My Dad called them “God’s Calling Cards.” He meant those instances in our lives that are attributed to coincidence but, when seen through the lens of us living and moving and having our being in Jesus Christ; are recognized as God’s Calling Cards.
I have had these little coincidences on my mind over the last few weeks and was discussing them with a co-worker when I remembered my Dad’s term for them. I’ve continued to meditate on them and have been looking at them in terms of my study on darkness.
But first, some context for these Calling Cards. I am now recovering from surgery-less than four years after my last one-to remove yet another tumor. The particular path I’m on started in 2017 when my Primary Care Physician found a lump in my breast. No doubt a cyst fueled by hormones but it still needed to be looked at. I started praying immediately. I know Jesus bore all my sicknesses and iniquities so of course I was healed. Except I wasn’t. I was referred to a specialist who ran tests and said the lump didn’t look right which led to another referral and a biopsy. I then had to wait for the results of that biopsy and I spent days wondering “what if?” Would it be benign or did I have the C-word? I wrote about this in my post Just a Butterfly which I will put in the Featured Posts section in case anyone is interested in reading it.
I didn’t have to have this lump surgically removed but it did seem to be a catalyst for a cascade of tests and procedures culminating in the major surgery in December of 2018. I had fought for years to avoid it. I’d tried diet, exercise, prayer…nothing worked. Once more my concerned PCP referred me to a specialist who was also a surgeon and who ended up removing thirteen fibroids from my abdomen. It was both a devastating surgery and yet a blessing because I was freed from quite a bit of pain. I began walking the road to recovery whilst also striving to understand, where was God in all of this? Where was my healing? If I’m to expect results when I pray, what results should I be expecting?
I was sure that surgery in 2018 would be my last. Then only a year later another growth appeared in a different part of my body. It also ended up being benign and the procedure to remove it was relatively minor. Just a snip and a couple days recovery but it did concern me. This growth could not be attributed to hormone imbalance or endometriosis. Was my body randomly growing tumors? What if one grew in my brain? Was there anything I could do to stop them?
And then, I began experiencing weird pain in my abdomen. Once more, my concerned PCP sent me for a test then referred me to a specialist who took another test and then went “hmm…that doesn’t look right” and referred me to an Oncologist. Once more, I’ve had surgery to remove a rather large tumor-or endometrial lesion-and once more I am grateful the growth is benign. I am again walking the road to recovery but I will say this time it is different. I do not wonder where God is in all of this: I have seen Him in a series of coincidences.
I intended to discuss my weird pain with my Doctor at an appointment in January of this year but then I contracted the ‘rona and had to postpone. The earliest I could get was June. No big deal. I was sure it was nothing serious. Then my Doctor’s office called and confirmed my appointment in March. I didn’t have an appointment in March. There had to be a cancellation and I had to be penciled in but no one called me to ask if I was available: they called to confirm. The appointment was scheduled for the next day and I had no conflict so I went. I ended up having a CT scan that afternoon which put me on the referral and tests path I’ve already mentioned. I met with the Oncologist on a Friday and was scheduled for surgery the following Monday. I write this two weeks into my recovery and I can’t help but think of all the things that just happened to fall into place so that I am on the road to recovery a full month before that June appointment.
There has not been a moment when I have not known God with me. I don’t do well with surgery. Anesthesia is not my friend and recovery is difficult for me. Recovery from this last surgery was especially difficult and I ended up having to spend an extra day in the hospital. This was hard news to take and I had a moment where I thought I might tear out my IV and run screaming. Or shuffle screaming, as the incision made running impossible. I clung to God in that moment and knew He was with me. I was not only aware of His presence but felt His touch in the hands of my care-givers. I don’t know anything personal about anyone who nursed me: I do know that each person who cared for me showed me kindness, gentleness, and the true meaning of ministry which is to serve.
