One breath, one heartbeat, one step, one sorrow-weighted moment at a time the reality of cancer pursues me. Even on my best days (which I have a lot of) it sometimes feels like someone has placed a dark, heavy, stiff garment on my shoulders.
The other day, although I felt mostly good physically, on the inside, the truth of my diagnosis bogged my heart and mind down and threatened to take my breath away under the pressure of its almost constant pressing and nagging.
Instead of sitting around, I went for a walk which is excellent medicine for me. As my steps lagged from the onslaught of thoughts that felt like taunts, I asked God to show me how to deal with the almost constant invisible presence of this earthly enemy.
The warm breeze blew across the wildflower garden and carried the comforting scents of the blossoms my way. I took a few deep breaths. Birds flew to and fro. Butterflies fluttered among the nectar-filled blossoms. It was a beautiful day, but the words I heard months ago scrambled around in my brain like caged hamsters on a wheel.
Momentarily, the joy of the beauty around me was almost obliterated.
So, I headed for one of my favorite places. Sitting beside my photo fort drinking tea a thought came to me as I pondered the sometimes over-whelming reality of my illness and deep sorrows for others facing their own earthly enemies.
People like you.
You know similar sorrows even if you don’t have cancer. Someone you love has it. Or had it and is gone. Or you’re facing one or a myriad of other circumstances that weigh you down, nag at your spirit, steal your breath, dog at your heels, tear up your insides, and each step you take is like walking through knee-deep mud in combat boots with a colossal backpack loaded with pain and sorrow.
Some of our aches are so awful they remain unnamed, and our only comfort is that God knows, and we are confident He loves us no matter what. However, people might not, and the thought that they might find out adds pounds to your backpack.
Okay, back to my tea and pondering time.
I told God that the invisible garment felt like a shroud – the wrappings of death full of the awful stench of the fear of suffering even though I know God will use it for His glory and I want that but without the suffering. (Please be kind – I do look forward to heaven it’s just that the way from here to there can be rugged. I’ve seen it first-hand.)
Immediately after sharing my grief with the One who loves me most, I saw something in my imagination. I dare not call it a vision because I have no idea if there is any biblical support for what I “saw” in my mind’s eye. And I must take my over-active imagination into account.
But why wouldn’t He use that very thing to touch and teach me? Seems like something He might do.
Anyway, I saw my spirit. It was gray and bowed low in my body. Its shoulders drooped under the weight. One word passed over my heart: hopeless.
I wanted to run from the things I saw but felt a loving whisper across my heart that said, “Wait.”
As I let my mind stand in place, unseen but powerful hands helped that spirit part of me up. Immediately, the shroud-like cloak that covered my spirit in the tightness and stench of what looked like death was cast away.
What remained was a very heavy golden velvet robe. Vivid. Real. To my inner eyes.
One word came with this garment: mantle.
The once bowed down part of me stood tall and strong and sure. And in the grace-filled folds of the transformed garment, my spirit now wore rested the weight of my faith.
And I praised the One I put my faith in so long ago.
Jesus. The Son of God who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit God who has known all about me since before He formed me in mother’s womb. He knows about every cell in my body, including the cancer-filled ones.
In those seconds of “seeing,” a promise of healing didn’t come. No white-hot light radiated inside my body where the CT scan lit up the screen and revealed the places cancer had invaded.
But in the stillness, God was there and had been all along.
I also saw that while the darkness of the shroud was gone, I stood in a shadow of indescribable all-enveloping love and unearthly power.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 (ESV)
While I cannot prove the spiritual significance of this experience, I cannot write it off as trickery or useless imagination.
It was and is a gift that I cannot fully explain or describe, but I can remember when that dark shroud tries to shove its way back onto my shoulders because that’s what enemies do.
Until Next Time,