The title of this post is designed to warn away anyone who might be troubled by explicit breast cancer commentary -- although, in truth, I will not be very explicit.
Last night and this morning, several references have popped up online to Teilhard de Chardin's "Trust in the slow work of God . . ." prayer. Longtime readers may recall that I used to pray with that one frequently when I was trying to discern whether to leave my settled life behind and go to seminary. I've often referred to it as "The Grand Canyon Prayer" and, in fact, I typed it on the back of a little card that I made with a photograph of the Grand Canyon that I'd taken from an airplane on the other side. I found humor in the realization that when I referred to "trusting in the slow work of God," I meant something like "give it three or four minutes," while Teilhard de Chardin, as a paleontologist, was most likely thinking more in terms of the time it took for the Grand Canyon to form.
Add to the above: yesterday's reflections on trying to see and understand the priorities of Jesus Christ.
Add to that: the Ignatian concept of "God in all things."
And then . . . I am six days post surgery and I HATE the results. I hate the way I look and feel. In reality, no one would know, once I am up and about, but I now loathe my body.
Last night I explained to some of the women at church the procedures I have undergone and the pain they have caused. They were curious and sympathetic, but their surprised reaction reminded me that in some ways, the realities of breast cancer are fairly unknown. We talk to one another and to our families and to our doctors, but in the light of day we put on our clothes and go about our lives. When I am preaching a sermon or celebrating communion or visiting someone in the hospital, I am not all about breast cancer. Not on the surface. And I am sure that the same is true of a woman who is teaching a class, or arguing a case, or typing in her cubicle, or driving her kids to soccer practice.
So, I wonder, What am I supposed to do with this?
I have struggled so to give attention to the fact that I've had breast cancer. Most of my challenges are about the death of my son; it's difficult, in light of that reality, to focus on anything else being wrong in my life. I've worked hard not to let grief overtake everything else, and I have been greatly blessed by work that I love and the joy of sharing in the spiritual journeys of others. But I really haven't had it in me to be much focused on breast cancer. That sounds strange, I know, when you think about the time and energy it's stolen. But the reality is that I am much more engaged with other concerns.
Until now: Here I am. Very much focused on an outcome that appalls me. It's the middle of Lent. I have a congregation filled with people who have major challenges of their own. I have to preach three sermons this week.
And I have been dragged into an arena of self-obsession by an intractable problem that is going to require months more of attentiveness and no doubt more surgery and physical discomfort to resolve. All while I am called to pay attention to other people and other things.
The very slow work of God in all things, indeed.
(I keep posting these images of women looking out windows because I keep hoping that one of them will see something.)