“There is a ditch dug in your life and there’s no going back.”
This is an image a good friend gave to me when cancer hit my family in February 2011. This friend knew well the journey that would be ours. His wife too had been diagnosed some 32 years earlier with stage 4 breast cancer and given only a short time to live. She is alive and well today; praise God but cancer changed them. He regarded this “ditch” as a boundary marker, a point of no return. Life as we knew it was forever going to be different.
I have since reflected on the image of that ditch. I grew up in the Red River Valley in Southern Manitoba. It is one of the most shallow and wide river valleys in the world. Imagine a gradient or slope of a river valley that is only 3 inches per kilometer. On this kind of flood plain ditches are essential to drain our flat flat fields. They are placed strategically and need cleaning out every year. The faster and more efficiently water leaves the field the more time given to crop production.
An unscarred, unmarred field is quite useless and infertile, pocketed with stagnant smelly pools.*
I am slowly beginning to see our own personal cancer ditch as a painful necessity for genuine growth. It has increased our capacity to avoid the devastation of floods which bombard us in all shapes and sizes. Overwhelming feelings of fear or anxiety now have a place to run. Into the ditch and off the field!
While I thank my friend for this image, last week we just discovered he now has cancer in his stomach and multiple organs. We’ve reflected on the stark reality that his ditch just got a bit deeper and wider.
May all of us struggling with our latest “ditch,” witness the flood of fear and dread drain off the plain of our hearts quickly; and for trust and hope to flourish instead.
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
Song of Solomon 8:7
* Of course this does depend on your definition of ‘infertile.’ The Manitoba mosquitoes consider these places to be incubation havens for their larvae which turn out buzzing swarms of ravenous grownups in plague-like proportions.