I don’t know why I communicate with movie metaphors. I was an English major a long time ago and you’d think I’d have literary references to use. But for some reason movie scenes just come to mind. Perhaps because they’re visual.
Anyway, imagine the scene. Andy Dufresne is crawling through a sewage pipe and a heavy storm booms outside. The music builds. He wretches frequently but he perseveres. Ultimately, nearly exhausted, he sees light, trudges on and falls into a river to wash away the filth of Shawshank prison. He stands, raises his face and arms high, lets the rain fall on him, and exalts in triumph. In redemption?
But consider this non-Hollywood possibility: for all of Andy’s planning of his escape, for all of his years of scraping away at his cell wall and outwitting his captors by hiding his rock hammer in his Bible, what would he have done had there been bars blocking the end of that pipe? I realize the ending of the movie would have stunk (literally), but wouldn’t it have made sense to put some kind of barrier at the end to prevent animals or some fool from crawling INTO the prison? Can you image Andy reaching another set of prison bars mere meters from freedom?
If we’re honest, we all imagine paths through difficultly to happiness. Something like: “life would be good if ……”
You know what I would write there.
Before I walked into the doctors office this morning, I bowed my head to pray. Mindfully resting in a Holy peace, His spirit reminded me that He already knew what the doctors had decided. For me, that decision had been made that morning and I was waiting to hear it. To the eternal God of the universe it is a footfall on the path that he would have me follow.
Psalm 25:4 says “Show me the right path, O Lord, point out the road for me to follow”. (NLT)
The doctors have told me that surgery is not a good idea at this time. I need to go back on systemic chemotherapy. There is no medical path to cure at this time.
I asked Kim what God might be trying to say today. She said “God is still working on us”. Amen. The doctors’ decision is not indicative of having hiked a tough trail only to reach a sign that says not only is there no end but also no return. The paths are always unfolding. I can choose now to stop believing that God has a good plan for me and trek out into the wilderness on my own. Or I can heed the encouragement of family and friends, continue to trust God, and step into the unknown in faith.
But in the midst of a thicket, how do I know I’m on a path? Especially the right one that God points out to me? In these times of struggle, both physically and spiritually, and as I attempt to write honestly about the difficulties of following Christ, my phone rings with comments, texts, and emails that all tell me that God is clearly at work. That my faith is apparent.
I hope you see that this is not of my own making. Only by His grace can my despair be read as hope. I pray that God is being glorified.
So we fight on. The good news is that I haven’t “ruined summer” (assuming the thoughts of my kids) by being in a hospital hundreds of miles away or recovering from surgery and not being any fun. Cancer science continues and the possibility of new therapies for my cancer type are on the horizon. But I can’t allow myself to traverse a path that such treatments might promise. This is only a recipe for disappointment.
Redemption is not at the end of the journey but now and ongoing. So I endeavor to stay in the moment. To be thankful. Hoping and striving to be of use. Face set not on a path that I envision but lifted to feel the soft rain of God’s daily mercy. Trusting that His hand is guiding me. My wife’s hand reminding me of His love.