November farewells spring in a brilliant array of jacaranda. The blossoms are beginning to drop now. They are heavy from the heat and humidity. Moisture-saturated bonnets fall to the ground. A purple picnic blanket, carpets the lawn where the cicadas have set up their instruments for a day of song. They, like us have emerged from a year underground. Released from their captivity they sing.
“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, they were like men that dreamed.” Psalm 126:1
The hum of bees at work collecting nectar harmonise with the cicadas. Like a bare footed child I negotiate my way through bees and bindii on my way to my swing. Do I dare climb on it and swing carefree into the clouds again?
The dizzy brightness of the summer sun is harsh on my eyes after a year indoors. I struggle to adjust. The looming promise of 100 days brings the hope of completion of treatment and the silent fear of what remains.
Hospital is like a prison in so many ways, a sentence to be served, a place of no escape. You are allowed to leave at any time but you do so at your peril. Before you leave, you sign the form acknowledging that you do so at your own risk.
Each time before we leave I cut off the bands that labelled her wrists and ankles, returning the gowns that stripped Sam of her identity. I tuck her patient number into my wallet in case something goes wrong and I need to ring. Her patient number provides quicker access to the files. Your number is more important than your name in the hospital system. The enemy would like us to believe it’s this way with God as well.
We are relieved that for the first time all year, we have two weeks without appointments at hospital but when little blisters appear on her hands I’m already considering a return trip. It’s hard to break free. It’s hard to return from the safety of slavery. It’s hard to believe you can have freedom now.
The ‘what ifs’ are haunting me. How can I know for sure that we have escaped the sentence of cancer? I cling in desperation to God’s word. I return each week to church. I make myself vulnerable, taking my pastor’s arm and with tears in my eyes I compel him to pray. Somehow the effort of believing has worn me out. I want to relax. I don’t want to fight anymore.
Why is it hard to stand in faith after a year of miracles? Why does my heart feel stony and hard? Why do I think it will all fall apart leaving me vulnerable? Why can’t I enter His rest? Reid and I discuss all these matters as we walk the headland not far from our home. We know so many people who have become bitter, or distant or uncaring through pain. I understand why but its not how I want to be. I want redemption life to flow out of me. I want to breathe hope yet I am also afraid.
I take all this to my Father in prayer. He smiles and whispers, ‘Return to the stronghold [of security and prosperity], you prisoner of hope; even today I declare that I will restore double your former prosperity to you.’ Zechariah 9:12
I am a prisoner. I am totally reliant on Him. It’s only when I try to do the journey alone that I feel restless and afraid. It is only then that the enemy’s illustrations ring true. On those days I am like the Israelites who the Lord brought out of Egypt. I am not satisfied with healing but bitter that there has been cancer at all. I can get stuck complaining. I look at all that I do not have. I feel robbed of a year of my life. Yet God allowed the slavery of the Israelites, He allowed Leukaemia, He knows what we are facing.
Hebrews 3:7-11 ‘The Holy Spirit says ‘Today if you hear His voice will you harden your hearts, as it happened in the rebellion of Israel and their provocation and their embitterment of Me in the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers tried My patience and tested My forbearance and found I stood the test and they saw My works for forty years. I was provoked [displeased and sorely grieved] with that generation and said, they always err and are led astray in their hearts and they have not perceived or recognised My ways. Accordingly I swore in My wrath, they will not enter My rest.’
God is faithful. Though we are tested we can put our trust in Him. He will deliver us. All of our burdens are not ours to carry. He wants us to give them to Him. We must understand His character, rely on Him completely and not be led astray. In our surrender His rest will come.
He promises ‘all things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.’ He says He’ll be ‘the lamp to our feet.’ Today is all we have. Today is everything.
T.S. Eliot wrote there would be “Time for you and me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions and for a hundred visions and revisions before the taking of toast and tea.”
But there is no time, there is only today. Today we must decide how to live. Today and eternity are all we are promised. Today we make right our walk with God. Today we decide where we will spend eternity. Today is the day for saying sorry and receiving forgiveness. Today is all we have.
“This is your life and today is all you’ve got now
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes
This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose
Don’t close your eyes
This is your life are you who you want to be?”
My brother phoned on Thursday night to tell me that his baby Tahlia Rose was born. It’s a new day, a new season, and the greatest of joys. As I held Tahlia in my arms I was teary remembering Samantha’s birth more than 21 years ago. Tahlia is tiny and perfect, peaceful and trusting. In the care of her parents her future is bright. Her trust is completely in them.
In the 1950s both the Mater Hospital and RNSH gave every baby a jacaranda sapling. This is the reason the North Shore of Sydney has jacaranda trees everywhere. They mark the past; they promise the future; beautiful, strong and tall. Everyone I know has a jacaranda story. The tree that graced our backyard as children was where my brother and I loved to climb. From our vantage point we would taunt our big sister below us bathing in the banana bed in her bikini. We would watch our mum scoop leaves out of the circular Clark Rubber pool. We felt like we could see the whole world from there.
To follow the tradition of the 1950s I bought a jacaranda for Tahlia. I told her mum that it would no doubt be the backdrop for many photos, her birthday party a year from now, her school formal and eventually her wedding day. I wonder if she will climb it. I wonder if my brother will eventually find a branch strong enough for a swing. I am excited about my niece, delighted for the tradition of first born girls to be continued and eager to go shopping for treasures to bestow upon her. If I being human have this much love for my new niece, how great is God’s love for me. Surely He plans to redeem us.
From His vantage point He sees the picture that I can’t see. So I climb again onto my swing, finding the rhythm of His Spirit. I lean back pointing my toes to the sun. I gain my momentum and I join the cicada chorus.
‘When the Lord brought back the captives [who returned] to Zion, we were like those who dream [it seemed so unreal]. Then our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with singing. Then they said among the nations The Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad. Turn to freedom our captivity and restore our fortunes, O Lord. They who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing. He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.’ Psalm 126
We may dream about tomorrow but we must live completely today.