Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Patience and a Dash of Hope

 I sat mulling the difference between hope and despair...and hope and faith. After all, when a doctor tells you you'll die from cancer, it's a terribly absorbing thing. I try not to focus on it—live in the moment—but sometimes the worries catch up, and I breathe through them like a woman dilated to a 9.

The root meaning of hope is quite surprising; it means "to wait," something I've never been good at. When God blessed me with "chutzpah," He left patience out of the deal. But in my situation, that's all I can do: Wait. Unfortunately, without hope, when you feel like you can't be patient anymore, that's when you reach despair.

I've met cancer patients who understand this even more than I do. They each traveled to the end of their road and knew when to give up. Their funerals were beautiful, the kind I'd never hoped to attend... But even during their final moments, they seemed different from me; first, they lost faith, and THEN they lost hope. In contrast, I've never had faith that I'd get well, not even to begin with.

This confession might sound terrible because I've traveled to different continents to get prayer. Leaders of numerous religions have laid hands on me and wished me well. People worldwide have read my story and begged God for healing—even if other people did deserve it more. And at the height of this debacle, when I almost died from sepsis while out of town, or my liver started failing, all I knew is that God will do what works for Him, just like when He took my oldest son from this world.

I'm not Christian, haven't been for years. I've read the Christian Bible several times and have more New Testament scriptures memorized than most people I know. I've tried to believe, yet the devout demand I put my faith in Jesus. You can't force faith. It's the confidence that your hopes will come to fruition. What if you don't even hope for what they want you to believe in?

I often wish I'll get better, but I didn't believe it could actually happen...not until the other day.

Trey and I went to see my parents in Tucson, Arizona. I've been there a few times since my diagnosis, and on each trip, I've had this strange feeling that I should visit a synagogue there. I've heard one of the best synagogues in the United States rests somewhere in the desert hills of that city, but I've never gotten to see Congregation Bet Shalom until last Saturday.

Many of you know I've been visiting different synagogues since my diagnosis in 2020. I love the music and the services, the philosophical debates and the traditions. Even when people discouraged me from attending, I tenaciously went because, amongst those walls, like Rahab...I simply felt God. And even if He doesn't get around to healing me, I love being by Him any way I can. And if that's at the synagogue, so be it.

My parents pulled up to Bet Shalom in Tucson, and we felt surprised to meet two rabbis and a chef from Israel who stood on the sidewalk as if they'd been expecting us! We talked about my journey with cancer, and the kind cook said, "We didn't meet by chance."

Then, one of the rabbis, Avi Alpert, talked with me about Noah and rainbows, a sign that has dotted my journey with cancer since the beginning—my unlikely breadcrumbs to God.

"Can you pray for her?" my mother (Ruby) suddenly asked. "Please. Can you pray for my daughter?"

The second rabbi, Yosef G Lopez, began singing the most beautifully haunting melody as he weaved Hebrew in a way I could only hope to understand. Then the second rabbi sang along. And as he harmonized in prayer, something strange happened.

Looking back, I think it took the kindness of strangers, the love of my parents, and the beauty of music to open my hardened heart after my son's death. As those Hebrew words enveloped me like incense, something sprouted to life inside my soul. It wasn't merely hope or desire. I no longer felt that void of despair. Within myself, I sensed the beginning of faith. I still don't know if God will heal me. In fact, I know it isn't very likely, be it's incredible how faith must birth patience, and that's exactly what I need right now.

So, I'm basking in this newfound feeling, grateful for the growth I'm experiencing daily. I might only be able to walk a half mile. I'll probably never again rock climb, cave, or ski. But I'm learning to appreciate the thrill of life in new ways, meeting strangers at synagogues, and seeing adventure within my own journey to God.

Life can be complicated, but it can also be astoundingly wonderful if we dare to look for the kind of faith that might help us continue along our way with patience and a dash of hope.

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