Monday, December 27, 2010

A Body Under Siege

Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege.

Psalm 31:21 New Revised Standard Version

I remember the curfew when I was a teen in Akron and the city exploded in race riots. Because we lived in the suburbs, the curfew didn’t affect me much. And I remember, after the worst fighting had ended, going into downtown Santa Cruz, Bolivia (where I had traveled during college summer break for a five-week mission trip) and seeing the snipers on the rooftops. Again, I was outside the city proper, working at an orphanage, where we were largely unaffected by the violence.
            Now I live, not in a city under siege, but in what feels like a body under siege from cancer. We all do, of course—pathogens and carcinogens assault us all daily. Most of us can ignore that fact, most of the time. It’s only when the immune system fails that we realize the extent of the damage we’ve experienced, through our own choices and those of others.
            The siege doesn’t lift simply because we are people of faith. History is replete with examples of cities that endured long sieges with great heart and peoples who died with hope intact. What remains during a siege—or any other extreme situation—is God’s steadfast love.
            That love is generally communicated to me through other people. I’ve been reading about the incredible generosity of the Chinese people to one another following the devastating 2008 earthquake. I know this generous spirit firsthand. I am tired of having cancer, tired of procedures and surgeries major and minor. My “home team,” however, does not seem to weary of aiding me. People have once again mobilized to get me to appointments and hospitals, to make sure I am not alone after surgery, that I am fed with good things before the prohibition against food kicks in the night before. They ask what I need, listen to me whine (or let me know it’s time now to stop whining), plan events to distract me, and remind me that there’s more to the world than my own body and its multiple tumors. Although their manifesting of God’s love does not end the siege, it does make it more bearable.

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