Saturday, February 5, 2011

Finding Hope

Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.
Psalm 119:49

Some days it’s easy to feel hopeless. Those days came for me most often during the last part of my chemo regimen, when joked that I was a straight B student—bald and bloated. I may have retained my humor, but I was short on hope.
            God gives us hope, and I have found that God often uses human agency to do so. As I met other women who had survived ovarian cancer five years or longer (the statistics, which my doctor encourages his patients to ignore, give a 50-50 chance of being alive five years after treatment), I took hope. If they could do it, so could I. Even when I faced the reality that there were no guarantees, that the disease might recur and I might need another round of chemo later, there were women in the chemo room who were showing me how to face that need gracefully and with hope.
            I find hope in the children of my church. I generally see them at their dearest, not when they are throwing tantrums or ill or fretful. They are beautiful and they will live even if I do not. One of them has already faced chemo and made a full recovery.
            Walking in the woods offers a second means that God uses to give me hope. So much life goes on in such a small space! The bugs and plants and larger critters are all busily carrying out their life’s purpose, indifferent to my survival, intent on their own. The algae edging toward the middle of the river, the carp swimming lazily in it, the canes growing along the water’s edge are all doing just what they need to be doing. The trees were here before I came along; they will outlast me. My existence does not determine the fate of the larger world. I don’t find their indifference disheartening; much as I joke about being the center of the universe, I know that I am not.
            Music and other art forms strengthen my hope. Today is the first rehearsal this year for the orchestra chorus to which I belong. Singing challenging music, listening to it, visiting art museums, watching a play or a dance recital—all of these lift my heart and offer hope. Bach and Mozart, Monet and Michaelangelo lived! 
            We take the hope that has been given wherever we find it. God has sewn hope into the very fabric of the world. Our task as we face cancer is to spend a bit of each day focusing on the hope we have appropriated as our own—then sharing that hope with others who need it, too.

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