At a retreat awhile back, I asked God to remove a spirit of fear. He was faithful and went right to work. But sometimes, before things can get better, they have to get worse.
That same weekend, holding hands, heads bowed on behalf of a cancer-stricken friend, the woman beside me, who is a nurse, whispered, "Marcia, you need to have that place on your arm examined.right away."
It must have been a miracle. The dermatologist had a cancellation on Monday. But he offered no words of assurance. Having lost two friends to malignant melanomas, life suddenly took on a deeper perspective. Sunsets were savored, loved ones more dear, irritations less important, and God more near. A lot of spiritual ground can be covered in five days of uncertainty, with many gifts of insight along the way. Like any good vaccine, a small measured dose of the real thing builds antibodies against something larger. Thankfully, the Friday biopsy came back "pre-cancerous," but completely removed.
At home there was a collective sigh of relief, but I didn't want the lessons learned to evaporate in the heat of daily living. Although I'd never want to live there, somehow I had been more "alive" in the valley than on the arid plain. How could I ever be the same again? Yet the warp speed of real time was resuming.
A week later I came home, sifted through the mail and ripped open a cheerful pink envelope addressed to me from a local clinic. The first line gripped my gaze: "There is an abnormality in your annual mammogram.." The letter closed with: "Call your doctor immediately." That's hard to do at 5 p.m. on a Friday. So I started using my new "fear antibodies" right away, but they were being used up so fast, I needed to make some more. Is this a booster shot God? Why does making antibodies hurt so much and take so long?
I couldn't get in for a re-shoot until Tuesday and the results didn't come back until.Friday-another week under a cloud. Mercifully, another false alarm, but it sure did feel real. And yet, it had to, to effectively address the problem.
Psalm 23:4 says: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil: for you are with me: your rod and your staff-they comfort me." But how can we really know that until we've been there? And once we have, there is a healing that's deeper than physical.
Like the old hymn says: Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed."
So my husband said, "Are we going to do this every Friday?"
"Probably not ," I reassured him, "but I bet there will be pop quizzes."