Living in Suspense

December 19, 2013

One of the pleasures of a quiet life, and the hours each day spent in the chemo chair, is reading a good recreational book. Right now I’m working on a legal thriller called Havana Requiem by Paul Goldstein. This tightly written novel by the Stanford author unfolds in Grisham style to reveal the rich tapestry of pre- and post-revolution Cuba, and particularly the music associated with it. Some of the “Aha” moments are discoveries of cultural significance (as opposed to “a body in the library,” although one gets that, too). All in all, it has me in suspense.

So you can imagine my consternation when, at p. 216, I turn the page to find I am back on p. 154! Flipping through, I realize an entire leaf of the book is defective, repeating pages of some time back, and missing entirely every even-numbered page of the book’s conclusion! The last time anything like this happened to me was when I purchased a new Bible, only to discover the book of Ecclesiastes and the first five chapters of Isaiah were missing. Now I am really in suspense and scrambling for a quick fix.

But hold on a moment; this mildly frustrating experience invites me to take a look at the suspenseful life I am leading this season. Many of my readers, I know, have a more seasonal type of anticipation, along the lines of “What will Santa bring me (or my kids) this year?” But I am dealing with a much bigger question: “How successful will my cancer treatment be? Which choice am I to make next week between two mutually exclusive approaches to slaying the Beast? When am I going to be able to go back to work?”

My feelings are nothing new. The people of God have lived in suspense almost from the very beginning of time. In the Garden of Eden, this suspense took the form of delightful anticipation of discovery amidst a wonderful creation. After the Fall, many other features of life became unknown, darker, and more threatening to our well-being. Abraham was held in suspense when God said, “Hey, Abe, come with me to a land I will show you,” and Abe followed without knowing where he was going. We certainly see the excitement and suspense of the Israelites out-running their Egyptian pursuers across the divided Red Sea, and then the forty years of wandering in the desert, wondering what the land of milk and honey looked like. As the New Testament opens, we see in Simeon and Anna the longing for the Savior, and watch their faces as they greet Mary and her baby Jesus, “Ah, now your servant can depart in peace”—suspense relieved! The people of God are in suspense—or perhaps we can call this faith—because they live hoping to see the mighty hand of God at work. And ultimately, we await the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the resolution of all that is incomplete, unfinished, and yet-to-be-redeemed.

What fuels our hope is the foundation God has already laid, demonstrating his benevolence and faithfulness on our behalf. For that, we need to turn back the pages and remember what God has done. Again, throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded to tell their story over and over again, of the Exodus, of their forebears in faith, of the ordered life described in the Law of God. After Exile, the returning people led by Ezra and Nehemiah, in preparation for the labor of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, read the Law for days and teach one another what it means for their life together in the future. And we, in the long line of apostles and teachers and disciples of Christ, are called upon to read and reread the Scriptures, Jesus’ Word of life, to anchor our future in a faithful past history with God.

As I embark upon the next few days of investigation and decision-making regarding my future, I think God is reminding me to hold fast to parts of my story already known and experienced. My cancer chronicle over the last few weeks is helping me to remember how God has shown up in my treatment, the shower of blessings from friends, and the love and support of my family. Turning back the pages, I know that God has never left me, that he is carrying me, and that his people have my back even when I am too tired to pray. I know that God has power; he has held back serious side effects of treatment and kept me comfortable through chemo and radiation. He has kept his hand in the small of my back, guiding me, steering me out of trouble, and otherwise keeping me on his path toward healing. These are the truths I hold on to, even as I face the suspense of “What is going to happen next” right around the corner.

I may never know how Havana Requiem turns out, but I do know that my life is in God’s hands and that there is nothing to fear as I live out my story. There is something about the suspense itself that is exciting and wonderful, because the author of my story has written my name in the Book of Life.


4 Responses to “Living in Suspense”

  1. Viola Larson Says:

    Mary, while waiting for a complete copy of your book get the movie, “The Lost City.” It isn’t a mystery but it is about pre and post revolution Havana. It is very good combining drama and music.

    An extremely helpful posting this morning. It seems to me in some way we are always waiting to see what God will do. And He always brings about his glorious will even when we don’t at first see it.

  2. Bruce Pope Says:

    Mary When I think of living in suspense and what I’m becoming in Christ..I often think and ponder on this Dallas Willard quote: “the intention of God is that we should each become the kind of person whom he can set free in his universe, empowered to do what we want.” WOW! Bruce

  3. Dan Carl Says:

    Mary – You mention the “shower of blessings from friends.” Know that your words in these posts are a blessing to all of us who read them. Thank you for encouraging us readers even as you travel through this ordeal. We are praying for an excellent outcome from these treatments and the slaying of the Beast.

  4. Karen Says:

    Mary, your faith and courage continue to be an inspiration to all if us as we battle our own beasts. You are truly a blessing. My continuing prayers are with you, your family, and your medical team as you consider your treatment options and I know our Lord will guide you to the right decision.

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