I wait out the few hours until the surgeon’s skilled scalpel will remove the cancer from my body. I am also praying that the divine surgeon will be there as well cutting out different sorts of cancers. I hope that recovery will not only be physical but spiritual.
If I could give all my dear friends a gift it would be this: you are told you have cancer and for 3 weeks you live under this verdict. Just before you are subjected to any uncomfortable medical intervention the verdict is lifted. You are told that it is all been a big mistake. Certain groups would be exempt from this gift, like parents in the midst of raising children and friends already under undue distress. On second thought there is probably not a person reading this blog that does not have distress in their life. So forget all that. It’s unkind. But I will use the scenario as a spring board for my real point – three weeks of soul therapy. This would be a time of deep reflection; the kind of reflection that our busy lives rarely allow or encourage. Deep reflection is not always a restful meditative process; the type encouraged by the stress management industry. It can be painful and sorrowful if we don’t back off when the reflection starts getting uncomfortable. At the root of this process is the issue of our mortality.
Perhaps, you are offended that I think that any of you would be in need of soul therapy. But I do, not because I think of you as anything but dear and beloved people but because I don’t think you are that different from me and the rest of humanity. The Psalms seem to be in my court on this one.
Psalm 92:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 39:4 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”
You have all heard about or even experienced a time when a big health scare reduced irritations, self-righteousness, annoyances, fretting and hurt feelings to a heap of mash, useful for nothing and certainly not worth the time spent on nursing these peccadillos to the point of straining or severing a relationship.
This is hardly a new discovery in human behavior but one that only a writer like Flannery O’Connor could capture with its brutal realism. In a turn of dark humor of which this Southern writer was famous, she describes a mean-spirited racist woman who is being robbed in her home by a gun-wielding thug who knew her hateful ways all too well. As she rapidly and sincerely speaks to him, apologizing for all her big and petty meanness and racist uppity ways, the robber muses, “She would have been a good woman if there had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
Well, I think everyone would agree that the Psalms have a more gentle way to get at the same point: facing our mortality can encourage reflection that leads to repentance. Little “r” repentance is the kind I am referencing. The repentance that deals with our besetting sins that usually only we and God know about or so we assume. The kind of things that we think about or struggle with that we dare not reveal to others lest they like us a whole lot less than we think they like us which in itself could be a deceptive vanity. Thinking about mortality can sometimes lead some to the big “R” repentance- that profound realization that we have lived our lives like we were not only the captain of our ship but the maker of it as well and in sorrowful regret desperately want Christ to take the helm of the ship that he has always owned in the first place.