I’ve never actually been to Mount Moriah, but I’ve sure been thinking alot about it this past week. If you don’t know….Mount Moriah is a hill overlooking Jerusalem. It is the hill where Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice him, where God appeared to David, and where Solomon built his temple. It is the same hill where the Dome of the Rock now sits. And it is argued to also be the place where Jesus the Christ was crucified. It is indeed Holy Ground. What I’ve been thinking about is Abraham and God’s request that he sacrifice his “only” son, Isaac. I’ve been thinking about the 3 day journey that Abraham had to make with Isaac to the top of the hill. Did Abraham know that God would provide the animal sacrifice? And if he did….would that have truly been a test of faith? Did he wonder about God’s purpose- did he clearly see the purpose? Or was his faith just that- faith? Did he think about turning back? Did he fight the urge to break down and beg God not to ask him to sacrifice his beloved son? And I also wonder if he took the time to observe the view from the top of the hill when he got there- or was he so consumed with the task at hand and the emotional burden of it that he was unaware of where his arduous journey had brought him? I wonder these things because I am feeling in such a way that I imagine Abraham must have felt. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his “only” and deeply loved son….and the purpose was not just eternally etched in God’s Holy Word….but served as a prophetic glimpse into the heart of God- who sacrificed His only and beloved Son on the top of a hill. And so I cannot even rightfully compare my life to that of Abraham. But I can tell you this- God has asked me to sacrifice something on the top of a hill….and reaching the top has been quite a journey.
What makes a hill what it is? I mean….a hill is generally a gradually increasing slope. This is what makes it what it is. Sometimes the slope is so gradual that it is hardly noticeable at first. Al and I spent many of our dating experiences hiking- we share a love for the outdoors and waterfalls. And anyone who hikes can tell you that the hardest part of the hike…the most challenging part…..the part that truly shows you what you’re made of….comes towards the peak. You’re tired. The slope is steeper. The air is thinner. And it’s a heck of a lot cooler up there. When you’re hiking for an end goal- like catching a clean and unobstructed view….observing a waterfall majestically roar down a mountain….conquering a dangerous landscape…..the goal takes a life of it’s own and drives you onward, even to overcome physical, mental, and emotional barriers. But what do you do when your hike is not for an end goal that you have set for yourself….but rather a burden that God has laid upon you? A test..a challenge…for a purpose unclear and unknown? Well, I’ll tell you what you do- you rely on God to give you the motivation and strength that you’ll need. And you trust more fully with each step up that hill you make. There’s no other way to make it up that hill.
So my journey to the top will culminate on November 12, 2003, when I was asked to give something up. The actual surgical removal of my breasts is a real and painful thing. But just like with Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, there is a much deeper and eternal purpose here- at least in terms of my personal relationship with God. I don’t know what that purpose is. I can’t see it. But I know that He is the Potter and I am the clay. And so what I am giving up is more than just pounds of flesh…..but a part of myself. And maybe even my very life. I am certain that what is to come after I get to the top will be far more glorious than my strain and weariness will allow me to imagine, but even knowing that does not take away the fear and pain of loss.
Several people have told me stories of how God miraculously “performed surgery” of a spiritual kind- removing tumors and even leaving behind scars before a surgeon could even sharpen his scalpel. It can happen. I believe it. But my surgery is an inevitable thing. I have no tumor. My cancer remains dangerously allusive. And so if God is going to do a healing in my body…the surgery and the microscope are the only ways to reveal this. And it is what awaits me at the peak- what I have been asked to do at the outset of my journey. But the procedure itself will be “dicey”, as the surgeon describes it. After many blood tests and medication adjustments, the blood “thinning” medication is finally at the appropriate level. Although the medication does not really thin the blood (kill/supress red blood cells), it prevents the blood from clotting. And blood that doesn’t clot is like a faucet that won’t turn off. But I stop the medication, go back on the shots, and then stop those too around the time of surgery. Hopefully my clotting time will be at a safe level so I don’t bleed excessively during the surgery. And then the other complication is that with my clotting factor not being controlled by medication, my blood may clot again, which is just as dangerous (if not more dangerous) than it not clotting quickly enough. So it is a very delicate balance and one that is complicated by the fact that my body will be opened up and large vascular sections of it will be removed. I will come home with three drainage tubes sutured in too- which can cause clotting. These will stay in for one to two weeks. So it is very precarious and I will have to be monitored very closely by doctors…..which is why my hospital stay will be longer than the usual one day for mastectomy procedures. But I am fully trusting God…..and I am confident that He will bring me through this.
