Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cancer and the Cross

Last night when I was close to falling asleep, my husband tip-toed into the room. He had been studying late and was trying not to wake me up- so he was surprised when he quietly snuggled in next to me and I asked, "will you sing me a song?" (He gets that question a lot. When we were dating I'd beg him, and he'd beg me not to make him...now, his response time is seconds!) My mom used to sing to me at night and something about it comforts me.

The song he chose to sing was an old hymn that I haven't heard in a while.

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.
But I love that old cross, where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain!
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown."

(You can tell it's old, right? :) Anyway, it immediately took me back in time to a conversation I had with my father before he died. He was telling me about a time that he was alone in a hospital bed all day after a surgery (my mom was traveling back home to take care of us kids) and he felt incredibly lonely. He was crying out to God (a bit like Habakkuk!) and just asking to be comforted. Then he told me that the words to this old hymn from his childhood came back to him, and he sang it to himself for hours. He said it was an incredible experience because his spirits were lifted, he forgot his pain, and he felt the kind, caring presence of God. He felt comforted. He asked for God's help and God gave him music- He comforted my dad through singing.

This memory is taut with emotion for me. Remembering my father become increasingly debilitated by cancer- seeing him go from the strong, invincible superhero to a weak, dependent hospital patient was pretty scary for an eleven year old. Moreover, thinking of him having to go through that- even a day of that- completely alone, rips my heart out.

As I laid in bed last night hearing that melody, I began to weep. First I wept at the sadness- my dad, seeing him die, thinking of him alone and in need. But then I began to weep at the beauty- that the words of comfort my Gracious God gave him (and me!) were words of the Cross. It's the image that perfectly portrays the tragedy of all we are- broken, weak, and in need (like my father) mingled with the miracle of all God is- justice, mercy, and love. At the Cross, we are at our lowest moment. Like my father, we are alone, in pain, and at the end of ourselves. And Christ meets us there and suffers for us. He takes our brokenness on Himself and offers us His victory.

In a moment of my father's greatest suffering, Jesus comforted Him with words of His own suffering. Why? He reminded my father that at the Cross, Christ suffered to save the only part of my father that really can be saved. What I mean is even if my father had been healed from cancer, he still would have had to face physical death later. It's the surest thing in all of our lives- we will all die. But we don't need to fear it, and we don't need to despair over it! There is something more than what we see and even what our bodies feel. What comfort!

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, so our inner self is being renewed day by day." -2 Corinthians 4:16

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us." - Romans 8:18

I am learning from my father and clinging to the old, rugged Cross.


ugrey said...

Well Miss Hannah, I am somewhat speechless and I have tears in my eyes. I sure failed your Father in several ways.


GraceAnna said...

Thanks for sharing this, Hannah!

amy marcy said...

love. love. love.

you melted my heart with this story, and as a song i grew up on in a small town, in a church where my mother played piano and sang it, i can't help but cry.

hyung's blog said...

i always get so emotional when i read your posts...
i think its always good to let the heart express itself