Last Monday, nine days ago, my friend had a colonoscopy and was told that she had a two inch cancerous mass in her colon. The doctors scheduled her for surgery two days later, on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday morning, however, more tests had revealed something more, so they postponed the surgery to investigate further. By the time we were all gathering for dinner at church that night, she was getting the news that cancer had completely overtaken on kidney and was working on the other one. She was scheduled for surgery again, this time for the following Tuesday (yesterday) and this time to remove one entire kidney, a section of the other one, and the mass in her colon. My friend sits next to me every Sunday morning in the choir loft, every Wednesday night in choir practice, we frequently eat dinner at the same table on Wednesday nights. She is a little older than my mom and fills a similar role in my head when I’m at church. I tried not to cry through choir practice last week. We’d gotten the news just an hour before practice, and some of our members weren’t present when it was announced, so those of us who were had to repeat the horrifying diagnosis several times. I choked back the tears when we sang about God’s glory and unending grace, and let them flow freely when our director prayed over us before we left. I called my husband and told him about her. I was heartbroken.
She had the surgery yesterday. We all got emails from the church secretary keeping us updated on her progress. She came through the surgery well. She will be in the hospital for a week and a half. I was relieved. But here’s the confession: I didn’t pray for her. Not really. I offered up some paltry “God please help her, please be with Jennie, etc.” prayers while I was applying foundation and drinking coffee and brushing on my mascara before work yesterday. I got in the car for my for my 45 minute commute and instead of spending the drive praying for her, I turned on NPR to get the latest on the Egyptian presidential elections and whether the Greeks had voted to keep the Euro. Because those are the really pressing issues in my daily life. I got to work early and instead of praying for her, I took a phone call from another friend who I hadn’t talked to in a while. I had to fill her in on all of the details of my brother’s wedding which had taken place over the weekend. I got up this morning and thought briefly about praying for her while I was in the shower, but this stupid song was stuck in my head so I couldn’t concentrate. I can’t even remember the song now, but trust me. It was stupid. On my drive in, it was a similar story from yesterday. Did you know that Myanmar’s long-time protest leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was finally able to accept her Nobel Peace Prize? And that Julian Assange, the jerk who released all sorts of classified information about the US and is also up on rape charges in Sweden, sought asylum last night at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London? Side note, it’s right around the corner from Harrods.
Disgusted at not being able to pry myself from the radio long enough to even think about my friend, I slammed the dial off and drove in silence, considering this post. Maybe, I thought, it’s not that I’m spiritually paralyzed by laziness. Maybe it’s that I’m having a faith crisis. Yes. That’s the ticket. That would be so much better. I can pray to God for my daily issues, pray about the direction of our family, pray for wisdom, pray to have a servant’s heart. It’ s just that I’m struggling with this cancer diagnosis. It’s too big, and I don’t want to pray my heart out only for it to be crushed if my friend isn’t cured. That’s it! This is a coping mechanism.
What a wonderful blog post that would make. It’s tailor made for Deeper Story. It’s got heart. It’s got humility. I’d be admitting a shortcoming, and to top it off, it would be a totally righteous shortcoming. I’d totally get points for admitting it. For authenticity. For owning up to my “brokenness”.
But the truth is that I haven’t prayed to God for my daily issues, about the direction of our family, for wisdom, or for a servant’s heart in weeks. I’m in a slump. I’m in a lazy summer slump. My life is going well. I’ve been bobbing along nicely for some time now. No major crises. Nothing I can’t handle. And right there. That’s the problem: I’ve been handling my own life, and I’ve fallen out of communion with God. I’ve just been too busy. It hasn’t been important to me, but now, when I come upon an issue that really is more than I can handle, my friend’s cancer diagnosis, I am so rusty at prayer that I can’t even get a word to come out o f my mouth. Maybe I was handling my own life just fine, but we don’t just pray for ourselves. We pray for each other, for our whole community. We need each other to be strong in the Spirit and we accomplish that through prayer, through constant communication with God, through an ongoing dialogue. We need to be constantly exercising our faith muscles because the enemy is never lazy, never in a slump, but always lurking. But for me, when the time came and my friend needed my prayers, I was so spiritually out of shape that I couldn’t come through for her. So this is my first post about brokenness and authenticity, and it feels a lot more sinful than not having enough faith that God will heal my friend.