It is 4 am on Thursday morning and I find myself unable to sleep. I am sitting in our home office listening to the birds sing their chorus of praise, unable to even wait until the light of day to raise their voices in song. Praise God I am awake and sitting upright. For it is not PAIN keeping me from sleep; it is not the sedative effect of percocet keeping me in sleep. (Praise God I have not had to take any pain pill for the past two days, in daytime or in the night!) After spending the last several days doing very little besides laying and sleeping, it is a joy to not feel the heavy weight of extreme fatigue and drug-induced sleepiness.
It strikes me suddenly today that the appeal of reading these random thoughts of mine on this blog is probably not due to the unsurpassed wisdom and witticism of my particular words, which my writer-aspiring self would very much like to assume, but instead is due to sheer curiosity. It strikes me that many may just have the question, “What must she think about? What thoughts would go through my mind if I were to have to deal with all this?” Yep, that’s probably why I would read if I were in your shoes.
The answer- well, I guess you are reading it. Or really a portion of it. And the thoughts are as polar and wide-ranging as you can imagine they would be. Being on chemotherapy, being unable to drive, cook, clean, run errands, play with my children, read, watch television (for the torturous mindlessness and superficiality of it all compared to my recent life experiences!), being unable to do really anything but lie (lay?), gives one an inordinate amount of time with one’s thoughts. Lots of thinking.
So this extremely long introduction leads me to my current musing: the idea of endurance, and my cloud of witnesses.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NLT)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)
Oh how little endurance I have. How my spirit cries out for relief at the first hint of discomfort. God, I want to be comfortable! Take this trial away NOW, take it away completely. I’m really done with it. Done with learning dependence on you, done with learning how to handle physical and mental weakness. I’m over this desert stuff, take me to the promised land – you know that milk and honey dripping around everywhere stuff. It’s been a WHOLE SIX MONTHS you know. You know that, God? A whole SIX MONTHS. That’s a lot to ask isn’t it?
And I think of my cloud of witnesses.
I think of my mom’s father, my dear Pappaw. The most optimistic, cheerful, loving life and loving work man I’ve ever known, diagnosed with Parkinson’s at a young age. Watching that disease slowly deteriorate his body but NEVER deteriorate his spirit, his hope, his drive, his love of life. How he sought out and gained NEW preaching and teaching roles while in it’s grip, refusing to be slowed. How I never heard ONE WORD of complaint, of self-pity, of crying out to God for deliverance from the disease. He endured.
I think of his wife, my dear Mammaw. Who stood by his side, ever watchful but submissive, ever loving and supportive. Who suffered the deterioration of her own joints to attempt to help him physically by lifting, assisting and straining in ways her own body should not have been subjected to, but who I also NEVER heard utter, “Why? Why me? Take this from us, God!” I saw love, patience, ENDURANCE. Not for 6 months, but for YEARS. Over a decade. She endured.
I think of my dad’s grandfather, Pa. A man I didn’t know well, but remember and remember through my father’s eyes. A man who was a farmer through the Great Depression, a man who lost both a young wife and a young son. A man who had known great tragedy that was never “healed” in this life, but who trusted God with all his heart and soul and taught my father to do the same. He trusted this God that had taken his wife and son, and loved Him with his whole heart.
I think of my dad’s dad, my special Granddaddy. A man I watched my whole life, until his death 5 years ago. A man who as an elementary student, watched his slightly older brother die a sudden death after a head injury sustained when that brother stood up for my grandfather who was being bullied at school. A man who carried that burden, that loss, that guilt, not for six months, but his whole life. But he carried it deep inside, ever trusting God and loving God despite this weight. He was a blue collar worker during the week, and Bible student by night, and gospel preacher on Sunday. A quiet, introspective, hard working servant of the Lord who drew people to him like no one I have ever known. Not with words, not with boisterous personality, but with the truest, deepest love and care. He endured.
I think of his wife, my special Granny. Who buried that godly man, the love of her life, 5 years ago after his battle with liver failure. Who cared for him in his last weeks with such self-sacrifice and love. Who now bravely walks through this life without him here, for the first time since they married when she was a teenager. Who loves her family with a passion and stands by every single one of them. Who finds laughter and joy with her great-grandchildren, and even still cooks amazing meals for us all. She’s not just without him for 6 months. They are physically separated until eternity. But she clings to God, trusts, hopes, believes, finds joy. For more than 5 years now. She endured.
I think of my prayer partner friends. Two women I’ve been blessed to pray with almost weekly for the past 5+ years. Two women who endured the trial of infertility. Not for 6 months. But for 2 long years. Who I watched pray with hope for 2 years. Who REJOICED with me in the birth of my son during that time. Who did not give up. Who prayed earnestly for others during their time of waiting, and did not give in. (By the way, I cried tears of joy for these dear souls when they announced to me on the same morning that they were both pregnant and who delivered their precious babies within 2 days of each other in the same hospital! Oh how God answered our prayers!) They endured.
I could go on. I could mention Brian’s Aunt Pat and Uncle Mel, faithfully enduring the trial of ALS. I could mention dear Amy, faithfully enduring the trial of a child with autism. I could mention another friend, bravely enduring the trial of an eating disorder and one-time suicidal thoughts.
So many more. You have endured.
And I wince. For my impatience over 6 months. Six months that have also been highlighted by many of the most wonderful times of my life – the Walker Run, our first Disney trip, etc.
Endurance – not yet Sara. You have not even come close to knowing what that means yet.
Oh, I’m not being hard on myself. My trial is hard and difficult. God understands my cries for deliverance. I know that.
But I have seen you do it. I have seen you run your races. And I thank you. I thank you for inspiring me. For reminding me about timing- God’s timing. Timing we may not understand, but is always right.
And I look forward with you. To reuniting with many of our cloud of witnesses. To the day when GOD HIMSELF will wipe away our tears – ah, precious words. The day when these trials are no more.
In the meantime, thank you for showing me how to run.