It's strange reading things you wrote years ago. Sometimes I roll my eyes, embarrassed by my words yet grateful for the growth that embarrassment shows. Other times, it feels like someone poured a bucket of cold water over me as I wake up to truth I knew but have since forgotten.
My dad recently reminded me of a post I wrote on my old blog almost exactly six years ago. At the time, my mom had stopped treatments for pancreatic cancer and her impending death loomed over us like a dark cloud. My husband and I were rereading The Chronicles of Narnia, and a passage in The Magician's Nephew hit quite close to home.
I've toyed around with the idea of sharing this post again. I thought maybe if I posted it, I'd rewrite it from my present-day point of view. But I'm not in a season right now like I was then. While I still grieve over my mom, we're through heaviest of that sorrow. I made a few minor edits, but otherwise kept my six-year-old post the same. I think if I changed the perspective the weight of the words would be lost.
So this is me, six years ago, writing about my dying mom and the compassion of God. My mom has since passed, and my season of life is different.
In all of it, God is still good.
“‘But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?'”
I can’t count the number of times in the last year and a half I’ve asked that same question Digory asked Aslan in the The Magician’s Nephew. Then you wait for an answer. And you wait longer. And longer. Until it seems God finally answers with a resounding, “No.”
What do you do with that response? I guess I can’t say God has given me a resounding no, but right now it sure seems like that. There’s always been one more appointment, one more treatment, one more thing to try. Yet eventually there comes a time when the road of possibility arrives at a dead end.
Where is God in that?
Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
Our God is not distant nor apathetic. Karl Barth wrote, “If we fix our eyes upon the place where the course of the world reaches its lowest point, where its vanity is unmistakable, where its groanings are most bitter and the divine incognito most impenetrable, we shall encounter there—Jesus Christ. On the frontier of what is observable He stands delivered up and not spared. In place of us all He stands there, delivered up for us all.”
What does that mean for us now? We can have hope of eternal life in the midst of our temporal suffering, because God has overcome suffering. 1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” The suffering of Christ provides a hope for the future and an example to follow in the midst of our own suffering in this world.
“‘My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great.’”
God takes up the broken state of humanity and fixes it. He does not remain distant but rather relates so deeply to the human condition that he became human. He defeats suffering through experiencing it and overcoming it in the resurrection. Our God is not a distant God. He doesn’t shy away from our pleas, our questions, our tears. He knows better than anyone that grief is great.
Then Digory took a minute to get his breath, and then went softly into his Mother’s room. And there she lay, as he had seen her lie so many other times, propped up on the pillows, with a thin, pale face that would make you cry to look at it. Digory took the Apple of Life out of his pocket.
I can’t help but read that paragraph and think, “Stupid story. There are no magic apples in this life. There’s no Narnia, no Aslan, no…whatever.” Spoiler alert: Digory’s mom gets healed.
Why hasn’t God healed my mom?
I don’t know. That’s why it’s taken me so long to write this blog post. I’ve had it half written for probably six months and haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it. If I’m going to finish writing, I feel like I have to come up with an answer, a nice little conclusion that puts the my mind and the minds of my readers at rest. I’m supposed to have an Apple of Life to pull out of my pocket.
I don’t have one.
God sees our suffering and knows better than anyone that grief is great. There is hope in the midst of grief, joy and peace knowing this is a light and momentary affliction. An eternal “Apple of Life” exists, despite my frustration there’s not one right now to heal my mom. Instead, I’m left holding a thousand questions and pleading with God. He graciously listens.
In my attempt for some semblance of conclusion, I fall short. This part of my family’s story is not over, and I expect that the epilogue will not be revealed this side of eternity.