A Story of Uncertainty
When Bryan was first diagnosed with cancer I started writing a memoir of our relationship and our journey with cancer. Some of that writing has ended up in blog posts, other bits of it have just been tucked away. Writing is how I process, it's how I come to grips with the reality I find myself in. Writing is my prayer and my praise. Sometimes I can't think without it. So, it made sense for me to write about every step of cancer if only for myself.
But, in the back of my mind I've planned that I would maybe try to share this story and perhaps get it published.
I have always thought that it wouldn't be finished until our battle with cancer was finished. I wait with batted breath to know the end of the story. I thought the end of Bryan's battle with cancer (whatever that end looked like) would be the end of the book.
This week I had an interesting experience though that lead me to think that the story I am writing is not really the story of Bryan's cancer it is the story of learning to walk with God through uncertainty.
It is the story of learning to live fully in this moment. In this day. Not jumping ahead to the future, however grand and celebratory, or heartbreaking and terrifying, that future may be. I am becoming more and more convinced that whatever the outcome of cancer is the future will be full of both.
A few weeks ago during a time of prayer with friends a prayer popped into my mind and it seems to be on constant repeat now:
"Lord may I hold firmly to you and loosely to outcomes."
Outcomes. We all want to control them, don't we? We want to feel that we are in control of our futures. That we are writing our own stories.
Before cancer it was easier for me to deceive myself into thinking that I could plan my own destiny. Now the truth of my frailty, my lack of power, stares me in the face every time I look at my husband. But, something else meets me in that place as well - the Spirit of a powerful God.
And he whispers to me, and somedays shouts at me, "Put your hope in me." Not in outcomes. Not in a future. In Me. In Who I AM.
He is the God of the present. God of the here and now.
I need not concern myself with the future - he holds it.
I do not live in the future. I live in the now.
My struggle is not to create the outcome I want. My struggle is to put my hope in God. My struggle is to open myself in this moment to a loving God who meets me where I am. My struggle is to feel Bryan's hand in mine without prematurely grieving the possibility of it being taken away and without clinging to it so tightly that I won't allow God to take it away if he sees fit.
The struggle is to trust God and praise Him amidst the unknown.
And isn't that the struggle we all face?
For me, right now, it's my husbands cancer. For you it might be something else. Perhaps you are single and you want to be married and just want that story to be resolved in your life. Perhaps you are struggling with infertility and want to control the future in a way that fills your aching arms with children. Perhaps it's chronic illness, job loss or job uncertainty, perhaps a move to an unknown place. Perhaps your struggles are less external and more internal. But, at some point there will be something that you want resolved. Something that you want to end happily. Something that you wish you could control.
We do not like unresolved stories. We want happy endings.
But, the story God invites us into is the very best kind of story.
It is a story with an unknown future AND a known one. It is a story where we have no control over little outcomes and yet He has used his power to work "ALL things together for our good."
It is a story that invites us to live each day open-handedly. Trusting that His will is better than our own. It is a story that invites us into the deepest places of our heart - into hurt, into pain - because it is through that work that we are transformed - through that work that we can at last know Him as He is. It is through the deep work of the heart, the severe mercies, that we can find real joy in Him.
Today I worked on the last chapter for this cancer memoir. I think I will end it here. End it in the midst of the uncertainty. Because it is in uncertainty that we all really live, isn't it?
God calls us to a great uncertainty - an uncertainty that teaches us to trust. And in the midst of it he gives us an unshakable certainty - the certainty of His presence both now and forever more.
Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany Stedman