I went and picked up two camisoles today. These are cotton undergarments without seams. You can clip the drain containers to them, and they have outside pockets where you can stick these padded fake breasts. They velcro shut so they don’t “move around”. My insurance company pays for two of them. It’s like they try to “pad” the loss from the moment you wake up. I wonder if they are just that compassionate, or if they are trying to avert the costs of psychotherapy? (Boy is that cynical!) And I silently wonder….will I have to suffer with lymphadema the rest of my life because all my level I lymph nodes are being removed? Yes…the air is getting thin up here and it is getting harder to breathe. But I press on.
I have been reading the Psalms recently. David cried out so often about God hiding His face….just as I have in recent months. All I have to do is replace David’s ‘enemies’ with my cancer….and he sings the very words that have echoed in my heart (Psalms 13, 69, 143). Many people have told me how evident God’s presence is in my life- but “I” have not caught glimpse of Him until recently. I have also read the Song of Solomon….and reaffirmed the reality of my loss through God’s blessing on the sexual intimacy of marriage and honor of the female body. And yesterday I read Oswald Chambers (as I do everyday) to once again discover how prophetic his messages are in my personal journey:
~ Partakers of His Suffering ~
. . . but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings . . —1 Peter 4:13
If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others. Because of this process, you will never be surprised by what comes your way. You say, “Oh, I can’t deal with that person.” Why can’t you? God gave you sufficient opportunities to learn from Him about that problem; but you turned away, not heeding the lesson, because it seemed foolish to spend your time that way.
The sufferings of Christ were not those of ordinary people. He suffered “according to the will of God” ( 1 Peter 4:19 ), having a different point of view of suffering from ours. It is only through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we can understand what God is after in His dealings with us. When it comes to suffering, it is part of our Christian culture to want to know God’s purpose beforehand. In the history of the Christian church, the tendency has been to avoid being identified with the sufferings of Jesus Christ. People have sought to carry out God’s orders through a shortcut of their own. God’s way is always the way of suffering—the way of the “long road home.”
Are we partakers of Christ’s sufferings? Are we prepared for God to stamp out our personal ambitions? Are we prepared for God to destroy our individual decisions by supernaturally transforming them? It will mean not knowing why God is taking us that way, because knowing would make us spiritually proud. We never realize at the time what God is putting us through—we go through it more or less without understanding. Then suddenly we come to a place of enlightenment, and realize— “God has strengthened me and I didn’t even know it!”
Many people have visited, called, and sent messages since my last writing. I truly appreciate that. It has encouraged me, and strengthened me. It has helped me to see the small glimmer of God’s glory that I needed to continue to make that increasingly difficult climb. I plan on being more prepared this time- I’m bringing my Bible and worship music with me to the hospital! There’s a “sign-up sheet” at my work where I am told that people signed up to bring dinner to all five of us for every night for the next month! That is a work of God without doubt! It joyfully reminds me of His miraculous feeding of the 5000…….
So God is doing things…answering prayers…..meeting needs. He is faithful. And His people…the people He has brought to my door…have been faithful too. I thank and praise Him for that.
I plan on writing again after my surgery- as I make the most difficult trek back down the mountain. It’s nearly Christmas time already…and we’re taking family pictures tomorrow…..so I plan on sending them out with cards again this year. People always ask me if I’ve lost “a bunch” of weight. Not hardly! With the steroids they put with the chemotherapy, most women undergoing treatment gain weight- as have I. I did lose 10 pounds from the hospital experience, but surely that was mostly water weight. So don’t expect to see some emaciated little Aimee in the pictures! And if you are anxious to know how I’m doing before I can write again….you can call…….
oh- the IBC Warrior site now has a page just for “me”!
Never again will I be able to serve dinner, lift up my top and be the topless waitress (with something on top).
Never again will we walk arm in arm in the rain with his elbow bumping my breast (we talked of this in later years as one of our memorable moments).
Never again will I wear a 34D bra. Good and bad.
He remembers the first time he saw me without my blouse. He was stupefied. That memory lingers still. I was 19.
Never again will I fill out my silk high neck blouses.
Never again will crude men admire my “hangnail”.
Never again will my breasts be crushed in a mammography machine.
Never again will be my breasts be crushed against my lover’s chest/breasts.
Never again will my breasts ache before my period. That could have been changed by menopause if it had occurred first.
Never again will I catch men addressing my chest instead of my face. They certainly used to.
Never again will I be so relieved to remove my bra at the end of the day. I won’t have deep red marks on my shoulders anymore either.
Never again will I fill out that black corset that Barbara bought for me at a tag sale for $.50. It looked so good too.
Never again. But then again, I’ll never be 25 again either. And life goes on its merry way. And my husband just called me gorgeous in that totally believable way he has.
© Ann Fonfa 1997