I feel like I live on that mountain.
The full story of Abraham’s test on the mountain can be found in Genesis 22:1-19. After Austin was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, I read that story with fresh eyes. One phrase in particular jumped out at me: “Take your son, whom you love.” God knew Abraham loved Isaac. Well, of course God knew that Abraham loved his son, but He took a moment to acknowledge it before He asked him to do the unthinkable. I felt as though God was saying to me: “Yes, I know Austin is your son and you love him. Yes, I know you are so afraid of losing someone you love. Yes, I know you don’t want this. But will you trust me?” And on my good days, I said “yes.” I “laid my Isaac down.”
Austin finished his treatment in October 2015 and was declared to have no signs of cancer in December that same year. But brain cancer is a tricky thing. It doesn’t show up in blood work. Being at a high risk for relapse, Austin must return every few months for a MRI to check for any new tumor growth. And every time it feels like I’m walking up the mountain again, not knowing what will happen when we reach the top. When we return home having been given the gift of more time, those around me, those who have been praying feverishly, rejoice. I want to rejoice with them, and sometimes I do, but sometimes I can only breathe a sigh of relief . . . because I know we will be returning to that mountain again.
It feels like a cruel joke. I don’t know if it makes me a “bad Christian” or my faith “weak,” but my insides shake and my heart twists and I hold my breath each time . . . through every MRI, with every random headache, every time we wait for results. I should be “anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6), but I cannot describe to you what it is like to attempt to raise my son to become a man and at the very same time accept the fact that he may never reach graduation. And I want to know: Will this journey end in death? Can you give me a heads up, Lord? How many times will we climb this mountain? When will I have peace that this is over?
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
The question probably isn’t “will there be another mountain?” but “what will I do when we get there?” I can rage and rant. I can throw myself on the altar of self-pity. I can cry out and lament. I can worship. I can surrender. I can comfort others taking the same journey. I can trust. Do you know that Jeremiah 29:11 was spoken to people facing 70 years in exile?? The Lord looked at the struggle ahead of them and said, “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NLT, emphasis mine). Am I the only one that finds this ironic? Seventy years spent captive in a foreign land doesn’t sound like a good, hopeful future to me. Oh, but God. He’s so much bigger than I am.
Truthfully, I have run the gambit of emotions on the mountain—grief, anger, sorrow, joy, gratitude, worship, shock, melancholy.
The time on the mountain has been longer for this trip and the waiting is excruciating. I do not know the outcome. I can’t see past the next 48 hours. I’m terrified. I am questioning. But my God is gracious and patient with me. His shoulders are broad. He stands on the mountain beside us. And His glory revealed will be grand—no matter how this story ends.
“Who is Jesus? Jesus is more than we thought, hoped, or imagined. His wildness is a source of wonder . . . His righteousness is deeper than the oceans. His goodness higher than the heavens. His faithfulness exceeds our comprehension. So what does that make us? Loved. . . . We are loved when making bold proclamations near cool waters under sunny skies. We are loved when asking sincere questions in dark cells and darker times. We are loved.”
Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my pleas for mercy!
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.”
Psalm 130:1-2, 5-7 ESV
March 11, 2017
Barnes & Noble Café