a myopic amnesiac

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Just before my first chemo infusion  //  (C) Ashley Taylor

A few months ago, I felt a small twinge in my left hip. Then, for the better part of a week, a battle clamored in my mind, what I know to be true clashing with what my heart fears. Not usually prone to anxiety, I stood perplexed about the sudden fixation on something that could potentially, maybe be a possibility (despite my oncologist telling me not to be concerned). Aren’t there 100 reasons why my hip could hurt? I had no reason to think it was anything grim, and my mind knows that. But my heart was bent on fear.

Why, when I know and fully believe that God is sovereign and good?

It involves the c-word.

Cancer. If you’ve had it, and you’ve been through physically-taxing chemotherapy, you understand why I wouldn’t be keen to repeat that experience. I am thankful to God for anti-nausea patches and an over-the-counter medicine that extinguished the stabbing muscle pain that followed each treatment. I can still recall how my scalp felt deeply bruised as I lost my hair. “Chemo brain” was real, and I have huge blocks of time that lack clear memories. Chemo is not for the faint of heart.

I’ve been in my “post-chemo life” for over a year now, and too often I am surprised by how long it is taking my body to recover. Neuropathy lingers, especially in my hands, and joint pain persists. My blood counts are steadily on the rise, but I am still considered immunocompromised. I had been NED (no evidence of disease) since I finished treatment, but what if that odd feeling in my hip meant my cancer had found a new home?

Sitting closely to that concern is this: I love my husband and son. I have a dear friend who didn’t get to see her children grow up, because she died of cancer in her mid-thirties. Now that we have our sweet baby boy, the thought of not being able to walk through life with him, rejoicing in his triumphs and wiping away his tears in the hard times . . . it’s just too much. I pray every day that the Lord will let me see him grow into a man who loves Jesus.

This is a good desire, loving my family well. But I know that I’m a sinner. I know in my heart that idolizing our son and family would be so easy to do. John Calvin famously said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” It’s true. Elevating something above Jesus can happen without one even being aware of it. For me, this tends to happen when I stop reflecting on how the Lord has worked in my life, how He saved me from sin and death, and the small miracles He performs to conform me to the image of Jesus. (Actually, those aren’t small, are they?)

Despite the myriad of ways God worked to grow me and change me and add to our family through adoption and other means, the ebb and flow of daily life–the diapers and meals and snacks and cleaning up toys–can draw my eyes to earthly matters, things that, in the scheme of eternity, do not deserve the attention we give them. How easily my heart forgets that God is good and kind and loving, and ever-working for the good of His children and for His own glory. How easily my heart gets frustrated with things not going my way, and I look away from the most amazing miracle of all–the fact that anyone, who is dead in sin, is raised to new life in Christ. I have selective amnesia, but there is a remedy.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

The problem really is that I am looking the wrong things. Perhaps too often my eyes choose Netflix over time in the Word and communing with my Heavenly Father in prayer . . . my mind meditates on what if scenarios instead of focusing on reality . . . my hands believe the lie that I have to go it alone and blaze my own trail, instead of asking the Lord, and the wise women around me, for guidance and wisdom. I forget that my mothering should be only for the glory of God, that it is a process, and that I must give myself grace in the pursuit of learning how to mother well. Instead, I let my heart wonder what others think when our son takes toys from others in the church nursery.

Today, my prayer is that God will protect my heart from idols (I’m looking at you “controlling nature”). I ask Him to give me patience in motherhood–with myself and with our son, as he learns what it means to be obedient to his parents, to the glory of God. I pray that I will cling so tightly to the Word, that it will root into my heart so deeply, that I speak to our son with words that are true and life-giving. I pray that, many years from now, he will look back over the years and see the steadfast love of the Lord flowing from our hands and mouths.

How do you pray for your own parenting?

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