"Hi, my name is Grace and I have cancer." That's how she introduces herself these days to everyone at the park. The adults never know what to say. I'd like to say, "actually Grace, your last name is Bumstead, not Cancer," but I haven't directly approached the topic yet. Mostly because I don't know what to say. I'm hoping that over time she will begin to have her identity shaped by being herself and not by life in the hospital.
I am also having a crisis. I didn't realize it, but the symptoms prove it. I'm going to church, but the whole time during worship I'm thinking of other things. I'm finding ways to avoid intimate prayer. The thought of being open before God is terrifying. And it's guilt. I'm avoiding God because the shame I feel around Him is crushing.
I think that in the beginning, when Grace was first diagnosed, I happened to be in that amazing understanding that I knew that my relationship with God was really held in place by His mercy and His faithfulness. My identity was safe being human and God being strong. That was a very safe and tender place to be. I knew it was him carrying me, and I certainly needed it..
Somewhere along the line I decided that I should be perfect. I decided that I had to do a "good job of being a Christian under distress as an example of steadfastness to the masses." I lost sight of the truth that He loves me because He is love. I took my identity out of being His Ragamuffin and instead put it into self righteousness. It was at that same time that life became very scary for Grace and I began to doubt that God had ever loved us at all. The shame and guilt I've felt for doubting Him soon turned into shame and guilt over everything in my life that wasn't perfect.
I know that it's normal to doubt God, and I know He forgives me, but I haven't forgiven myself. It's not just something to forgive. It's my identity itself that needs to be reshaped. I don't think it's something that can be healed overnight. It's not a matter of facts or hearing/saying the "right things" to make me "feel better." It's not reciting Bible verses or knowing the right answers that will heal me.
It's a process of remolding my identity into the truth of who God is and who I am in him. I am going to start waking up before the kids and drink my tea on the porch while wrapped in my fuzzy purple robe. I am going to only focus on the truth that God loves the lost, the broken, the hurting, the doubting, the imperfect. And I will allow myself to be all of those things, because that is who I am.
I know my heart will heal as I realize that God accepts me - the real me- and as I commit to finding and accepting myself. I think that the more I do this, the more I will be able to open up to God. I feel confident it will work, because that was how I first found salvation...and have found it numerous times again since. Except I didn't have a fuzzy robe back then.
And I know Grace will heal too. I'm comfortable with cancer being a part of who she is, because it is, but I hope her identity becomes less and less about the cancer and more and more of just Gracie.