IMAGINE… That’s my Star Word for 2022. As I wrote about it here.
A Star Word is just an ordinary word chosen around the season of Epiphany. (Epiphany is the season after Christmas, celebrating the arrival of the Wise Ones to see the Infant Christ.) Star Words are meant to be thought-provoking. Inspiring. Engaging.
I had thought that IMAGINE would be a more fanciful word. A creative word. A way to revise my thinking and my perspective on life and Calling. I knew rounding into the New Year that I was going to be transitioning to a new position in our hospice organization, from spiritual care to bereavement counselor. I was excited and imagined all of the possibilities for ministry. I had lofty goals for my personal and professional growth.
Instead, I am now walking through circumstances that I never ever imagined. Not in my wildest imaginings…
My husband’s metastatic prostate cancer was unimaginable. Supporting him and my daughters as he goes through scans, tests, and chemo was never on my horizon.
My diagnosis of uterine cancer came out of left field. Of course “something” was wrong. (Post-menopausal spotting is always concerning.) But the diagnosis shocked me and my gynecologist. I remember her words: “I never imagined this…”
Cancer brings a set of feelings, especially fear and uncertainty. What I thought I could do, what I planned to tackle in 2022 was tossed by the wayside. Trips? Postponed. Vacation? Spent going to doctor’s visits and recovering from surgery. Work projects? Delayed or handed to someone else. The simplest of goals have been set aside…
So what has IMAGINE been teaching me?
First, when I am stressed or scared, I go to THE WORST possible outcome. It’s not just the doom and gloom of having a cancer diagnosis. It’s the worries about what the future could bring. It’s looking too far ahead into the unknown of a prognosis. It’s every ache and pain, every side effect being over-played, and the fear of an opportunistic infection.
Second, I run from my feelings, until they catch me and flatten me. Smiling on the outside, struggling on the inside. I hide a lot from others. Only when I feel safe do I really share my fears and my tears. Those who don’t know what living with cancer is like either praise me for being “brave” (I’m NOT) or call me a “warrior” (I’m just trying to live), or worse, “ghost” me and don’t say anything at all.
Finally, my overactive imagination can lead me to expect the worst. Anxiety and fear are a part of living with cancer. So are anger and frustration. The truth is… things are (at least for the moment) not as bad as I fear.
And… in all of these moments, I forget that I follow a God who can do more than I can imagine! Not just for me, but for all people… everywhere… down through time. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 4. NRSV)
That’s the image and presence of the Divine that I hang on to. Beyond all that I can even imagine, the Holy One is at work. My ability to trust and follow is limited. But the creative and imaginative power of God is not!