Advent and Cancer
I entered the Advent season this year in a way I could have never imagined. Just one month before Advent began (on November 3), I was under a CT Scan machine to determine the nature of a 4 inch mass in my chest discovered by x-ray only days before. The news came fast and furious: lymphatic cancer. Did I hear the words correctly? Really? Could the cause of my coughing and extreme fatigue really be cancer? Once the news settled in, it became apparent that an intense journey lay ahead.
After the initial diagnosis came a needle biopsy, a surgically invasive biopsy, a bone marrow biopsy, and numerous blood tests. Just two days before Thanksgiving, I had a port placed in my chest where I would receive chemotherapy. Then, hours later, I received the first round of chemicals poured into my body. Next, a two week wait, through days of side effects and days of normalcy, until the next round of chemotherapy.
I’ve noticed that waiting in the midst of pain, uncertainty, and longing are the hallmarks of a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent therapy. This is the Advent season lived out in a tangible, physical way. Advent is a word that means “coming” or “arrival” and it is a time of waiting for the arrival of Jesus at Christmas during the 4 weeks preceding December 25th. Of course, He arrived in the past and provided salvation through the cross and resurrection but entering into a period of waiting each year reminds us of our need for a savior and orients our hearts to let go of the trivial and grasp that which is most real, Christ Himself. Each day of our lives, we have an invitation to welcome Christ into our lives and Advent gives us eyes to see the invitations as well as the resistances.
In Advent, we are choosing to learn to wait. We are learning to allow the unresolved and the uncertain to open our hearts to true hope. In our modern world, we can so easily slip around the sides of pain and uncertainty through avoidance. We avoid through numbing ourselves with activity and excess and substances. We avoid through moving away from that which is painful. Advent is the conscious choice to stay in the waiting and it is there that we are confronted with our tendencies to avoid.
Of course, something like a cancer diagnosis affords the same opportunity but not through the avenue of choice. But then again, I’m learning that there are choices and invitations each day in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. I can choose to make cancer my identity or I can choose to see myself in light of the hope of a God who is with me. I can choose to worry about tomorrow or I can choose the gift of what today will bring, even in the midst of pain. Part of my spiritual practice each day is prayerfully asking, “What are You inviting me into today, Lord?” (Note: I am learning this and not very good at it … yet.)
In observing Advent as a part of yearly rhythm in my life with Christ, it seems that our gracious Father has prepared me deeply for this season of prayer and waiting.
Here are a few things I’m leaning into these days:
- Trust is not relying upon answers and certainty, but resting in the One who holds all things. He holds my life and in one sense, the details are none of my business. I do know that He is good and sometimes that’s all I know.
- I see His love in the little, hidden things that many might not see. On my most difficult days, it seems as though He winks at me with a card in the mail or the text of a friend in which they unknowingly share things that are deeply meaningful in my relationship with God. I feel His gentle touch in the song or truth that the Spirit brings to mind in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. It is not the big things but the simple, quiet reminders that are so powerful.
- “The meaning is in the waiting.” This is the title of a great little Advent book by Paula Gooder. It is a reminder that waiting is not something to simply endure but a gift to unwrap. Waiting has its own meaning as it confronts us with our resistances to experiencing Christ in the now, not when our lives look the way we’d prefer.
- My identity is not as a cancer patient but as a child of God, His beloved. No circumstance or limitation defines me. On days when I feel like I can do nothing, I am reminded that I don’t have to do anything to be loved and valued. I have value that is independent of my ability to produce or contribute or even give back.
- I am truly learning to live day by day. I’ve never been so confronted by the reality that Jesus describes in Matthew 6, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow … sufficient for today is its own trouble.” I’m finding significant temptation in wanting to forget about today (especially when its painful) and move on to the next day, hoping that it will be better. No day is perfect and when I simply move on, I miss the gifts found within the imperfection of today. More than anything, it is His presence that is available today. Hope is about today … the hope and trust that He is at work, that He is present.
“Why am I in such a hurry to arrive? Yet how is it that, I’m grateful for this long and dusty road that is leading me back to loving union with my creator with my beloved. Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time … Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“Loving God, I don’t like to wait. So I don’t wait to see the unfolding of your kingdom or to rejoice in the Savior you have given me, because I would have to relinquish control. Too often, I end up creating my kingdom rather than turning to thy kingdom. Impatient, I stray from you presence, grasping at things and people rather than letting you alone satisfy my deepest desires. You see, Lord, if I am really honest, while I believe in you, I don’t always trust that you will be there to pick up the pieces. This Advent, make my will one with yours so that I may put greater trust in true wealth – your saving presence – especially one the days when mine feels so impoverished.” Andrew Carl Wisdom, Advent and Christmas Wisdom
“Do not focus on what may happen tomorrow, the same everlasting Father who care for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from the suffering or His will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations and say continually, ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts I Him and I am helped. He is not only with me but in me and I in Him.’” Francis de Sales
Posted on December 17, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.
