Church and Home
On the Mountain...Again
By Marie Drakulic
I feel like I live on Abraham's mountain.
The full story of Abraham’s greatest test can be found in Genesis 22:1-19. After my son Austin was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, I read that story with fresh eyes. One phrase in particular jumped out at me: “Take your son, whom you love.” God knew Abraham loved Isaac. Well, of course God knew Abraham loved his son, but He took a moment to acknowledge it before asking him to do the unthinkable, to sacrifice his son. I felt as though God was saying, “Yes, I know Austin is your son and you love him. Yes, I know you are so afraid of losing someone you love. Yes, I know you don’t want this. But will you trust me?” And on my good days, I said “yes.” I “laid my Isaac down.”
Austin finished treatment in October 2015 and was declared to have no signs of cancer the following December. But brain cancer is a tricky thing. It doesn’t show up in blood work. Being at a high risk for relapse, Austin must return every few months for an MRI to check for new tumor growth. Every time, it feels as though I’m walking up the mountain again, not knowing what will happen when we reach the top. When we return home with the gift of more time, those around me, those who have been praying feverishly, rejoice. I want to rejoice with them, and sometimes I do, but other times I can only breathe a sigh of relief. I know we will be returning to that mountain again.
At times, it feels like a cruel joke. I don’t know if it makes me a “bad Christian” or my faith weak, but my insides shake and my heart twists and I hold my breath each time…through every MRI, with every random headache, every time we wait for results. I should be anxious about nothing (Philippians 4:6), but I cannot describe what it is like to raise my son to become a man and, at the same time, accept the fact he may never reach graduation. I want to know: “Will this journey end in death? Can you give me a heads-up, Lord? How many times will we climb this mountain? When will I have peace this is over?”
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” —C.S. Lewis
The question probably isn’t “will there be another mountain?” but “what will I do when we get there?” I can rage and rant. I can throw myself on the altar of self-pity. I can cry out and lament. I can worship. I can surrender. I can comfort others taking the same journey. I can trust. Do you know that Jeremiah 29:11 was spoken to people facing 70 years in exile? The Lord looked at the struggle ahead of them and told them the plans He had for them were plans for good and not disaster, to give them a future and a hope. Am I the only one who finds this ironic? Seventy years of captivity in a foreign land doesn’t sound like a good, hopeful future to me. But God is so much bigger than I am.
Truthfully, I have run the gambit of emotions on the mountain—grief, anger, sorrow, joy, gratitude, worship, shock, and melancholy. The time on the mountain has been longer this trip, and the waiting is excruciating. I do not know the outcome. I can’t see past the next 48 hours. I’m terrified. I am questioning. But God is gracious and patient with me. His shoulders are broad. He stands on the mountain beside us. And His glory revealed will be grand—no matter how this story ends.
“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications…I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption” (Psalm 130:1-2, 5-7).
About the Writer: Marie Drakulic and her husband Tony are team members with Darryl Grimes, planting Flagship FWB Church in Erie, Pennsylvania: www.flagshipchurch.com. Marie is a member of the Shine! Conference team. Learn more at ShineFWB.com.