Psalm 102 was my lectio devina this morning. You may remember the verse: For my days pass away like smoke, / and my bones burn like a furnace. / My heart is stricken and withered like grass; / I am too wasted to eat my bread. / Because of my loud groaning / my bones cling to my skin. / I am like an owl of the wilderness, / like a little owl of the waste places.
I have a friend who is in a fight with Cancer. Heavy doses of chemo and radiation leave her with burning bones and the extreme fatigue of being "too wasted" to do anything, let alone eat.
But "fight" is my word. She wrote to me a few weeks ago and said that in fact her cancer is something like "an answer to prayer". She immediately added in her own unique and lighthearted way, that I would now be able to confirm that, "she's finally lost her mind."
You need to know this about her. For years she has asked that she would, "…really feel God's love", because she, "…wasn't sure what love felt like, never mind God's." Her quest was God's love. Our little group knew this was her grail, we talked about it on a weekly basis.
She writes, "So I got both the cancer and the love and it is well worth it – although last week when I felt so bad and when I start to again that isn't quite so easy to say. But it is wonderful. Now I finally understand JOY. Incredible!!!"
It is tempting for me to question her on this. My pain for her doesn't want to see her with Cancer. I don't want her to suffer or die. And I'm trying to choke back these words but I don't care if it's adding something profound to her life. In our little group we would occasionally remind each other that we were all doing the best we could with what we had…but that we could always improve if something was added in. Well, this kind of adding in is too much. Too costly. I want to go back to talking about it, I don't want it to happen…like this. But my own words bring me up short. This says much about me and my faith and my twisted and childish love.
I also resist the connection between her prayer for experiencing God's love and her contracting cancer. But neither can I answer this for her. She is the one in the throes of the thing. She can see further than me into the mystery of what shape truth takes here.
But while I don't believe that God works this way, I do believe, as does my friend, now much better than I, that God is not distant. That God is intimate, and in love with her, and wherever and in whatever place she occupies, she will know this love-supreme from the inside.
Ending her letter, she writes, "I have two verses (of course I don't know where they come from) that are my mainstay right now. "Who by worrying can add a single hour to their life?" and, "nothing can separate you, neither…. (you know the long list) from the love of God." How blessed we are. Thank you so much for your prayers."
The psalmist says toward the end of the poem, "Let this be recorded…so that people yet may praise the LORD."
Thank you my friend for being this recording for me. You bring back a message of a depth of love that I have yet, or may never be able to plumb, as you have. You are a gift of mercy, shedding more light for dim eyes.
Dear friend, I know you'll warm to this verse. (It's from the next Psalm and ended my morning's lectio.) "Bless the LORD, O my soul, …who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy."