You Can’t Imagine What Is Going To Happen. It’s Okay.

The week before last, I cut my finger

That’s the incident simply put.  Less simply, I might say: last week while cutting into craggy sourdough I lost my grip on the serrated knife and the blade sank deep into the first knuckle of the index finger of my left hand.

I bled profusely.  And it was the nature of the bleeding, as well as the fact that I could look deep into the cut, that made me queasy.  My husband was on-site working that day and I was home by myself, so I spent a panicked five minutes googling “how to stop bleeding besides applying pressure”  and debating my options:

Do I go to see if I need stitches?

If I do, I’ll miss my meeting.  Maybe it’s not that serious.

The bargain I made with myself was that if it hadn’t stopped in fifteen minutes, I would take myself to an urgent care.  But it did stop, or at least grew sluggish, after what felt like an eternity of me applying pressure to my hand lifted high above my head.  It started bleeding again whenever I disturbed it too much, but at length I was able to apply antiseptic, wrap it up and bandage it properly, and so long as I kept it straight it hurt like the dickens but otherwise seemed manageable.

Over the next few days, it healed enough to take off the bandage.  No infection, and I was pleased.  I even wondered if maybe I’d panicked prematurely and made a mountain out of a molehill.  But a week after the fact I discovered something strange: while the cut appears to be healing and everything is otherwise fine, the upper half of the tip of my finger is completely numb, knuckle to nail.  I must have nicked or cut a nerve. 

I still have feeling on the pad of my finger, which means I’m good to write and crochet, so I’m just fine and feel no particular concern about it.  But the entire incident gave me a revelation, which was this:

My anxiety and my fears are useless.

Completely inaccurate.  Of all the things I have imagined might happen to me or that I have feared or considered might negatively impact my life, slicing a loaf of sourdough bread was not on the list.  I would not have dreamed it.  I would have envisioned a thousand other possibilities.

It was a reminder.  Who can truly know what waits ahead but God?

It is with this in mind that I encountered another, far more significant curveball.  A few months ago, some bloodwork markers led the doctor to request a CT scan for my mom. She had the scan recently and, as I sat at work one day texting her that I’d call her on the way home, she wrote, “Wait until you get home please.”

“Why?” I asked, thinking she was worried about me driving.  I was ready to remind her my car enables hands-free calls.

“I talked to the dr. and would rather wait until you get home.”

And my heart sank somewhere into my stomach.  I don’t even remember saying goodbye to my coworkers.  What I do remember, as I pulled out of the parking lot, is what I prayed, which was this: I don’t know what’s coming but this is clearly not news I am going to want to hear.  God, I need what you want me to think and to say, and I need it in the next half hour.

What happened is this: about five minutes into the drive, a deep peace descended, and I became very calm.  Very clearly, I felt that I heard God say:

You’ve been through this before.

You must not forget what you learned the first time.

Because what I learned during my mother’s initial diagnosis was that God can turn Stage IV into Stage II.  That God can make chemotherapy bearable and save my mother from the side effects she feared most.  That God can provide moments of fun and laughter and deep joy even during the very saddest times.

And crucially, I learned this: whatever happens, good or bad, I cannot trust my fears, anxieties, and sorrows to paint an accurate picture of what will happen.  Because my fears and anxieties never account for God’s presence.

When I got home, I was ready.

And I was right—it wasn’t news we wanted to hear.  The CT scan found some nodules in a few places, and a PET scan is now on order in the coming weeks.  We watch and wait.  Anything is possible.  I don’t know what will happen or what the scan might find or what any of it might mean.  None of us know.

But that clarity and calm of the drive stayed with me through the duration of the call in a way that I know my mother noticed.  When I called my husband moments later to share what I had learned, he was surprised by my steadiness.  I was surprised by my steadiness.

(Spoiler: it wasn’t my steadiness. It was God’s).

It didn’t last all night.  I’ve had moments of concern and worry and sadness since, as is natural and normal.  But in that brief period of absolute peace, I felt that God sat me down and buckled my armor on.  A lot of times we read the “armor of God” verses as though God is readying us to go out and smite—I don’t know, something.  Unbelievers, enemies.  But on that car ride home I felt that God was arming me against myself.

The battle, I realized in the car, isn’t entirely what is to come.

The battle is what I imagine about what is to come.

The brain I’ve been given does not always write God into scenarios.  It can’t see much.  It conjures up what-ifs that don’t involve knives and sourdough, and don’t account for how God might be present or might make wonder out of news I don’t want to hear.  It focuses on shadows and fears and sadnesses.  When it imagines the worst, it has trouble imagining what the worst looks like with God’s presence in the mix.

I sometimes wonder if these fears are authored by me or by Satan.  Maybe both.  In the end, I suspect it doesn’t matter.  Because the lesson God wanted to make clear to me, to remind me of, was that I cannot trust myself.  I don’t know enough.  I cannot see ahead—for good or for ill.  This past week I got some delightful professional news and it dropped out of the clear blue sky.

We can’t prepare ourselves for everything that will come at us.

We weren’t meant to be ready for it.

We need only know who to trust.


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