If you have not read Don’s blog from January 31st, please do so. He shared a profound thought that my mother shared with us when we visited recently. Many of you have already commented on how profound it is, and I have some other thoughts to share about it that I have realized this week. My mother is an avid reader and is extremely intelligent. (She will blush when she reads this and deny it, because she is also extremely humble!) When she read the words that Don shared, she too thought they were profound, so she wrote them down and kept them. Little did she know that she was writing them down for her daughter and family and many others who would learn from them later. The quote was, “During a test, the teacher is always quiet.” As Don shared, through this journey since December 16th, we have both commented, along with our daughters, that God seems to be silent. We are all aware of his presence and do not feel as though he has left us alone, but we long to hear something personal from him. The quote my mother shared has been so helpful!
I have always enjoyed learning, whether it was learning a new skill or hobby, or sitting in the classroom. Granted there have been some subjects that have interested me more than others, but overall, I love to learn. Many people complain about going to medical continuing educational conferences, but I am one that loves to go and learn. My husband, and parents, like to periodically brag on my school rankings and GPA through the years. My girls think I’m “smart”, but a lot of it just comes down to the desire to learn and putting in the hard work to get the grade… perseverance I guess. While many students at college were enjoying the social life more than studying, I was the student who studied before I played. I think it paid off, but I could probably have more fun memories with people than I have with books. Anyway, it’s kind of the way God wired me.
I’ve been thinking this week that I have spent my life “studying for” this test we are going through in a way. And I will have to say it seems like the worst pop quiz ever!!! There was certainly no warning that the test was coming…or was there? I do recall Jesus saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Usually a test involves pulling together the knowledge and even experiences you have accumulated to make sense of the questions and come up with the right answers. For those who have studied hard, the answers usually come easier, but not always. We process information and use critical thinking to make the best choices on a test. There is usually something that is turned around in the question that makes it a little different from the way “the book” stated it. Multiple choice questions give you a chance to recognize the right answer, but sometimes you have to "circle all the correct choices” and we are left guessing which ones are not right. Essay questions involved explaining how all of the facts fit together and make sense, so you have to have some understanding of the facts. Then there were the dreaded “true and false” questions (at least for me). You see, I always think I am being “tricked” with true and false questions. I look for every angle the teacher may be using to trip me up. I even had a professor call me to his office one day and talk to me about it. He explained, "you would have perfect grades if you didn’t mess up the true and false questions! What is so hard about true and false?" I went on to explain that I was always looking for the angle on how I was being tricked. He assured me that was not his intention. But, I had other teachers who were throwing in angles to trip me up. Who could I trust?
The test I am in right now is not requiring simple answers. There are not many multiple choices. I’ve been given the choice of 2 lines of treatment that have shown any effect on pancreatic cancer throughout the world. I picked one. On Friday, we had the crushing news that after only 4 weeks since starting chemotherapy, two of the largest tumors in my liver have doubled in sized, others continue to grow in my pancreas and liver, and multiple new tumors (in addition to the more than 20 that were already there) are now showing up in my liver, along with more lymph node involvement. This cancer is aggressive! The chemotherapy destroyed my hair, along with many other parts of my body, but didn’t impact the cancer at all! In a whirlwind of emotions, we initiated a whole new chemotherapy plan within 2 hours, arranged for home nursing (as the last infusion has to continue for 48 hours at home), and reviewed all the new side effects and dangers of these new treatments. We chose the second and only other answer on this multiple choice test.
We found ourselves struggling with answers to other questions in this test, like: Where is God right now? Why didn’t he give us a clue about the “right” chemotherapy? I’ve not had this material to study before this, so how can I know the right answers? Is this another “true and false” question with a slanted angle to trap me? Even the specialists have the same questions!
There has been very little “quiet” time to think except in the middle of the night. My mind often races like the student trying to write everything they can think of in an essay question, hoping that somewhere in all this information, they hit the right answer!
As my mind has been racing, I’ve determined a couple of things. This is a test of some type. I may not have expected it, but I have been studying for this all of my life. I have learned a lot about faith and the ways of God. I cherish his words and the love and peace he gives. He has never left me and is full of love, grace and truth. He has never deceived me or tried to trick me with some angle.
God may be the teacher giving the test. Or maybe, there is a “substitute” right now being allowed to run the classroom. After all, we are in a battle all of our lives – between good and evil; between our God, our Creator, and the evil one who seeks to kill and destroy and keep mankind from the salvation that has already been freely offered. Because Jesus persevered through the hardest test in human history, we can stand in front of an Almighty, loving and perfect heavenly Father who will only see Jesus’ righteousness covering us instead of the blemished and imperfect people we truly are. Satan would like to convince as many as possible that there is no simple “true and false”, that there has to be an angle to salvation. He makes us question God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s salvation, or even deny who Jesus is! Many throughout history believe that Jesus was here and walked the earth. Our whole calendar is based on his life here with BC and AD. After all, many historians wrote of him who did not believe he was the Messiah. Many world religions say he was a prophet or at least a very good man. But that’s not what Jesus said about himself! He said he was the Son of God, part of the Father sent to us in flesh and blood to call us back into a relationship and salvation with the Father. He didn’t just give his life willingly on a cross because he was just a good man! He didn’t choose his own will, he chose the Father’s will because that was the plan to win us back from sin and death. I know someday Christ will return and class will be over! But until class is over and we have “graduated”, we need to be willing to learn and study to do well in our life lessons and tests.
Yes, this is a test. But I continue to trust the teacher. I sense his peace even when my mind is racing at night. I feel him holding me. He is speaking to me through hundreds of people who are overwhelming us with love and support. He did “allow” problems with bleeding and other complications last Thursday that finally required a CT scan 4 weeks early, which revealed that we had to change treatments now. The teacher is still in the room.
Thank you to all of you who are being the hands and feet of Jesus to us right now. We see him in your faces, we hear him in your words, we feel him in your hugs. We share a glorious Savior! He also told us to be persistent in prayer, so we will continue to pray for a miracle of healing soon. In the meantime, I will put into practice what I have studied all of my life and am so eternally grateful for it.