Ted, thank you for your transparency. We join you in this waiting period with prayers…and hope. The same hopeful waiting Simeon displayed within the Temple…
” looking for the consolation of Israel.”
Hopeful waiting …yes! Love that phrase.
This is so good! Ray and I have been in a season of waiting. Waiting for five months while he looked for a job. Now he has a job and we enter a new phase of waiting. Waiting while he goes ahead to Florida and we stay behind. Waiting to see how the details of leaving two young adults here in Texas work out. Waiting to see what lies in store in a whole new community in Florida is like after leaving behind 24 years of being invested in the family of God here in Texas, waiting…waiting…waiting. I really identify with your struggle of wanting things to hurry up and just be again. Thank you for the reminder to be present!
Prayers for resting in His grace and provision as you wait and enter a new life. Great to hear from you!
You are an inspiration to all who know and love you Ted. I believe in miracles of healing and I believe you will experience just that in your life and I for one, will continue my prayers for you and your darling family🙏🏻
Thanks Mrs. Burke!! You’ve always been one of my favorite people. I have such great memories of working together and your love for me.
Kent and I continue to carry you all in prayer! We thank God for your declarations of truth and faith. Thank you for showing us the greatness and joy in living out the beauty of these lyrics..that as He gives and takes away, your heart chooses to say, Lord blessed be your name. And, we thank God that your hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Praying that you continue to dwell in, find rest in, and rejoice in your Lord, your “all in all”.
Thank you for sharing this with us all!
Thanks Steph … love you guys!
Your intimate journey with the Savior is case-specific to you. Thank you for all the beautiful ways your heart expressed this advent
of waiting. I simply love how you are purposely
turning your suffering into a deeper knowledge
of Him. Your words here are so profound. I
appreciate you giving me insight into His
mighty work in your life. I am praising the
Lord for His gentle care of you and trusting
our great physician to heal and restore every
cell in you body. To Him be the glory.
May we all remember to unwrap His gifts
each and every day/season of our lives.
Thank you for sharing this picture of your journey. You have always “shepherded “ your flock and you continue to do so.
Prayers and blessings each day to you !!
Alaine – thanks for your prayers. Great to hear from you. I pray that you are well in His grace and peace.
May God continue to bless you and keep you Ted W. Your faith is showing & growing. Take some rest. With love in Christ.
Merry Christmas to you, Ted.
I read your recent post below.
I pray that the peace of Christ will filter every part of you and the whole Wueste tribe.
I pray that the joy of the Lord will be your strength.
You are a sweet man, a bright and good teacher, tenderhearted toward others and a good listener. You are the very kind of man we need in God’s Kingdom, and I pray in Jesus’ name that he will heal your physical body, even as he prepares you for many years of faithful service.
Blessings to you, Ted.
On Sun, Dec 17, 2017 at 8:46 AM, desert direction wrote:
> Ted Wueste posted: ” I entered the Advent season this year in a way I > could have never imagined. Just one month before Advent began (on November > 3), I was under a CT Scan machine to determine the nature of a 4 inch mass > in my chest discovered by x-ray only days before. The ” >
Thanks for the good word, Ted.
Thank you for sharing. I would say that I am not good at waiting….but then I read “In Advent we are choosing to learn to wait.” The issue then becomes not whether I am good at it or not, for I would imagine in our natural state none of us are “good at it”, but am I willing to learn. It becomes a choice I make to surrender my will to His in the art of “waiting”. I have to choose to trust all that I know in my head to be True so that I can release my grip and lean into His presence. Much easier to type than to live out, but then again I have spent many years perfecting my grip.
Thank you for sharing your insights. They always activate something in my heart. I am praying for you and your family as you journey on.
Beautifully written and shared! Thank you! I can relate to you as a cancer survivor myself and much of what you’re saying is part of my story too. May the God of all comfort continue to minister to you with His presence and the koinonia of His sufferings with yours to bring you hope, joy and strength. Blessings to you and your family! I hope to print out what you shared here….profound! 🙂
Thank you, Ted, for inspiring me with these words. I spend too much of my life hating waiting, wanting desperately to fast-forward past it, angry at God for not providing such a button. I don’t understand why he doesn’t, at least not until the waiting is over and I see the waiting time wasn’t wasted at all, but something that made me more real, more compassionate, more loving. Still, I wish there was another way.