Weighty Thoughts in a Waiting Room
Yesterday found me in a cancer treatment center where one of my students from my youth group was rounding off his last radiation treatment for a rare form of brain cancer. I was determined to celebrate this milestone with him. Everyone was congratulating him on being a warrior, and being strong–and it’s true, he is a warrior!
But he didn’t feel like a warrior. He felt like he had crawled through the finish line.
The fight takes a toll. My friend was exhausted, nauseated, and weary. Not “8-hour days, 40-hour work week weary,” but “boxer slogging through blinding sweat and extreme muscle fatigue, praying to land a blow” weary. As he went in for this final radiation treatment, his dad, a friend, and I sat down to complete a jigsaw puzzle together.
“There are some pieces missing to that puzzle…just so you know.”
Everyone knows that jigsaw puzzles require strategy. You can’t just rush in haphazardly and get the puzzle to resemble the picture. You start with the edges. The corners are the easy pieces. There are usually only four, after all.
You also have to have the mindset that you’re not going to finish it in one sitting.
Oh, and there may be pieces missing.
A regular–a grizzled cancer dad, who has been fighting this battle with his daughter for quite some time now turned to us and said, “There are some pieces missing to that puzzle…just so you know.”
I turned to the teenager who was working the puzzle with me and said, “Caden, I guess we better get used to the fact that even after all of this hard work, we still won’t have the whole picture.”
Finding Jesus in the Pieces
By now you probably know where I’m going with this. Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) How do you minister to rockstar parents who are fighting through the relentless fears of childhood cancer? How do you represent Jesus to a battle-worn warrior boy with daunting, unanswered questions? How do we reconcile our experiences that don’t agree with our theology?
One piece at a time.
- Start with the edges. Begin with the facts–with where you are, right now. The grace for the hard moments isn’t present until you’re in the hard moments. Piece by piece, day by day, breath after breath, a narrative is unfolding, but I won’t be able to take in the full-scale image at the beginning. But here’s the exciting part: even in the begrudging piecing together of the edges, hope rises when the picture becomes clearer and clearer.
- Celebrate the progress. As sections and entire quadrants start to take shape, something begins to happen: confusion turns to striking realization. Of course. That gray area that seemed to have no place in the big picture suddenly fits harmoniously into the grand design.
- Be OK with the incomplete. All the seeking and hoping and disappointment aren’t in vain, but we still may not see the finished product. This has the potential to evoke such heavy discouragement, but in the scope of eternity and the infinite realms of God’s wisdom, I’m starting to be OK with the incomplete. In 1 Corinthians 13:9, Paul says, “…We know in part and prophesy in part.” Earth isn’t the final revelation. This life is a cliffhanger for the most beautiful revealing that God has been planning since the beginning.
Jesus isn’t a spectator. He cooperates with us and guides us through the piecing together. He dusts off the ashes and sorts through the rubble–with us.