LOSING FAITH. LOSING HOPE. LOSING MY MOM.
I wrote this in 2014. I wrote it from a place of hurt and confusion. My family and I had no idea what was about to happen--or how quickly. Doctors had started to use the word "cancer" and tell us my Mom had 6-9 months to live. My world changed forever.
This is a small glimpse into that season of my life, a mere morsel of my journey. These are the thoughts of a 27 year old, two months away from saying "goodbye" to his Momma and completely unaware.
Terminal. Untreatable. Stage four. Cancer. Those words change lives. This month they changed mine. These words were recently used in a conversation regarding my Momma. (I've always preferred the term "Momma" over, "Mother". It feels less professional and has a unique gentleness to it--which fits her perfectly).
Ever since I heard the words in a sentence regarding my Momma, I've been thinking about the power of words. How many lives have been altered by words?
"There's been an accident."
"We found a tumour."
"It doesn't look good."
"I don't love you anymore."
"You are forgiven."
"It is finished."
Words are can be bombs. They soar through ears and detonate on our hearts. At least, they can. Words can do major damage (even ones not spoken maliciously). The old lunch time school rhyme is garbage. I'd much prefer sticks and stones over "terminal, untreatable, cancer."
As I've been thinking about the power of words, I've been contemplating what makes them so painful. Personally, I think they hurt the most when they feel like a threat. Primarily, I think words devastate when they attack our sense of "hope". Hope of a job, hope of relationship, hope of finances, hope of health, hope of...whatever.
I've never realized how important the concept of hope was until recently. I've never contemplated hope much until I was faced (as I am right now), with a situation that "appears" to have none. I say "appears" because my Momma raised me to know better.
What I say next might not sit well with some but, please, allow me to explain myself before assuming I'm predictable.
The key to my hope is faith in God.
I'm aware that many people think faith in God is blind. Many people believe that people use faith to replace "common sense" or deny reality. This logic has lead some people to the conclusion that religious faith is false hope.
To be honest, I've wondered that myself.
Recently, I've been wrestling with the faith I've embraced for 9 years. Why? Because I don't want to face the potential death of my Mom with a white knuckled grip on a lie. Who would? I don't want to cling to "this" if there's something more stable. Something with a greater truth or hope.
Ultimately, this has caused me to think about whether I should keep my hope in God or place it somewhere else. Through this I've realized: no matter where I search for hope, I'm going to exercise faith.
Faith isn't exclusive to religion. Remove God from the equation and people still have faith.
In difficult situations (like the one my family is in), people hold on to whatever grain of hope they can find. Who wouldn't be hoping for a favourable outcome for someone that they love? And whether it's friends, doctors, statistics, success stories, karma, medicine, science, finances, holistic medicine, kind thoughts, good fortune, a career, alcohol, a companion, or positivity, people will look for hope, and in the process, end up placing "faith" in something.
No matter how big or little it is, everyone exercises faith. The only difference between faith in God and faith in something else is, faith in God involves faith-fulness towards what we place our faith in. Placing my hope in God doesn't actually requires anymore faith than hoping in chemo or radiation. It simply requires faithfulness. I think that's the difference.
When I place my faith in God, I trust Him with the situation. The whole thing. That means, He might work through doctors, friends, medicine, science or natural remedies, but ultimately, He is in control. No matter what, my faith is in ONE location. In contrast, I feel like, faith that's placed in doctors, medicine, statistics, etc., is far more unstable.
Let's pretend that, after my Mom received her diagnoses, I placed my faith in the doctors, and hoped they would save her. What would happen if they treat her and the results come back negative? What if the cancer doesn't go into remission? I'd probably change my mind and start hoping that the doctors were wrong. I might even look to a new doctor, a new medicine, a new procedure, or a different practice, searching for hope. In the end, if everything fails, I might even end up taking a chance on faith in God as a last ditch effort.
You see, in that scenario, if things don't go as I want, I end up hoping against the very things I once hoped in. Without faith in God, you risk having your faith and hope tossed like a wave in the ocean. Personally, I don't want to enter into this season searching for hope, I want to rest in it. Worse still, without God, if my Mom does pass away, and doctors can't save her, would my hope not die with her?
I know that people who don't believe in the Christian God still have beliefs and hopes for what happens after death but, from my research, I've yet to find a hope as great as what's offered in the Bible. As I said earlier, I want to place my faith in the greatest hope I can find. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not giving up. I'm not morbid. I want my Momma around as long as possible. I want her at my wedding. I want her to see my children. But will she not pass away eventually? If the hope I have doesn't account for "goodbye", what kind of hope is that?
Wouldn't you love to have a hope that had no ceiling? A hope that was so strong there wasn't a scenario on earth that could tell you "all hope is lost." This is precisely the kind of unbelievable hope I'm faithfully placing my faith in. It's a hope the Bible is filled with.
Faith in God is not blind or naive. In fact, I am confident I can look at all aspects of this situation with the most clarity and without ignoring a detail because of faith. Faith in God gives me the strength to stare directly at fear, anxiety, doubt, pain, suffering, and discomfort, and say, "God, you've got this." In return, I receive hope in life, hope in pain, hope in suffering, and hope in death.
If we have to celebrate my mother's life before I think it's time, my faith in God will remain. God has promised to never abandon me. He also promises that those who die in faith will never truly taste death. I believe that for my Momma. Because of these things, I will have freedom to weep over her absence and ache because I miss her, but I will also find comfort in the hope that death is not the end.
As I've thought about the season my family and I are in, I've decided to cling to the only hope that DOES account for the grave, and won't abandon me in death--when I need it most. Death has no authority over those who die trusting Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus conquered the grave. He over came death. He conquered death once and for all and offers to conquer it for us as well. In exchange, anyone who places their faith in the hope He offers, is given the ability to look death in the eyes and confidently proclaim, "Oh death, where is your sting? Death, where is your victory? You can't tell me 'there's no hope.' Not when I know WHO hope is!"
Even now, there are no roads that leave me hopeless.
As you know by now my Momma did pass away. Two months after I wrote those words, I held her hand as she took her last breath. I was left to marinate in all these things I had so confidently (and somewhat naively) written.
I wanted to add this section to though to say, now that I have seen worst case scenario, I've never been more confident in what I wrote.
The hope we have through faith in Jesus is beyond compare. I have wept, I have ached, I have missed her desperately, but I've never lost HOPE. I recently discovered a quote that quickly became a new favourite of mine. I end with this...
"Why are we so afraid when we think about death? Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible...if only we realize that it is a gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting Kingdom of peace. How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world? Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is what is so marvellous, that we can transform death." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer