God, Christmas...and Cancer

Forewarning: For my non-religious friends, this one is a bit steeped in the concepts of my faith.
But hey, it’s Christmas. Allow me some latitude.

It’s the Christmas season, when Christians celebrate Advent – God coming to us.
Emmanuel – God with us.
Incarnation – God as one of us.

Part of the message of Christmas for Christians is the Good News that God infiltrated the human race, in the form of the Bethlehem baby. The apostle John tells us God “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14 The Message)

It was unique.
It was extraordinary.
It was miraculous.
It was personal.
But most of all, it was unexpected.

No one could imagine that our Creator would take the form of an infant—in that place; helpless, and born in such lowliness as to be ignored, had it not been for the heralds of the angels. But God took this step to show us the magnitude of divine love and to demonstrate a desire for personal relationship with us.

But that message is not limited to Christmas: God continues to show up in places we don’t expect.

Even in the midst of cancer!

I’ve made it clear that I don’t see my cancer as either a gift from God nor as a punishment from God. I don’t think it was designed by God to get my attention, humble me, bring me closer or teach me anything.

Nonetheless, it has been humbling, dealing with a body that seem intent on rebellion and having to be so dependent on others. My diagnosis was not God’s attempt to impart some "Life Lesson," but I have learned some wonderful, eternal lessons. And while I don’t think I got cancer to “bring me back to God,” the disease has turned my attention to God even more than was part of my normal routine.

And so while (as I mentioned in a previous article) I am not thankful for the disease, I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m bitter. I can honestly say that I have never asked “Why me?” or expressed anger at God for this disease. I don’t see myself as abandoned by God, and it certainly doesn’t mean I think God was taken by surprise when I got the diagnosis. (I will avoid all theological discussion at this point on providence, predestination and/or divine permission.)

That said, God continues to surprise me with unexpected visits. 

Whenever I’ve had to sort through massive amounts of confusing information to make life-altering decisions, I’ve heard that “still, small voice” prompting me, parting the clouds of confusion and bringing a calming peace.

In those times when dark emotions reflected the sickness in my body, I’ve encountered unforeseen joy. In the midst of mind-numbing nausea, there has always been a subtle spark of hope. And there have been times when I wasn’t sure I could get out of bed, but the strength came, and I believe it was from a Source beyond my own.  

In addition, like we saw in that “little town of Bethlehem,” God shows up in human form. I am constantly moved by the support of those around me. Particularly and especially my partner—loving and longsuffering in every sense of the word. If this ordeal has taught me anything (more precisely, confirmed to me), he is a Gift from God.

I joke about the silly stuff, and even ridicule the absurd things people do and say…but I never want to convey that as the norm. There are people who write to me, or call me…and they comfort me at precisely the right moment. They aren’t the ones who come with “a word from God” of how I got the disease, but when they speak (or write), I hear the very heart of God in their kind words of encouragement.

So, while I would not have chosen this journey (Who would?), I wouldn't take anything for the gifts I’ve received along the way. Throughout the ordeal, I’ve lived in God’s Presence. Yes, I know it sounds metaphysical (It is, actually!), but I make no apology. No matter what's happening, or will happen down the road, I have an assurance that I am not alone in this battle. I don’t enjoy the experience, but I have no fear. For me, that’s divine. And that’s part of the message of Christmas: Fear not!

Note: Portions of this post were originally published on a previous blog; it has been revised and updated for this entry.