My journal entry from January 19, 2014, was called Keeping Myself Honest. I wrote it and then shared it because I really wanted to not wimp out and I thought I might.
I have been thinking about going back to church.
Since Audrey was born, I’ve only been a couple of times – early on to show everyone we were OK, then once a year later to have her baptized.
Some people know I haven’t been attending and some people don’t. I’m ashamed of it, so I’m pretty good at hiding it. Truthfully, I think I am closer to God now than I have ever been. I pray about everything, all the time. I just don’t go to church right now.
Why did I have Audrey baptized in a church I haven’t been attending? Tradition?
Because I still believe in God. And because I want to cover her with some sort of protection shield – she’s God’s child, so with that protection she can’t be sick or overtaken by illness.
But God’s children sometimes do get sick. I, of course, know that. I’ve seen people much more faithful than I who had a much sicker child than mine was. People much more faithful that lost their child. People with no faith at all, or who have the “wrong” God, whose children got a horrible diagnosis but were healed – or who never even were sick! So who did something right and who did something wrong? Why were some people’s children healed and some not? Was it luck of the draw? Is it something the parents did or did not do? What is the secret? And why haven’t I under covered it yet?
I was a pretty good pregnant person – I didn’t eat junk all day, didn’t smoke, etc. Yet people who treated their bodies horribly were having healthy children while Audrey was in the NICU. People who didn’t want children were having healthy children. I’ll admit I wasn’t a happy pregnant person. I didn’t feel well and I was grumpy to say the least. Was that it? But then why Audrey – I was the same way with Ella and she’s fine.
Was it the oats I sowed in my younger years? Perhaps I was being punished for those. Was it the cheese I ate, the painting we did in her room, the water I drank from the tap, the chemicals in my lawn, or the fact that I laid more on my left side than my right?
Was I not really as good of a Christian as I thought? Was God disappointed in me? And if so, seriously, was THIS the punishment?
No, of course not. I *think* I have finally resolved that the answer is pretty simple. We live in an imperfect world, and sometimes really crappy things happen. It just is. Some people lose their children and some people don’t. Some people have children with medical issues and some don’t.
So why not go back to church after this epiphany? Because of intense emotions. Shame. Anger. Thankfulness. Sadness. Love. The desire for anonymity.
Shame: I have spent a lot of time wondering what I did to bring on the cancer diagnosis for my child. Other people have to wonder the same thing. How horrible must they think I have been at some point in my life?
Anger: I have been a Christian my entire life. Not that anyone deserves a cancer diagnosis, but seriously this is what I get? Aren’t I owed something a little better than that?
Thankfulness: I am so grateful, every moment of every day, that Audrey is healthy. When I walk into the building that we call church, sometimes I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that my eyes fill with tears. Just as I don’t know what I did to deserve the diagnosis, I also don’t know what I did to deserve the miracle of healing. It is humbling, to say the least.
Sadness and Love: These two are uniquely tied. There are people at church that truly care about me, that I have known my entire life. They sent me cards/texts/messages that conveyed their love and hope and faith, and I cherish each one. But what I can’t get out of my memory is the looks on their faces during those early days. They would see me and immediately their countenance would change. I could see their pity, and I still hate that. I could see their sadness and concern, and I am still overwhelmed by it.
Anonymity: Sometimes I think it would be great to just meet all new people who didn’t know and who wouldn’t make me feel all these emotions. Do people know I will never be the same again and would the people I grew up with be disappointed by that? Is that a failure, not getting back to your old self? Does everyone see us through the lens of the cancer Audrey had? Of that time in our lives. Do I? I think maybe I do and that frustrates me.
Did you notice that I didn’t say “Audrey’s cancer?” That was purposeful. I don’t want to speak anything negative or even slightly acknowledge in my speech that the cancer is Audrey’s. It most definitely is not. Call it superstitious. Or call it the southern Pentecostal belief that words have power and can work for good or bad. Call it neurotic or silly or sad. I believe it’s a bit of all of it, and frankly if I read somewhere that a daily ritual of hopping on one leg while singing Mary Had A Little Lamb had worked to keep someone else’s child cancer-free I would probably do that, too, just in case.
I am thinking about going back to church, because I need to be fed. I am thinking about going back to church because Ella and Audrey are missing out on something that is an important and fun part of childhood. I am thinking about going back to church because Ella is asking more and more questions I need help answering. I am thinking about going back to church because I think this range of emotions may never go away, or at the very least will not get better without exposure over time. I am thinking about going back to church because I can now give support and not just take support. I am thinking about going back to church simply because I miss it. I am thinking about going back to church because I’ve realized that there’s not a point at which I will be my old self again, and that that’s not a weakness.
I am sharing this simply to keep myself honest. I am going back to church and am not going to wimp out.
Thankful I did not wimp out – I am stronger and better and happier because of it. Thankful that God did not – and will never – give up on me. Thankful that Audrey is a cancer survivor. Thankful for all the people who supported us and loved on us during those early years – many of whom I still get to hug on Sundays (they must be tired of waiting for me to get to real adulthood). Thankful that my girls both love Jesus, and for all the people in their village who teach them and guide them and pray for them. Thankful for the beautiful historical building that is my church and for the beautiful group of people who are my church – whether we are gathered together in person or online, the words of Matthew always come to mind: “where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.”