Two years ago this time I was struggling with the news and diagnosis that I may have only six more months to live. The surgeon wanted to operate on me before Christmas but I told him hat I needed the Christmas break to prepare myself mentally for what might come. Thankfully God still had plans for me and since He had ensured that the cancer did not spread, I was spared a total hysterectomy. Post operative therapy also clearly showed me that I needed to make some obvious changes to my life since it was clear even to me that emotional pain had played a major role in my health scare.
The journey to emotional health is not an easy one especially when you realise that you need to address issues that others think you should “just ignore”; when you are labelled as being over sensitive or over reacting because you find something hurtful; when you start putting up boundaries, addressing hurtful behaviour and the result is that you are labelled as being unforgiving, disrespectful of elders because in many cultures the elders are always right or even that you are being unchristian because you don’t blindly forgive.
The one thing that has carried and led me on this difficult and sometimes very painful journey is that God knows me like no other; that He loves and cares for me in a way that even I cannot fathom. He knows what I need to heal and He had been nudging me since some time to do certain things. Emotional healing started when I finally started to do what God had been telling me to do even though it was sometimes in contradiction to what society, family or culture was telling me to do. This encouraged me to continue to take steps that brought not only more healing but also showed me the wonderful friends God had surrounded me with.
Ever since my surgery, I have to go for check-ups regularly to ensure that the cancer has not returned. During one of my subsequent checkups, my gynaecologist found some growth in the ovaries. We decided to observe the growth since he did not want to put me through a second surgery so soon after the first. I had recovered so well physically from the surgery that he wanted to give me some time to gain some more strength before thinking about a second one. However he and I were both very aware that the survival rates of ovarian cancer are not very good at all and I have been under keen observation and tests since then. It also meant that I needed to continue to examine my life and address deep lying issues and remove the things that are toxic for me.
One of the things that I deeply desire is to use the gift of life that God has given me to make a difference; to do what He wants me to do and not what others expect me to do; to take a stand where some would look away; to help or reach out to those He shows me; to be an instrument for Him. I am also keenly aware that each day is a gift and the time given to me is too precious to waste on superficial relationships. I believe in transparency; in having real and authentic relationships. God started showing me relationships in my life where I still needed to address issues and take a stand instead of looking away. What I did not reckon with was the force with which I would be personally and verbally attacked when I addressed these issues; that I would be told that I was questioning someones love because I addressed their harmful behaviour or that I would be called hypocritical and outwardly affectionate-among other things. But God’s ways are not man’s and God used unusual ways to bring to light what was hidden – attitudes towards me (and Bernd) that were not right, the fact that people close to me did not talk to us directly but preferred to talk to each other about us and did not see that they were gossiping about us when they did that. God also brought to light the very hurtful fact that I was loved only when I was fulfilling a certain role; when I lived the life that others thought was right; when I looked away when “elders” did wrong and did not address their faults even when their behaviour was toxic and mean. God showed me that love can be manipulative and that walking in the light meant people who I had been protecting, supporting and loving would not hesitate to stab me or burst out in incontrollable anger because I questioned their harmful behaviour. And when I distanced myself from this very harmful and toxic behaviour, I was told that I was distancing myself because I only surrounded myself with people who agreed with me.
In all this God not only never left me alone, but He also sent me friends and sometimes total strangers who have built me up, said words that have been balm on the wounds caused by the words spoken by others in anger and resentment. For every wound caused by those who lashed out at me because I no longer fit the role, image or expectation that they had for me – He sent me more than one person who spoke healing into these very wounds or did something that was a balm to my wounded soul. To say that the last year has been very eventful would be putting it mildly. But God has confirmed the path He wanted me to go on, each and every step of the way. For every voice that shouted I was being unforgiving, selfish or oversensitive – there were many, especially those of total strangers, who said or wrote just the opposite.
And one day I suddenly noticed that the negative and mean things being said about me by those I had cared for deeply suddenly did not hurt me anymore. I read or heard what they had written or said about me and I realised that their words did not define who I was but said a world about who they were themselves; their morals and values were in contradiction to what God had for me. I do not know how or when that happened but I know that this healing came from God who also sent friends and strangers to bring it about. I also found an unknown strength within; time and energy for people and things that not only gave me thousandfold back but also brought even more peace, light and personal growth.
Which brings me back to my regular health checkups. About a month ago I went for my year end checkup. To say that I don’t look forward to these checkups would be an understatement. I saw the doctor looking intensely at my results, the screen in front of him and I feared the worst. So you can imagine my disbelief when he told me that for the first time in two years, he was very happy with my results. He asked me what I had been doing because he could see that some of the growths have become smaller while others have disappeared completely. I have been taking alternate medicine but, as he said, it appeared to be something else too. He then asked me about the emotional stress that he knows I have been going through the past years, the relationships where I have struggled to put up healthy boundaries and I told him what had transpired in the past months. My gynaecologist knows me for over fifteen years and he has always told me that he has never had such a positive and “happy” patient like me. But he told me that he now senses something different in me – an inner peace and a glow that I did not have before. The physical battle with all these threatening growths is not won but I am in a much better and healthier place than I have been in a long time.
Two years later today I am overwhelmed with God’s grace and love for me; for the ways in which He leads and shows me where I need to make changes; for the blessings He showers me with; for the way He uses everything that happens to direct me on the path He wants me to go; for the love of friends, acquaintances and total strangers that he surrounds me with and for the way He constantly confirms His path for me.
It is my hope and prayer that we all have the courage to follow the unique path God has for each and every one of us; that we have the courage to address issues and not seek false peace; that we are authentic and real even in our struggles; that we do not let the opinion of others and the loud aggressive voices intimidate us and keep us from listening to God’s voice and opinion about us.
I know God continues to show me things that I need to change and I also know that His way for me might lead me on paths I may not or dare not walk myself. But I know He will go before me on these paths, He will never leave me alone and will send me friends when I need them the most. He knows, sees all and will protect me from that which would break me.
Christmas for me is the most beautiful love story – it is the story of God’s love for me. It is the story that God became human to show me that He understands my human struggles, my weaknesses, my pain and joy. It is the personal story of God with us, Emmanuel, – a personal and loving God who came down to walk the road with me, before me and surround me with His presence.
It is my prayer for all of you that He heals the physical and emotional wounds that you have within you. It is my wish for all of you that you too can experience this wonderful gift of life, love, peace and hope. May He fill your hearts with a deep and abiding joy that is not dependent on external circumstances.