This has been the week when potential death has been leering at our family due to Jeremy’s deteriorating condition from the complications of treating lymphoma. Your prayers and love have been extraordinary, and we feel buoyed by them despite the circumstances.
On Tuesday (September 24) I sat for an hour and a half in the dentist chair while Dr. Forney chiseled a post out of the broken half of a molar still left in my mouth. Novocain was administered, impressions taken, and a temporary crown applied. While waiting for my gum to get numb, I began to conduct an inner dialogue. I’m not hearing anything from you, Lord. Today I need a tender word, a promise—something.
The dentist cheerily talked about the nice weather. “Yessir. We certainly are in the fall season. Which season do you like best?” I had no sucking apparatus in my mouth yet so I could respond with more than the jumble-mumble that occurs with numbed lips and dental apparatus. “I love fall, but spring is my favorite time of year.” I deliberately do not elaborate. He goes on about Halloween trick-or-treating with his kids and previous years when the day was pleasant or when it rained. “Yep, slanting rain. That year it just came at us sidewise.”
But I’m not really listening; I’m waiting for a communication of an entirely different kind. Fortunately, dental work begins in earnest. I can concentrate on listening. Suction tubes are inserted, chipping begins, a dialogue goes on over my head with the dental assistant. I try not to hear the office Musak in the background.
Then I remember a lesson learned earlier during another hard passage in my life. (“Open your mouth”, the assistant encourages. She explains what is happening. I’m on automatic pilot as far as the dental process is concerned.) Years ago, I learned that when God is silent, He is entrusting us with the capability of knowing Him in a totally other way. It’s not so much a matter of God being in the silence as God being the Silence. “I AM,” spoke YAHWEH from the burning bush. “I AM . . .” said Jesus over and over. When God is the Silence, we are in the PRESENCE.
Then, almost indiscernibly, a wispy thought of the story of Lazarus rose. I AM the God who brought Lazarus from the tomb. Then, very faint, the phrase over and over, “. . . for the glory of God. For the glory of God.” It wasn’t until this morning (Friday of the same week) that I had time to look up the reference to the Lazarus story in John 11. Christ’s words actually are, “This illness is not unto death: it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”
An hour and a half after walking into the examining room, the work is done, I’m shown by looking in a mirror held before me the color of my temporary crown—how it matches the rest of my teeth, “Oh, that looks great,” I say, although it could have been chartreuse for all I cared.
I have been resting in this fragment, this phrase, this meaning for several days; I am trying to let it tell me what it is saying. One thing I realize is this: that this is not the Mains family story, Jeremy’s long journey into cancer. For some reason I don’t completely understand, it is God’s story. We are all but players in a scenario He is working out that is bringing us stress and distress. I admit right now it is a cliff-hanger.
However the last chapter ends, please pray that I will inhabit my part so that God, the Author, will be glorified by it.
I’m still listening. Leaning into the Silence. An e-mail comes from our friend, Tirus Githaka, in Kenya. It is a phrase from Psalm 27:13 that comes to mind when he and his wife, Winnie, pray for Jeremy, “For I know I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
~~ David Mains