Saturday, October 24, 2015

Over My Head: The Story or Healing

(Pre-script: It's cold in my living room this morning, and I went over to my stack of hats. I set a couple others aside in order to pull a certain previously-mentioned red hat over my head and around my ears. It is even more comfy and perfect and helmet-like than I imagined.)

That title's not a typo.

I found comfort last night as I read through my other OMH posts--the comfort of knowing this feeling isn't new. Each time I hear someone ask in tremulous prayer for healing, I have an inner knee-jerk reaction, and I have from the beginning.

I feel like I come to this point from so many places: I am so aware of God's wonder-working abilities to heal. I am constantly reminded of his loving care for me. I am grateful for the prayers of those around me--close friends, and friends-of-friends who've never set eyes on me. I don't want to discourage faith or prayer, but I do want to direct it--not to my narrow vision, but to the openness of God's purpose in this.

The LORD replied... "Be astonished! Wonder!
For I am doing something in your days--
you would not believe it if you were told."
Habakkuk 1:5

I have loved that verse from the first time I came upon it. It rests comfortably in my head, and (when I'm not overblown with emotion) frames every prayer: His vision and plan in this is massively bigger than I can construct. If I pray for something and it doesn't happen, the answer wasn't so much "No," as "Mmmm better. Keep watching."

My sister-in-law set aside specific times to pray over me this last week while she was here, resting an open hand on my shoulder or fuzzy scalp. And each time, she used the words that have hovered in my own head, and that I have shared here: that God would continue to write this story through my life as He has imagined it. That He would give peace and calming and refreshing when necessary. But not that He would just take this away because it's scary.

I listened to another friend as she prayed for me recently. And knowing her heart, I don't say this with an ounce of judgment--I know her prayer was spoken through her love for me--but as she asked for healing, all I heard was fear. She spoke the right words, but wrapped through the curves and holes of them was the fear of unanswered specific prayer, and the shuddering vacancy behind it: I am asking for a good thing, so if You don't do what I'm asking for, how can You call Yourself good?
(Please, please do not pray this way, because it is rooted in a lie. God is good; we are blind to the big picture.)

In a still moment before my biopsy, I was lying on a gurney, my head bolted into a metal frame. And in the quiet of a bustling hospital hallway, I felt a gentle nudge: "Do you want Me to heal you of this?" I don't know what would have happened if I'd answered differently. I don't really think He was asking if it was okay to do one thing or the other--when I'm making big decisions, I don't go to a toddler for my answer, either. But I think He was asking me to look at the options.

Option 1: (Yes.) The story goes that Chandra is taken in to the biopsy, and Jeff the Wonder-Surgeon drills into her skull to discover... brain! All brain! No tumor! Chandra gets a stitch, tosses her meds in the trash, and skips off into her old life. ...And when she meets someone with cancer a year from now, she says something mildly kinder-sounding than, "I had that once but God loved me and fixed it." And the person with cancer changes the subject and pretty much never talks to Chandra again. Story done.

Option 2: (...No.) The story goes that Chandra has her biopsy, and is given several labels and names. Chandra's treatment is scheduled, intimidating glass bottles with yellow warning labels and poison decals arrive in the mail, a mask presses over her face for a daily swarming of machines, her hair comes out in handfuls. And hopefully, gradually, the tumor stops growing, maybe even shrinks a touch. Story...continues down there toward the end...

I know--how is Option 2 even an option? But there on the gurney that morning, taking slow breaths and moving as little as possible from the pain, the story-loving storyteller in me piped up, like the small child with the word of wisdom. "No," she said. "I want You to tell me and my friends a good story."

"Come and do whatever You want to."   - "Crash Over Me," cited 

The thesis statement, I suppose:
My God created the world, invented thunderstorms and kiwis for fun. He saved me from death and despair and my own stupid self, and keeps on saving me, always, repeatedly. It's not that I don't think He can or wants to heal me--He is healing me all the time, from things much less finite than a tumor: selfishness, self-shame, deceit, disappointment, narrowmindedness, sin. He is at work, doing massive things in me, and whether Junior stays or goes doesn't speak a word against His power or compassion.

