Kara’s Collection: The Beautiful Rough Road

from an article originally posted October 27, 2014…

I thought it had been an easy thing to be a Christian, and that to seek God had been at the next door, but oh, the windings, the turnings, the ups and the downs that he hath led me through! and I see yet much way to the ford.
— Samuel Rutherford

Waiting, waiting, I have been waiting to feel better. I keep looking around the corner of this disease to find the sunrise of normal to rise. Yesterday, I turned to Jason and asked him what it felt like to feel normal. I asked him what if felt like to not feel weak. I feel like I’m starting to forget. Instead of embracing the moment of feeling a bit better, I’m beginning to panic over the coming treatment. But I remember enough of normal living and loving to long, long, long for a day of normal. I plan normal days, dream of events where we are all present and strong. Not huge strong, but sweet walk-on-a-fall-day strong, sit-by-a-fire-with-a-book strong, laughter-through-tears strong. He turned to me and said, I forget normal too; I have a wife with cancer.

This morning I woke tangled with my baby girl. She came in while I was awake. She has refused pajamas lately. Rather, she will start in them and then takes them off. I think it’s her quiet conspiracy to be wakened by cold to wake her enough to come find my warmth. And it is such a sweet grace, when I’m in bed trying to find breath to breathe to escape my weary, then my little love comes to find me. I lend what I have. I still have warmth. I still have a pulse that spreads through my body, and I am able to give my little love warmth another day. And I’m restored to gratitude. Not just for breath and warmth, but for love to extend when I was lying awake feeling I had nothing to give.

Ye may yourself ebb and flow, rise and fall, wax and wane; but your Lord is this day as he was yesterday; and it is your comfort that your salvation is not rolled upon wheels of your own making, neither have ye to do with a Christ of your own shaping.
— Samuel Rutherford

I have a week spread out before me. I hope to exit my bed and walk into it naming the graces ever present in my walking with Jesus. Today, this day, I heard something true. Something so true that it changed my heart. Utterly changed my thinking. I heard a story of a man suffering greatly with ALS. He made a beautiful distinction today that has freed my heart, and maybe it will meet you the same. First, I will share a verse, then I will share how my heart was helped:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This gentleman shared this verse and made a distinction my heart needed so much to hear. He said he was not thankful FOR his ALS, but God had grown in him gratitude IN his ALS. He also went on to talk about how he had always been so in love with the resurrected Jesus, but through his disease he was beginning to fall in love with the suffering Jesus. The suffering Jesus who is not unaware of our pains. His truth freed my heart in a way I cannot describe adequately in words. It freed me to say, I grieve my cancer, my heart aches for it and the pain it is causing, as my heart can ache and grieve for the endless stories of pain and heartbreak that enter my inbox. But I also get to be grateful in my pains and sorrow, because I am seeing Jesus new. I get to hear the beauty of Jesus through the pains of so many of you who write me. It isn’t simple. It isn’t without pain and great sorrow, but it is also not without beauty and present grace. For IN our suffering we are kept, and it gives us the ability to find gratitude not of this place. It is no simple journey to travel.

So today, I grieve for the countless friends who show up in this place facing great pains. I hurt FOR the heartache, the broken dreams, the pain that sometimes won’t let up. Yesterday, I was able to witness a most stunning love story in action. My dear friend is walking her love to his last breath. Our dear friend can no longer swallow, he is fading, and we meet each Sunday knowing we will soon be together in the land of no more tears. Each week his hip bones jut our farther and my eyes grow more darkened. Each week we take the bread and wine, and know we are kept. The beautiful wife of this sweet man tells me of her love for him. And he stands quietly beside me—he can no longer speak, but he can hug me and quietly smile. Yesterday I put my arm around his once large frame and felt his edges. As I hugged him, his beautiful wife lovingly wiped the drool that escaped his mouth with such tender love; I felt honored to witness such beauty. We both were sad that the communion was choking him, but we knew the living bread was the great nourishment of our fading friend. We grieve for his pain, but we are grateful that we know he is IN Christ. And that beautiful union will never be broken, even as his body is breaking.

But I also am able to pray, Thank you dear Jesus, that IN my pain, I am kept. IN my sorrow, I am heard. IN my disease, I am kept near to a Jesus that is WITH ME. I know there will be a day I will understand all of this new in your kingdom. There will be a day I will see what it was all FOR, but today, I grieve with open hands. I grieve for the pain of cancer and the heartache of losing those to this awful disease, but I also thank you that IN our broken state, we are not abandoned. My dear friend that I hugged yesterday and I are intimately and lovingly known and kept.

Dearest Jesus, today I have this warmth that pulses through my bones. I have this breath that fills my lungs. I have the strength to write these words and name your presence in my life. I pray I will be a faithful servant in my low state, an honest follower of you in my sorrow, a loving mama in my pain, an extending wife in my heartache. And when normal feels like the idol I want to build giant, ornate alters to and worship, I pray you would remind me of the suffering Jesus who did not walk away from His own suffering. Would you show me how to walk this road that feels impossible? Will you create in me a dependence on your goodness and grace that sees your beauty in each given moment in gratitude? Help me not to grumble and complain (Philippians 2:14) in my pains. Help my heart not to complain or covet the living of another. Help me to see your purpose in my cancer and for my cancer. But help me not to fear the tears that come as the impossibility of each new treatment takes my breath away.