We fiction writers enjoy making life difficult for our characters. Without some sort of struggle, some conflict, we would have no plot. E. M. Forster said, “‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” (Emphasis mine.)
Because grief caused the queen’s death, we know she deeply loved her husband, and we want to know the rest of their story. How did they reach this point? Was this the ultimate end of Cinderella’s happily-ever-after? While sad, it would touch our hearts because, ultimately, we all want to love and be loved by a very special person.
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Without a similarly compelling plot, our stories won’t attract many readers. But what about our real lives? What do people read in my “story”?
Tuesday morning, I was facing some conflicts not of my own making. My computer had died the night before, and I couldn’t replace it soon enough to meet some writing deadlines, including this blog. Much more important…and worse, my husband had an appointment with his radiation doctor to discuss the results of his latest PET scan and x-rays to see what those spots were on the remaining third of his right lung. Had his cancer returned? Was more surgery in his future? Didn’t this mean the results were bad news? The doctor had called us in for a reason. Wouldn’t good news simply be delivered over the phone?
As with the hurricane I wrote about last month, I chose to affirm my trust in the Lord that He has all things under control. Yet I still (again) had a hard time sleeping as various scenarios played in my mind. In the dark of night, doom and gloom seemed to loom over me. Like the queen mentioned above, I would surely die of grief if the prognosis was bad. My beloved husband of fifty-two years is dealing with his second bout of cancer. I don’t want to lose him. (David and I at our 50th wedding anniversary party.)
So how will my story read to those who watch me face these uncertainties?
Let’s face it. Bad stuff happens. Christians are not immune to tragedy, and we experience grief. Christians are among those whose lives were shattered, even lost, during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the wildfires in California, and the earthquake in Mexico. I am no expert on handling grief, and I would never try to school those people suffering those tragedies. But I do know that trusting the Lord is a choice. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not.
And sometimes, when I’ve worried myself to distraction over possible tragedies, I’ve been surprised. So…I may have to temporarily do without a computer, my most necessary work tool for both writing and researching. So…my husband may have a serious problem requiring yet another surgery. Worry doesn’t change what will be. Worrying only makes me miserable and possibly sick, which will make it harder for me to care for him.
And what if there is a different outcome and all is well? I’ve wasted all my time with worry and made myself sick over nothing.
This time, for me, both situations turned out much better than expected. The doctor had only wanted to show us in person the results of the PET scan and x-rays, confirm that things were looking good overall, and ask if we had any questions or concerns. He’ll schedule a follow-up scan next month and will continue to monitor the former site of cancer.
And what about my computer, whose screen had gone to black the night before and nothing I did could bring it back? After returning home from the doctor’s office, I planned to call the manufacturer with my warranty information, but decided to try one more time to get it to work. I pushed the button, and it came up as if nothing had been wrong. A miracle? Maybe. All I know is that it’s functioning just fine now, and I’ve been able to write this blog. (The furry golden mass in front of my computer is Tigger the cat, who likes to help me with my writing.)
Conclusion? I lost sleep for nothing. Even if both situations had turned out badly, worry and anxiety wouldn’t have changed them.
As the Apostle Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 KJV
So the lesson for me in this and to go deeper in my trust in my Heavenly Father. And let His peace fill me.
That is the story of my life I want other people to read.