A brief example: My hair.
I sugarcoated the likelihood of hair loss in my mind, telling myself and everyone who would listen that I've always wanted to buzz my hair. That's truth--but it's also a cover story.
The history: I never felt like a girl. I played the princess as a small child, but by elementary school I was playing with the boys, never wearing skirts, hating the color pink. As my friends slimmed and then curved in the places they were supposed to, I did not: my weight piled on, my breasts remained in stealth mode, I was 17 before I got my period. I was forever The Girl the Guy Talked to About Other Girl, the one who was described as "Not being, like, a girl-girl," as though that was a compliment. Makeup, jewelry, cute shoes--these are things I have played at but never been comfortable with. Of course, Being a Woman is far more than that, but if we are talking feelings, I've never felt it.
The now: My first handful of hair was in a grocery store line with my local family. The next day in the shower I was nearly sick with how it piled out, how I had to pry wet handfuls like dead animals from my hands. "So much for looking like a girl," I said to myself as a joke, but felt the tears well. I went to my local family's house that night to make it fun, to keep myself from crying. And instead we laughed--laughed till we cried, in fact--and did makeup, and took pictures, and I couldn't stop smiling. The next day I kept catching reflections of myself and laughing, giggling like a schoolgirl, charmed by her own self. "I feel pretty," I told the mirror the next day, casually applying some mascara like it was something I did when I felt like it. Pretty as opposed to beautiful in that everyone-is-beautiful-on-the-inside way, the way I've repeated to myself like a mantra for twenty years. Bald patches and dark stubble all over my big head, and I only wear a hat when I'm cold because I feel not like a woman as much as a girl: silly and adorable and stumbling and graceful not because she's trying but just because she is. I am seeing myself as a completely renewed thing, and how could I possibly trade that in now, knowing what I know? Who would choose keeping their hair over that? But had God told me a month ago that I would shave my head and feel more feminine and actually-really-in-the-face beautiful, I would not have believed Him.

Option 2, continued:  This story is not a medical one about a dangerous tumor. The enemy is not a 10-year-old growth. There are relationships that are formed, conversations that happen, personal strongholds that are torn down and overcome only because of the timing and placement of this weird thing. There is a God who is praised for being always more than this woman thought He was. This woman with cancer doesn't just have cancer, in the same way that she doesn't just have blue eyes or a sense of humor--this is just another piece that makes her who she is, and allows her to meet and interact and love and be loved by dozens of people she never would have known; Lives are changed starting--but not ending--with hers.

I have needed to write this, and have wrestled with it, for weeks. It is not my intention to discourage you from praying, or to be/appear ungrateful. In fact, please, pray for healing:  pray that I would continue to be healed from brokenness, from frustrations and lying and impatience and a lack of compassion. Pray that I would speak with people more, listen to them more, be a better person and friend. Pray for me and my mother and the rest of my family as we process the emotions and the steps of this process. Praise God for the amazing church He has set me in for this season.

But don't pray that my brain tumor would suddenly miraculously be gone.
Not because it couldn't happen.
Not because it's asking for too much.
But because it's asking for too little.

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You, I trust in You

I believe You're my healer
I believe You are all I need
~ Kari Jobe, "Healer"


  1. I've attempted several responses and none of them are adequate to what I'm thinking/feeling. I guess I'll have to settle with the prosaic, "Wow. You...God...grace...what?? I get to be related to this person and share in the story that Jesus is writing 'specially for her??? I'm SO LUCKY!!!" xoxoxox so blessed that my kids get to look up to you as a godmama!

    1. Love you, too, coz sweet coz! (We've been emailing... but I couldn't leave this without a reply...)

  2. I love you Channy and I am so thankful that God is working in and through you. I have a new song that God has been using in my life, Steven Curtis Chapman, "Glorious Unfolding" - . His plan is so glorious we can't understand or fathom where it will take us or who it will touch. The Lord is your Shepherd.... Caba"rita"

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    2. HA! Confused by my SCC albums. Will go listen to that one! Thanks, Cabarita-love!!