What kind of world do we live in? With a diagnosis of terminal cancer, is it simply a place deserving my cynicism and despair? I’m often tempted to say, “Hell, yes.” But lately when I get up to the edge of that cliff, I find myself no longer wanting to jump. This is grace – to reject despair because I no longer believe it tells the truth about the world we live in. The story it whispers in my ear is too small – and too ugly.
I’ve been crying a lot recently. It might be the drugs I’m on, but it feels bigger than that. Everything just seems so poignant to me. It’s a bit crazy. I’m either profoundly sad or gloriously happy, but I’m often deeply moved in my heart. And then the tears flow. Good tears. No despair. Just the tears that maybe we all should be crying in this world.
For years it was my job to care for people as they dealt with the reality of being broken people in a broken world. I could tell you stories that would curl your toes (don’t worry, friends, your secrets are safe with me). Over the years, though, I slowly became cynical and bitter. I once had a psychological profile done and was off the charts with cynicism. Alarmed, I asked the doctor interpreting the results if he was going to Baker Act me. He laughed and said, “Don’t worry. Clergy and police get a pass. You folks have seen it all.”
I immediately felt better about myself, but I wish he would have gone on to say more. I so wish he would have told me that the tragedy of cynicism is that, after it’s finished with you, you have nothing left to give your love to. Maybe that’s what’s changing in me. What has happened to my health is horrible, but I don’t want an ounce of it to go to cynicism. There is too much to love in this world.
Cynicism, in a sense, makes sense. Hey, it’s even biblical! Job’s wife looked at all the grief that was happening to him in this world and suggested, “Why don’t you curse God and die?” (Job 2:9). I’m with her on many days. We are all so broken and ruined, I just want to weep and weep. But today I am shedding different tears for a different reason:
We are also glorious.
It’s easy in this world to be the judge, the critic, the faultfinder who is never disappointed. But what about the glory? Do we have the eyes to see it in the people we know and the circumstances we encounter? I have cancer. You have your own problems and issues. But do we see anything greater as we live among the ruins of our brokenness? Anything glittering in the ashes? Any cause for hope?
When ugly men drug Jesus to an ugly place and did the most ugly thing possible to Him, his disciples despaired of hope. Cynicism stops there. It always makes its bed in the ugliness and says, “End of story.” Three days later, however, cynicism was exposed again as being too small a story in too glorious a world. Yes, you have to hunt for it. But the point is, the glory can still be glimpsed among us. And so can the One who said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
Today I have the stomach flu, terminal prostate cancer, and insulin-dependent diabetes. I am both sick and tired. Literally. But I am also something else. I am full of hope. I am hopeful that the glimmers of glory that I see in you and me and in this world we live in are whispering to us about a greater truth:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
― Julian of Norwich
So how’s this for a worldview to replace cynicism:
“We are all terribly broken and ruined. But we are also amazingly glorious. And even more than both of these things, we are fiercely loved by the One who is committed to our ultimate restoration.”
Being loved – and restored,
P.S. A low platelet count continues to keep me out of the clinical trial for extended use of Xofigo. Betsy has me drinking Chinese tea that tastes like nasty mud with bugs in it. It is supposed to help. I would be grateful for your prayers – that I would survive the “treatment” and that my platelets would go up from 128,000 to 150,000. Still hoping to see New Orleans soon!