Life was beautiful before cancer came knocking on our door. Sam was a pretty girl, active in church, loving uni, with a fabulous group of friends, a stable family life and a home near the beach. Out of nowhere we were knocked down flat and a sharp blade began to cut through the beautiful image that was our life. It made its way around our family until we were cut into a thousand little pieces and thrown into a flimsy cardboard box. The lovely image of how life used to look was detailed on the front and then it was sealed in plastic, put on the shelf and we were given little hope that the picture would ever reform. At best it would always be scared from the blade that sliced through us.
Our life became like a jigsaw puzzle. We laid out all the pieces and spent many days trying to connect them again. It was long and mostly boring, joining those parts. Occasionally a whole scene came together like at the end of the ‘Induction phase’ when the chemotherapy proved to be effective and she was in first remission.
No one prepared us for what came next. Instead we were handed another sheet, a new protocol, the next phase and told that the MRD would be what’s important now. Like a handful of cardboard pieces, we had another scene to build. We began again with all those little parts that never seemed to fit no matter how hard we tried to turn them around on the table. That was early in May when they told us that the results hadn’t been what they were looking for and they would commence their search for a donor. All the little pieces got scooped back in the box and we had another go at trying to survive until the donor was found.
At night I would look at the flawless photographs of my daughter. Her sassy smile, her long dark hair, the glint of starlight in her eyes that sparkled at her future. This was the image that kept me going and I pulled out all those little pieces determined that with God’s grace, the picture of her life would be fully restored.
The picture is almost in full view now but we have discovered that one little piece is still missing. Only the surface of the table peeks back at us from where it should be and we see that the picture is incomplete. We could shrug our shoulders; tell ourselves that in the scheme of things, it’s a pretty good result. You can almost see the completed scene. We can imagine what the finished picture will be like, we can compare it with the scene on the front of the box and be satisfied that life is forming for us again. I run my fingers over the image of what now is the picture of our life and under the tips of them I feel the indentations. I could tell a thousand different stories for each individual piece.
The piece that is missing now is the one where we try to make sense of it all. Some would say ‘it’s irrelevant,’ some would say ‘she has already impacted lives,’ some would say ‘just be grateful that what has been lost has been found.’ I understand their words. We are grateful. All will be made whole. Her hands will be still again, her skin less sensitive, her hair will grow back, her swollen face will return to its petite little frame. It will be the way Jesus (in Luke 15) taught in the parables, of things that went missing, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Everything that was lost was returned and all the people rejoiced.
Over coffee, Sam tells me that she can handle all the stuff that has gone missing except when her thoughts become fuzzy from drugs or the exhaustion that is intensified by heat. Yet there is another kind of desire that is evoked in her. It is the desire to understand the purpose of being a survivor at all. Not everyone recovers from Leukaemia and the ability to discover why Sam did, weighs heavy on her mind. “I don’t just want to return to being ordinary.” I understand her words. I too, want my life to count. We did not spend a year in the valley of the shadow of death to return to an ordinary life.
So I get off my chair and on hands and knees, I grope around under the table, reaching out, trying to feel that one little piece wondering if it’s dropped to the floor. Things go missing don’t they and its human nature to seek.
Matthew 7:7-8 (Amplified Bible)
7Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you.
8For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.
Even Jesus went missing.
It’s kind of encouraging isn’t it, that Mary lost Jesus. She assumed He was with them. They traveled for three days before they thought to stop and look. Sometimes in this new season of recovery, I think Sam is with me too but she isn’t, she’s a long way behind me still. I can see that she’s spending time in God’s presence, she’s writing in her journal, she’s sitting at His feet. We can’t always run with the crowd. Sometimes God pulls us aside to tell us how to live.
It’s not surprising really that they found Jesus in the temple; after all the preceding verses (Luke 2:25 – 39) tell us that Simeon and Anna had known all their lives what the purpose was for Jesus birth. When we loose sight of our purpose we need people like that to help us make sense of the journey. People who spend time in God’s presence and know how to hear His voice.
I love Jesus response to His parents when they found Him. He sounds like Jack: Gosh, didn’t you think I’d be here? Didn’t you trust me? Didn’t you know? I think that in spite of the fact he was (and is) God, he was still fully human. Like us, He was looking for answers. He wanted to be around people who could fill Him in on all the gaps that He didn’t understand about the purpose of His existence. It’s a very fine line between humanity and the voice of the spirit. God’s voice is more familiar than we think.
So there I was on Saturday morning, under the table looking for that piece and some of the picture came into view. A message came to me from a friend on my Facebook page. This is what she wrote: “I was praying for Sam this morning and I saw this picture of her. It was a blueprint of a plan but it was invisible. I knew it was there but you couldn’t see it. Then water was splashed on it and you could see the plan as the invisible ink was made visible by the water. It was like one if those “paint with water” books we had when we were children. The water was the Holy Spirit, as He began to renew Sam this year, the plan would begin to become clearer. I also saw God restoring the gaps in her heart that have been stolen, with a warm liquid substance and her heart was not broken, cold or empty anymore.” (Holy Spirit via Wendy Gilbert)
My friend words did not complete the picture the way I would like but she re-ignited my hope. She was like the voice of my Father acknowledging the gaps, reminding me that He hasn’t finished yet but He hasn’t forgotten us either.