This winter our pastor began a sermon series on the book of Ruth. I faced it with mixed emotions; it was the book God had used to help me through the time of my son's death. "Lord," I said, "I don't really want to go back."
But go back I must and I'm not quite sure why He wants me to remember again my journey toward wholeness. I only know that it would be for me a step of obedience.
I start in the first chapter of Ruth and as I read marvel anew at the many times the phrase,"go back", whispers across the page to confirm His Word. Like Naomi I need to go back.
God had been faithful during our son's first battle with testicular cancer. After two surgeries and six months of chemotherapy the prognosis had been positive. "If it doesn't come back in six months he has a fifty-fifty chance it will never recur. After five years he'll be considered cured."
Twelve years later I stood beside my son in the emergency room. He clutched a basin in his hands and his knuckles were white against the white sheet. His dark blue eyes fringed in those long dark lashes we all loved so much, looked bigger then ever.
His voice was hoarse. "They took pictures, Mom. The doctors think the cancer's growing again. Only this time, this time--it's probably in the liver."
The cloud of concern which had shadowed me for several months as my son had complained of frequent back problems darkened, became ominous. I didn't know what to say, except, "We love you, son. Never forget, we're praying...."
Later that afternoon I went to work at the church where I was secretary. The sun crept close to the horizon by the time I took the recycle bin across the street. I set the container on the curb, then turned. I heard the screech of tires. I looked up. A city bus loomed above me. I could have reached out and touched the hard cold metal.
For one wild moment I wished that bus hadn't stopped. Lord, I don't want to go through what's ahead.. The chemo-again-the nausea-again, the waiting after each blood draw. Will the cancer count be the same, or down, or will it be on the rise?
I caught the bus driver's eye, spread my arms in a gesture of apology and stepped back. I could imagine his thoughts. Crazy woman. Why don't you watch where you're going? Why, I could have run you down.
I stood on the side of the road, stunned at what had almost happened. I gazed up at the faces of the passengers peering down at me from the windows, then turned away. Fear of the future pierced my soul. My pain was fresh, eating a hole in my heart.
Even as I wrote these words, I relived the bitterness I felt in my soul that day. But time has since gentled the agony and where there had been only pain, there is now a sweetness. Is it the presence of my Lord?
The honey of God's Word drops gently into my soul and becomes my song:
Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God,
you who have done great things.
Who, O God, is like you?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter, you will restore my life again;
Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory,
Amen and Amen
(Psalm 71:20-21; 72:18-19)