I Corinthians 15:19: If Christ is our hope in this life only, we deserve more pity than any other people.
Without fail chemo infusion days bring encounters with people that go beyond the friendly chit chat. I hear stories that cause me to think, pray and wonder on a deeper level. Thursday was no exception.
While waiting for the pre-infusion check-in with my oncologist I was approached by an engaging woman. She had just finished her routine mammogram. Cancer free since 1999!
As an aside; it is refreshing news to hear such a thing because typically I meet people who are dealing with reoccurrences which tend to unnerve me. David helps me put these encounters in perspective. “Dona, you are in a cancer institute where people are here for cancer treatment of all varieties and reoccurrences. The others who have been cured or in long term remission are in Starbucks having lattés with friends”. (Fair enough).
Back to the story:
The stranger approached me smiling and said, “I noticed you because you seem to be so upbeat and light filled and I just had to meet you.” I returned the compliment genuinely and she told me her excitement to be cancer-free for so long and then surprised me with a discussion of hope. She handed me a pamphlet and card with her name on it. It wasn’t what I expected because as she gave me the pamphlet she said, “I am not a proselytizer but I have experienced the benefits of chanting through a particular Buddhist sect’s practice. It is all explained in the brochure and if you have any questions please feel free to call me.” She went on to explain that chanting in this way can even change things on a cellular level. I thanked her because I realized this came out of a genuine liking and concern of me. But I told her that I was receiving therapeutic benefits from blogging through the lens of my Christian faith and gave her the address of my blog and invited her to read it. I hope she does and I hope she’s in no way offended in reading this post.
Another aside: David wanted to weigh in on this discussion so offered his experience of “chanting” to our new acquaintance. I quote him, “I did something like chanting when my wife was being diagnosed and I felt helpless and too anxious to even pray. All I could manage was to say, aloud when alone or silently to myself when in public, ‘God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ I said it over and over again and it helped.”
I am not sure this was the kind of “ chanting” she was referencing but I admired David’s transparency and humility as he described the importance of quoting a piece of scripture over and over again as a way of drawing comfort.
Spiritual insight on the nature of Hope:
It seemed that hope for my new friendly acquaintance was related to the benefits that her spiritual practice could give her in this life. To quote the pamphlet, “we believe that happiness is being able to experience profound joy that comes from never being defeated by any problems in life,” and “We have the power to take charge of our own destiny.” Perhaps she also believes as many Buddhists do that there is the hope of a progressive awareness of reaching nirvana where all desire, and attachment is absorbed into the universal life force of all things absent of any individuality. “This kind of chanting practice gives hope”, she reiterated.
It struck me that the Christian hope has a lot to do with this life but ultimately because it is part and parcel of a tangible, transformative, redemptive eternal life. Distinct personal beings like a “real distinct you” and a “real distinct me” are transformed and in communion with a tangible God in His trinity with absolutely no loss of our distinctive selves. I want this kind of hope- A hope that goes beyond this life. Because whatever spiritual practice we do or whatever medical intervention helps us we will all eventually die. We do not possess ultimate power to stop certain forces at work that threaten to undo us. But we can rely with hope on the One who holds all things in his Hand and whose purposes though inscrutable at times are at the same time meant for our good. So, why not really hope big. Hope with a capital H that carries us into an eternal glorious future while we wait out patiently the infinite glory of God to be revealed in us and in this world and the world to come.
1 Peter 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you
Postscript: Goldie Eley, David’s 90 year old mother, departed this life on May 21st. She collapsed from congested heart failure walking back to her home from a bible study a 100 yards from her home. Her Glorious Hope is now being realized.