Dear Fellow Travelers,
As I am puttering around my house this morning, engaging in the mundane and rather boring daily routine, I am also preparing to go for the weekend to spend some time with family. This trip was planned as an “all hands on deck” meeting of our whole family, because one of the most treasured among us has fallen ill unexpectedly. The prognosis looked grave in the beginning, but after further review by the doctors, the future is looking better. And we are so very grateful that we will likely have the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company through many more years of being a family.
What’s troubling me more this morning is my own heart. This “feeling” has overtaken me before, perhaps from a distance. The thought is introduced that I might lose someone and my immediate heart reaction is to withdraw. Pull my heart away and hold it in “safety.” A knee-jerk reaction with the childish thought and intention that it will somehow hurt less to watch someone I love suffer from a distance. That if I disengage my feelings from a person I love when there is a risk of loss, I won’t grieve if the loss eventually comes.
When there is a diagnosis of cancer, the fear rises even higher in me. I have feared cancer for as long as I can remember. In the worst days of my OCD, every ache and pain for me was an alarm that I was being stalked by cancer. I viewed it as an immediate death sentence. . .even though I watched a beloved aunt fight the odds and win, I still have this image in my mind of cancer as a snaggle-toothed ugly yellow/green monster that eats small children and is unstoppable. . .And even writing this blog post causes me some anxiety, because I still hold that little girl inside me who thinks her words are magical. . and that somehow me talking about this “out loud” will bring that which I fear most upon me. But I press on.
As I examined my heart this morning, I looked at the fears, the pain and the love all tangled up there together, and I resolved myself to action. If I lose this person who is so very dear to me soon or in the distant future, it’s going to hurt. Not just a little, but with that gut-wrenching agony that crying isn’t enough to touch. That grief that wracks my entire body, that requires groaning from the depths of my soul if I’m going to truly touch the bottom of the hole that’s left. And all because I love with that depth of emotion in this life. And I could lose any one of the people I love with that intensity tomorrow. Because we are not promised tomorrow. We are not even promised the rest of today. And withdrawing into myself in self-protection now will not change any of that. . .for any single person that I love with that kind of a love.
So my resolution is this.
I will continue to love with my whole heart.
I will hold her eyes with mine for as long as she will allow me to.
I will drink in any words of wisdom she shares with me and store them in that secret place of my heart where only a few can go.
I will laugh when joy comes in her presence, and it often does. . .because God has gifted her with a joyous spirit you can’t help but be touched by.
I will watch her love my children with an open, joyous spirit, blessed that they have the gift of this person who loves Jesus with her whole heart as a heritage that will follow them all the days of their lives.
I will embrace my role in the legacy that is this beautiful family that I am so honored and privileged to be loved by.
I will choose to live today. To laugh today. To love completely and fully today. Because the pain of any tomorrow will not be diminished by a choice to withdraw. Only my joy in this moment will be.
And I will take this lesson forward and apply it to all the ones I love so deeply. Because they’re worth it. And I’m worth it. And love, joy and pain are indistinguishably intertwined in life on this broken earth. But someday, we will see Him face to face. And we will know and understand perfect love and joy without the weight of pain. Until then, I will allow my heart to be as He made it. A heart that loves completely and openly and without fear. And I hope that each of you can find it in yourself to do the same. . .Because you’re worth it, too. <3