What do I expect from God? He has not come crashing into any of these situations, snapped His fingers, and made any of these growths disappear. He has not delivered me unless you count sixteen separate growths-not counting moles removed-and not one of them being cancerous as deliverance. He has not spared me trials on top of the pain and issues I deal with from the car accident. What He has done is knit Himself to me in the midst of these situations and made me so aware of His presence that I’ve gone through them without fear. I have not been a paragon of faith: I may have begged a bit when it became clear I wasn’t going to get to go home but even then, He was with me. He was faithful every moment.
Faithful every moment. That is what I see in this study of darkness. The Hebrew letters spelling darkness-Chet, Shin, and Caph-reveal to me a picture of the God who is Love with me every moment. Even when it feels the circumstances of my life are chewing me up and spitting me out (Shin), there is nothing I go through alone. He is not hidden from me nor I from Him but He holds me in the palm of His hand (Caph). I am not only held but His Spirit is poured out on me and in me and His life is knit to mine (Chet). I’ve started looking deeper into the word bara which is translated “create” and one of my Teachers told me bara meant “to fill”. I am looking deeper into that but find that definition beautiful. He fills my darkness with Himself.
My study of darkness brought me to Psalm 18 and verse 11 in particular. My NKJV begins this verse as, “He made darkness His secret place.” The New Living says “He shrouded Himself in darkness” and the English Standard Version has, “He made darkness His covering”. I wondered about this verse because, at first glance, it did seem to be saying that God hides Himself in darkness which didn’t make much sense. Once I’d looked a little further into the meaning of darkness, looked into the context of the Psalm, and discussed it with two of my Teachers, this passage became so wonderfully clear. My Bible places this Psalm within the time period of King David’s fleeing from King Saul. Reading through the Psalm, I can see David was not having a pleasant time: the pangs of death and sorrows of Sheol surround him. His enemies are too strong for him, he is hated, and he refers to “his day of calamity”. He is in darkness.
But! The Lord God comes with darkness under His feet! He made the darkness His secret place, He fills it, and His brilliance destroys it from within. The Lord lights the lamp and enlightens the darkness. I am reminded of what I shared two weeks ago that the eye is referred to as a lamp in the NT. It is as the eyes of our understanding are enlightened and made single by the Holy Spirit-and the Greek carries the idea of being braided with-that He enlightens our darkness. This Psalm in particular stayed with me because, throughout this entire process, I could see the truth written in this beautiful Psalm: God armed me with strength, He set me in a broad path, and He upheld me. Even when I didn’t fully understand why things were happening the way they were, He filled every moment with Himself.
I have “what if” thoughts: I can’t help that. All I can do is answer every “what if” with the truth “God is with me.” I mentioned having to stay an extra night in the hospital. I’d been told my stay would be one night only so, when I couldn’t stop being ill and had to stay that extra night, I panicked a little. I am a disabled person with no disability benefits (which is a long story in itself) and I only work part time. On top of dealing with the physical difficulties, I worried about the cost of that extra night, what my insurance would do, and what bills might be coming my way, etc. A couple of days after being released, I received a letter from my insurance. The surgeon had submitted me for two days stay and my insurance had approved it. It’s such a small thing but it’s another one of those little coincidences. Here I was panicking and feeling like a failure. If willpower was any sort of power at all, I’d have been able to get better and would never have stayed that extra night. All I could do was trust that He was bigger than even this and then the letter arrived showing me it had all been taken care of before the surgery began.
Truly, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself goes before me and is with me. He never leaves me nor forsakes me. There is never a circumstance that discourages me or fills me with fear (See Deuteronomy 31: 8, Isaiah 45:2). He fills not only the darkness but all things (Ephesians 4:10). In Him I live and move and have my being and, because He lives and lives in me; I can face tomorrow and whatever else might come.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen.
Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Bentorah, Chaim, Hebrew Word Study: Beyond the Lexicon, Trafford Publishing, 2014, Pages 92, 108, 148
Haralick, Robert M., The Inner Meaning of the Hebrew Letters, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1995, Pages 113, 161, 293