It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.
Psalm 92: 1, 2
The nights were hardest for me. During the day, I felt able to call someone if I needed to, or go somewhere to outrun the fear. Although I had friends who told me I could call at any hour—and I believed them—there wasn’t really anything to be done. I couldn’t imagine calling to say I was scared. Yes, sometimes talking helps, but my late night panics weren’t reasonable. Yes, I had far too much pride to call someone at 2 a.m. to confess my fears.
It’s Lent, four years after chemotherapy, a good occasion for thinking about God. I’m facilitating two sessions on who Jesus is in John’s Gospel, so God has been on my mind a bit more than usual. I AM, Jesus says, using seven different word pictures. They’re lovely, and some of them pertain to my life as a cancer patient (resurrection and life? I’m there!). Today, however, I’ve been thinking a bit about Jesus as the one who is there. My friends are terrific; they show up. But Jesus is already there. He’s been there all along, in the chemo lab when the drugs were delivered, checked and double-checked for the correct dosages, in the surgical unit when the anesthesiologist tried to make me laugh.
Jesus was there at night, when I was manic from the drugs that day and couldn’t come down. Jesus was there at night, when I couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep for fear. Jesus was there on the nights I had to get up, make tea and toast, and sit with my journal. I wasn’t left alone or abandoned all those months of wondering if the physically debilitating chemo was working, would keep the cancer from returning.
I’m at the “cautiously optimistic” stage, as my gynecologic oncologist calls it. Eighty percent of the way to cured, I think of it, though I know that cancer can recur many years later. Even now, there are a few bad nights. When I am lying alone in the dark, Jesus is there. On any given night, real or metaphorical, that I encounter, Jesus is faithful and present.