The distraction with which I’m contending personally are the scans that have been scheduled on Dec. 17. They come about five weeks after the completion of my treatment—time enough, I’m told, to know if I’ve responded to the brain radiation and immunotherapy I’ve undergone. Ipi, in particular, has a delayed effect on the immune system, which is why these tests have been pushed deep into Advent. And so I wait, not just in anticipation of the birth of the Christ child but also the mundane results of my brain and body imaging.
This intrusion of health concerns into this sacred season brings with it the possibility of an unexpected blessing: a heightened appreciation of ultimate realities. The cultural mandate that encourages tolerance, love, understanding and the amelioration of human conditions is admirable but incomplete, premised as it is on this life being the only life. It is impoverished by the belief that we have no place in eternity and that all that matters can be discerned by what we observe and experience. In contrast, it is faith in the reality of God made flesh that gives me hope and ultimately life that will one day transcend this world.
I will rest in coming days in the knowledge that as a Christian, I have not been promised physical well-being or security, but only God’s peace and the assurance of his presence in moments of doubt and fear. I will look for the flickering light of that star in the eastern sky that signifies his birth to an unbelieving world. The solution for my anxiety, for the anxiety of us all, is to rest in the knowledge that my life is not my own but a gift. Whatever traces of disease might remain in my body are subsumed by the magnificence of His power over cancer and every other infirmity of body and spirit. He throws his blanket of grace around me as I watch and wait and wonder. His light chases away every shadow.