Monday, April 2, 2012

The Serenity Prayer And Cancer. Make Mine "Melanoma"

If ever something diabolical existed that can make the toughest person alive feel helpless, it's cancer. Hearing that word applied to yourself or to one you love is enough to bring us to our knees. It's enough to keep us there. Melanoma has driven me to my knees and to tears more than once and I have no doubt it will so again. Many times. That's OK though for I find that though I've got really bad knees, my spiritual knees are getting tougher and moving closer to God instead of away from Him. I find that the more I accept my limitations the more I find God to be limitless. The more I accept those things I cannot change and work to change the things I can, the more I find that God is big enough and powerful enough to change any of it. If He chooses. And He can change my attitude if He chooses not to change my circumstances.

As much as the Psalms help me understand my enemy, melanoma; and as much as I draw from Scripture on this journey for hope, peace, strength and comfort, I find myself relying on the wisdom found in the Serenity Prayer also. Most of us are probably familiar with the first part. Here it is in its entirety. By Reinhold Niebuhr:

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Whether we are the one who lives with cancer intimately, or the one who lives with one who does, or a loved one who is there for the one with cancer but does not share a residence but shares a past, present and future and is an important part of the journey, we all have times of helplessness. We are faced with what we see happening and we can't stop it. We can't close the doctor's mouth so "cancer" isn't diagnosed. We can't stop the necessity of excruciatingly painful tests, procedures, surgeries, and treatments. If death becomes a reality, we can't prevent that from happening either. All along the journey we find there are shots we can call, but we cannot determine their outcome. We realize God has not handed us a script, so we don't know how this will play out. We don't know if we'll get a miracle. We don't know if we make the right decisions concerning treatment options. We don't know what will be next. Maybe nothing will be next. We may live in a blissful state of NED for decades, yet still live from appointment to appointment because we never know. And we have no control.

And we have Reinhold Niebuhr advising us to accept our limitations. Accept the things we cannot change. How are we supposed to accept this diagnosis? How are we supposed to accept impending death when that becomes part of our journey? And it will become part of our journey. Everyone's journey, whether cancer is part of it or not. 

That's where the entirety of this prayer becomes important. Just like there are things we cannot change, there are things we can. When we take control and make necessary changes that we can make, it helps us better accept those things we can neither control nor change. When we learn to work within our limitations it helps us focus more on dealing with whatever we have to deal with.

We learn the joy of the moment, because when all is said and done, the moment is all any of us really have. We learn that God can and does take our hardships and struggles and use them to shape us spiritually into people who learn to trust in Him. We come to see that God is at work in ways we'll never understand and we remember that He is well aware of the workings of this world, and that includes cancer, and while we may never see its cure, we can rest assured that it's coming. One day there will be a world in which cancer doesn't exist.

We'll see that. We just may not see it on earth. But we trust a world awaits where cancer has no place at the Table.

We can know happiness and joy in this world, even with a cancer as brutal as melanoma because it isn't cancer we trust. Cancer doesn't have the final say in anything. It may be how some of us will leave this world, but it will not and cannot follow us into the next. We will live forevermore. NOT cancer. 

The time is coming when we will be supremely happy forever. We cannot control that. 

But I can sure accept it!

Gratefully so! Amen and Amen!