It isn’t the cancer that I hate. I was sitting, in tears I’d like to add, with my friend Amanda last night. She had come over to walk with me before I retired to bed but my hip pain was too much. I was having a hard time standing for long periods of time. So, she just talked to me. In the conversation she pointed out that it’s okay if “I’m not okay today.” Funny thing is, I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t make my body any different. I had taken all my meds, put on all my creams, walked all my miles, eaten all my protein and still I wasn’t okay. I’m not sure what it was but when she spoke those four little words it dawned on me that I don’t hate the cancer, but I do hate the cure. Ironically, that is the battle of life.
It isn’t the sin that makes us miserable. Although, it may cause some guilt. It is the process of making us whole that we fear. The idea of true repentance is more scary to us than almost any amount of guilt we could aquire. So, here I am with cancer. It never caused me pain. It never complicated my life. In fact, I had a hard time believing I had a disease. The doctors swept in telling me that something was wrong and sent me to the hospital. There they administer medicine that makes me suffer profoundly, all the while telling me it is the cure to a disease that was causing me no problems. Yet again, much like sin. We go about doing what we do, seeing no problems with it, until someone points out we should “get our lives together as to have a better life.” So, we start going to church and gaining faith. We meet with clergymen and understand our follies. We begin to feel horrible about what pain we have caused our Savior. To what gain? Exaltation.
The Apostle Paul was frustrated with the Jews. He was upset that they did not understand that the Law of Moses had been fulfilled with the death of Christ. The law had, in essence, changed. He was explaining that there was no longer a need for sacrifice when he wrote in Hebrews, “By the which we are all sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.” Up until the sacrifice of the Savior, justice had been handled by the people themselves – an eye of an eye – but Christ was trading them the Law of Moses for the Law of Love, asking them to forgive. It was to become the world’s and my biggest challenge. I should be able be able to beat this. It’s just a few cells. What’s wrong with me? A changing law is not always as acceptable as we think.
This leads to a connected thought about forgiveness and repentance having the same process (a concept I have learned from Bishop Seedall). Let me side note a bit. Forgiveness, in my opinion, is being able to unconditionally accept someone the way they are, regardless of their challenges. This would mean that to really forgive someone, including myself, I must offer the Lord a broken heard and contrite spirit. To do this, I have to understand “broken heart” and “contrite spirit.”
Broken: having been fractured or damaged or no longer in working order; having given up all hope. So a broken heart is a heart that is not in working order. After the past few days of nearly unbearable pain, I think this part is covered for now. Contrite: feeling or expressing remorse or penitence; affected by guilt. A contrite spirit is a spirit that feels remorse because of guilt. Therefore, if I am to forgive someone, again unconditionally accept (even myself), I must be willing to face my Father in Heaven and acknowledge that my heart is too broken to make sense of things on my own and that I have some ownership in the problems that are leaving me with guilt and remorse. This is still a huge struggle for me. Any doubters, ask my husband and siblings, or even close friends. I have a really hard time letting others have input into my treatment, even when I know they are just trying to help. I have a habit of devaluing them in my head. This is anything but a contrite spirit. I have to accept what Heavenly Father asks me to do, trust those he sends to guide me and grasp the concept that Christ died so that I would be able to let go of my anger and bitterness and hurt and control.
It sounds like too much. Some days it feels like too much, but He softens hearts, including mine, one prayer at a time (although I may need a lot more prayers than most), and the scriptures help. I often go back to our faithful prophet Nephi. He had been wronged by Laman and Lemuel over and over again. He had been physically beaten, called names, threatened, and who knows what else. Yet his response would be echoed by his actions. He stated in 1 Nephi 16:4 “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did exhort my brethren, with all diligence, to keep the commandments of the Lord.”
There are two important words in this scripture that give me clear direction. First, is exhort or invite. It must be a clear invitation, a chance to use free agency for good. For example, the other day I had to explain to Josue and Marina who the better nurse was. It was easy. Josue often walks in and tells me how much more I have to drink but Marina stands by side and says “Mom, I see you still have a half full bottle of water on your stand. When are you going to finish that?” It’s a lot easier to follow the instructions when Marina asks then when Josue tells. Second, is diligence or by definition “careful and persistent work or effort.” Nephi carefully invited his brothers, doing all he could, in his efforts to keep the commandments. This is the Law of Love, to do all we can to invite those that have sinned against us to choose to do right because they want to and not because they owe it to us. It’s a lot easier to beg Heavenly Father to help alleviate the pain at night when I know I have done everything I can on my own. Sometimes, I have to just say to him, “I can’t do this on my own. Can you please take enough for me to fall asleep?” And, he does, because I have done my part.
What I love so much about Nephi is that in the following verse, Nephi wrote “they did humble themselves.” He did not tell us how long it took or what that humbling looked like. He simply wrote “they did humble themselves.” I imagine that it wasn’t overnight. I imagine that it wasn’t quick at all. I imagine there were days when Nephi wanted to look at his brothers and ask “Are you really this selfish and dumb? Can’t you see me trying to help?” However, he knew what I am learning. That real change is based on a broken heart and contrite spirit and that is not something that you give another person. They have to find it on their own. Let them find…it’s worth the wait. I am clearly in no hurry to be humbled, as the Lord continues to see fit to teach me one fabulous lesson after another. I’m sure he endearingly asks, “Can’t you see me trying to help?”
Sometimes the best things we can do are to stop worrying about how someone else is living in accordance with our principles and start paying attention to how we are living in accordance with them. What does our relationship with our Father in Heaven look like? Are we taking care of ourselves spiritually? Emotionally? Physically? It is so easy to become fixed on the well-being others that we forget that our free agency is not entitled to change or control others, regardless of the nature of the relationship: parenthood and marriage license included. I can only change me. I guess I better make sure those changes are diligent ones. I guess cancer is so bad. Chemotherapy is another story. The cure is what’s changing me forever. I am thankful for Savior. His cure will forever change me. It has given me hope. It has given me family and friends. It has given me direction. It gives me life.