For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
A fallen tree in the road.
A key breaks in the lock.
Dreams fall apart and plans change.
Life slams doors all the time.
When the doors keep slamming and the answer (over and over again) is ‘no’, it is hard to understand. It is hard to stay hopeful. It is hard to hold onto your faith.
Slam! Slam! Slam!
Lately, many doors slammed in my face.
Slam! … my cough was caused by a cancerous mass near my lung.
Slam! … my cancer mutated to a more aggressive type.
Slam! … Slam! … my first, then second chemo failed.
Now, another door slammed in my face.
A big, heavy, ornate door … Slam!
There were tears. There was sadness. There was desperation.
I really thought this was it. My break. My miracle.
But the answer was, “no”, … Slam!
I’m tired of the disappointment, the fear, the pain. So very tired.
I was devastated. I had my moment. I slipped down the dark hole. I crumbled. I went through all the emotions. Anger, sadness, disbelief, despair. I even said the words, “Why is this happening to me?” and “This just isn’t fair!”. I’m human. This is hard. Then I remembered when that tree was in the road, I was okay. I found a new way to make it to my destination. When the key broke, I used a window. I wasn’t stuck on the porch forever. I got inside.
I had one plan but God had another. My pride got in the way. I planned things out. I had the best solution. I knew how to make it all work, but I wasn’t trusting in God. I trusted in myself and in the doctors and in this world.
I was so happy when I qualified for a clinical trial with a simple blood test. Only 10% of the population had this particular protein in their blood. I was one of them and that meant I would have a biopsy to determine if the cancer tumors had the right markers. If so, I could participate in this promising new trial. This could mean a less-harsh treatment and a way to keep my cancer at bay, a way to keep me here a little longer. I was nervous that morning as we made our way to the hospital. Biopsies are never fun, but I have a problem with local anesthetics. They don’t work for me. I anticipated a painful procedure. I was pleasantly surprised, and beyond grateful, when the doctor entered the room with a different medicine. It worked. I was comfortable during the procedure and cried tears of happiness and relief when it was over. All I had to do was wait for the results.
I thought this was my miracle. A clinical trial meant for me. Everything about it seemed perfect. The timeline, the friendly staff, the comfortable biopsy. I thought God’s hands were all over this. This was my break. This was my big exhale. This was my answer. After all the “no’s”, this was my ‘yes’. Finally.
But, it wasn’t.
Last week, I asked my nurse if she had heard anything. It had been two weeks since the biopsy. I was anxiously and impatiently waiting for the results. My nurse told me she would check with the research team. A while later, as I received fluids to make me feel better after chemo, one of my doctors knocked on my door and came in the room. I saw her face and knew something was wrong. My results were negative. I did not qualify for the clinical trial.
We talked. We cried. We hugged. She wanted it as much as I did. But it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t God’s plan. It was mine.
I had a weekend to process, to mourn the future I imagined. After all the slamming doors, I had to find a way to stay positive, hold onto hope and my faith. Why would God do this? Why would He dangle that miracle in front of me and then take it away? Why would God disappoint me like that?
I have to remember that God is good. All the time. He has a plan. God walks before me. He knew this trial was not for me. Maybe He was protecting me. Maybe He knew it wouldn’t work, or the side effects would be too much. I am disappointed and sad and more than a little scared, but I have to believe that God has something else for me. God has another plan. Another way. A better way.
This tree in the road, this key in the lock – a detour to something better. I have to believe that. If not, then there is no hope. There is no way. There is no faith. Where I am right now is in the trenches of holding onto my faith. Trial after trial. I don’t understand. I surely don’t like it. I wish things were different, easier, and more clear. Faith is believing when you can’t see. Faith is believing when things seem impossible. Faith is believing when doors slam in my face- the little ones and the big, heavy, ornate ones. All of them.
So, I will remember those wildflowers I saw along the winding road I took the day the tree blocked my way. There were patches of orange tiger lilies, a hillside of large purple flowers, and a roadside border of white and pink puffy blooms. They were beautiful, especially in the summer sunshine. I will remember the new road I discovered where the trees formed a canopy over the road and made me smile. The light trickled down through the branches in the summer breeze. I will remember it didn’t matter that I was late that day. I stressed for nothing. I thought I was going to get lost on those back roads. I thought I was going to run out of gas. I thought I was going to miss my appointment, let people down, mess up everything. I worried about things that never happened. I remember telling myself that next time, I would remember this. I would remember the pit in my stomach, the sweat on my brow, my shaking hands. I would remember that it was all for nothing. In fact, getting there late sparked a chain of events that turned out well in a number of ways. I will continue on with chemo #3 and pray that it works, at least until we find another good option. Even though things don’t go as planned -as I planned – it doesn’t mean they won’t work out.
I have to remember that. Especially in times like these. God planted that seed in me, taught me that lesson, long ago – when something as simple as a tree fell across the road.
See? God does have a plan. His hands were in this back then.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
This is a tree in my path. I will go around it. I will look for the wildflowers and the canopy of trees along the way, and find joy. Joy in the sunshine, joy at the dinner table, joy on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. Joy in the everyday. Joy wherever I can find it. I will keep going, knowing I will reach my destination. I will feel peace. I will know that I will reach my destination at just the right time. God’s time. I will have faith.
When the doors slam and the answer is ‘no’, I will remember that God will still make a way.
There is always a way.
I have to believe that.
And because of God’s promises, I do.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”