lymphedema. I explained that it never really goes away, you just learn to live with it, recognize swelling, and treat it yourself. She made a comment about it being like the "stones of remembrance" and we both turned to greet others. But the comment kind of stuck in my head for a few minutes. At first I didn't get it. In the Old Testament, the prophet Samuel used stones as a physical way to remind the children of Israel about God's faithfulness and goodness.It says in First Samuel 7:12 says that when God enabled the Israelites to defeat the Philistines, the Prophet Samuel “took a stone and … named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.’” Okay, that's all well and good for the ancient Israelites. But what does that have to do with me?
I started thinking about the other physical "stones" of remembrance that I have as a result of the past 13 months. The physical is the most obvious. My short and increasingly unruly curly hair regrowth. Or the two huge scars on my chest, a smaller vertical one near my right armpit.
After announcements, there is a longer stretch of worship. It starts out as just singing. I can let it stay that way, just me singing words that are projected onto a screen. It is easy to let the mind wander to other things and just go through the motions. Or set up mental walls that prevent the Holy Spirit from really ministering to you. Sometimes, it turns into something much more. Something that I can't even really describe in words. This past Sunday, any mental walls or walls that I had built up around my heart were completely obliterated by the Holy Spirit.
We were singing a song that was new to me, called "My All and All" by Frank Hernandez & Sherry Saunders Powell
These are the words:
My All In All
You are my strength, O God
You are my help, O God
You are the One on Whom I call
You are my shield, O God
My life I yield, O God
For You will ever be my All in All
But as I sang it, a tear or two started to roll. Now, that is not unusual for me during worship. But as I started reflecting on the various "stones of remembrance" that I have (both physical and experientially), I just lost it. God has been SO good to me through this journey. During my scariest moments, He was there with me. He did not leave me forsaken and alone.
Just a few examples:
I have such a vivid memory (a "stone," if you will), of the double biopsy I had. I wasn't expecting to be biopsied that morning. I just thought I'd go in for an ultrasound and be told it was just a cyst and dense tissue. After all, I had a "clear" mammogram the month before. Except this time, the doctor couldn't figure out what she was seeing on my left breast. By God's timing, she just happened to have time that morning to biopsy both the breast and the lump under my arm. As I waited outside while they prepped the room, my Aunt Meg posted a verse on Facebook from John 16:33: In this world you will have much trouble, but have no fear, I have overcome the world. Perfect timing. God's timing. As I lay with a huge needle probing my flesh, I did not feel pain. Instead, I remembered God's promise from Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you you. Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give you a future and a hope. A future and a hope. I was not alone.
When I was waiting to see my oncologist for the first time, I was playing around with an app on my iPhone that "randomly" spits out a verse. I set the spinner on the topic of "fear" and pushed the button. The verse "You will not die" popped up. I can't remember exactly where that came from in Scripture, but it was a message given to me that day.
These are just a few examples.
As we repeated this simple and beautiful song a couple of times, I just had to stop singing. I couldn't anymore because I was literally sobbing. I couldn't help it. It was such an amazing moment of God's love coming down and piercing my heart. Showing me how good He is, even by allowing me to go through breast cancer. How much He loves me, and making me feel it. Palpably. Even though I haven't been as faithful to my daily devotions during this time, He did not leave me. He was there the whole time, whether I sought Him out or not. Waiting for me, giving me strength, helping me get through this ordeal. I didn't care if anyone saw me. It was as if God and I were alone in His throne room and He was wrapping his arms around me, soothing me. Even when I didn't realize I needed it, He did. Abba. Words don't even really do the moment justice.
Wouldn't you know it, I didn't have a tissue and neglected to grab one as I entered the sanctuary.
I can't say that I am happy to be someone who has had cancer. I still have moments of sheer terror and a sinking feeling in my gut that it might come back. Or I'll feel a pain in my body somewhere...oh no...is "it" back having moved to the liver or bones? I think most cancer survivors have those thoughts and I'm no exception.
But I can be joyful in the situation because the Lord is my all and all.