Last week at church, we received all a small square of paper with the phrase, “Because He Lives…”, where we were tasked with completing the sentence. On mine, I wrote: “I am not alone.” I filtered through about twenty others before I settled on this one. I hesitated with this one because I have plenty of supportive, loving people around me. I’m not alone and I have no reason to feel lonely. Regardless of how great your tribe is, there are inevitably times of intense loneliness when you have to fight some serious head or body battles. I pray these times are a mere breath in your life, but, in truth, they can take years.
For me, my season of loneliness feels like a lifetime. It was probably more of a lifetime of ebbing and flowing from times of community and feeling loved to times of isolation and feeling irrelevant. I can probably pinpoint those darker moments to my self-perceived failures. For the longest time, I did not view failure, in my own life, as a bump in the road or a learning experience. It was a huge blow to my self-esteem and self-perception. I also made assumptions about what others thought of me, as if that even mattered. And then, I internalized the negative perception of others to inform my own vision of myself. It is a vicious cycle, which finally needed to stop. All of this negativity and self-loathing made a huge impasse to my ability to love others. I absolutely hated myself, which left me unable to fully love those around me.
Eventually, I would stumble upon a theme in my personal development literature: you can write your own narrative. I don’t know why this blew my mind, but I took it and ran. Before this spoke to me, I spent a lot of time in prayer about my own heart. Instead of praying for things outside of myself to change, I began to spend time praying for my own heart to change. I prayed for new eyes to see my loved ones, especially the ones that incited anger in me when I knew I should be feeling compassion. I prayed for a changed heart over and over again. And it was working. It took time, little by little, but I was seeing little victory after victory. I could pick up my Bible and find inspiration and direction, whereas for years, I found nothing of any meaning to me.
It wasn’t until I got that call telling me I had breast cancer, that I fell to my knees in absolute brokenness. In mere seconds, all of the thoughts passed through my mind. Why now? I need more time. My kids are only 2 and 4! They won’t even know me. I’m not prepared for this fight. I’m not ready for death. Death seemed to be staring me right in my face and I had to make some choices. Ordinarily, I would let the anxious thoughts take over and let worry control my decisions and actions. I made a different choice.
There is no lonelier place than when death taps you on the shoulder. Now, my situation was not as dire as many others. I was not going to die right away. My cancer didn’t even have a stage. However, the decisions I would have to make in a short amount of time left me having to grapple with death’s proximity because that is what you are fighting when you fight cancer. You are fighting to live. Whether it’s stage 4 or stage 0. And that changed the game for me. The choice I made was to lean towards God and grapple with death and truly contemplate the value of my life. I didn’t run and hide with my sorrow. I cried plenty, but I wasn’t running.
I had many folks around me for support and love during this difficult time, but I don’t think I could have allowed those folks in if it wasn’t for me first allowing my life to have value. That value doesn’t come from how good of a mom or wife I am, or how well my business succeeds, or how good of a friend I can be. My life has value because I am a creation of a God who promises to stay close to me.
I had one verse that comforted me before I had my double mastectomy. That surgery alone had me frightened to the core. Not only was the aftermath frightening, but I seriously thought I might not come out alive. It was my first planned surgery. Excuse my dramatics.
Isaiah 42:16 “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.”
Because He lives…I have hope, I am whole, I am loved, I can allow myself to be loved by others, I’m not alone, I can love others, I walk by faith, I am alive…