Another entry from my aman-cara, Sister Rita on the wisdom brought to her as she walks this path with cancer… (And please see my note at the end.)
The Comfort of Paradox
I am not a fan of the limitations of binary choices, nor of the way they are used by the media to fuel adversarial relationships. Animosity does not support healing. So, when it comes to reporting on this path I’m traveling, I will not be writing about good news and bad news. Instead, I’ll write about only the news that is revealed as I simply do the next right thing or, as the Big Book of AA says, “what’s indicated.”
One piece of news is that today I completed my first week of Ibrance, the medication my doctor hopes will slow the spread of the disease and, so far, I have not experienced any debilitating side effects. I am sure your prayers for me boost my immune system, so I am in your debt.
Prayer is a form of energy, unbound by time and space, and can bring about great good. I can’t pray binary prayers anymore. I don’t want the “Prince of the Heavenly Hosts” to “cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking destruction.” Rather, I want those who draw their power from wanton destruction to be transformed, to be healed. The miracle of love springs into being when there is mutual healing, not when one group is destroyed by the other, no matter how deserving of destruction we may, from our personal vantage point deem them to be.
The other news is that the PET scan did its job and revealed additional hotspots, some in the lymph and some in the bone — not unexpected or surprising finds. My doctor is already prescribing something that will support bone health as well as the present course of treatment.
God’s timing continues to be perfect. Today, the first reading is the story of Moses and the seraph serpents. Patience worn thin from wandering in the desert, the Israelites complain, against God and Moses, They are disgusted with the manna and accuse God of luring them there to die. What follows is an infestation of venomous serpents, with their deadly sting. True to the Israelites’ pattern when they feel desperate, then they cry to Moses to intercede for them again. Moses prays and God instructs him to fashion on a pole a bronze image of the very seraph serpents that have been inflicting such harm and to have those who have been bitten look upon it. They do, and they recover. Gazing at a symbol of death brings them life.
This story is the perfect segue to the feast of the Cross that many believers celebrate today. As with the serpent whose image heals, so the Cross is, in my faith, a similar miraculous contradiction. It is Life-Death-Life: one mystery. We do not venerate the cross with a macabre, masochistic, and need I say warped, sense of suffering. It is a stark reminder of the lengths to which love will go in integrity, love that does not destroy enemies but forgives them; love that chooses solidarity with rather than power over.
In the midst of this mystery, I find myself in a privileged place, with the best medical care, and with a community of love and support. I am conscious of all my sisters and brothers who are suffering. I am conscious of so much unnecessary suffering. Right now what’s indicated for me is to live fully and, in some cases, fiercely, the days I have. What’s indicated is for me to love the cool breeze and the deer outside my community room window, to advocate for those whose voices are ignored, and to refuse to be co-opted by the either/or disease ravaging our country and my church.
May we all bring our unique medicine to the healing of Earth and its people in whatever way we can.
A note from Lauren … for those of you who know my spiritual path, please know I am aware of the scholarship that says images of the snake in the Judeo-Christian texts refer to the older female-centered, pre-Judeo-Christian faiths. And yes, it is certainly possible that the winged snakes referred to in this Old Testament story (not to mention the snakes in the St. Patrick myth) are metaphors for doubts creeping in about this new faith, and perhaps even remorse at leaving the Old Ways or, possibly, interactions on those 40 years of wandering in the desert with people who still practiced the Old Ways. Might have been a bit tempting. Moses might not have liked that and practiced some ritual of his own to return people to the “life” of the new religion.
I understand all that.
I also respect and honor the wisdom in Sr. Rita’s interpretation. There are truths in both interpretations, and we needn’t discard one in favor of the other. That’s another paradox, right? As mature thinkers who understand Mystery, I believe we can hold both these truths in our souls without a problem, in fact, such respectful holding may bring about the very understanding and compassion Sr. Rita talks about.