This I Believe

Jill - Little Rock, Arkansas
Entered on November 16, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: question

I believe in the power of the written word. In a society where we skim through magazines and Web sites, glance at news headlines and shorthand our text-messages I believe word power is still there, quietly recharging.

I grew up in the 1960’s south – in a home where on our living room shelves were Readers’ Digest excerpts of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Robe. Even these condensed words had the power to move this 11-year-old to tears.

I’ve been able to spend my slightly-abridged career doing a lot of writing. But I never realized true word power until my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV esophageal cancer 18 months ago.

Now I know that IV is not technically a word, but when combined with “stage” and “cancer,” those Roman numerals can give you the chills. It got worse when I tried to decipher the written report of his scan, or obsessively researched Web sites. That’s when the words “metatastic,” “worrisome” and “two-percent survival rate” paralyzed me. That’s when word power overcame me and knocked me to my knees.

I was going to lose him. I would pray for him to recover, but I would lose him anyway and then lose whatever faith in God I had. The writing (sorry) was on the wall.

The merest chance of losing my husband was unbearable – but so was the knowledge that his “being taken” from me would remove my tenuous belief in a benevolent God who responds to the prayers of His creation. Lose a loved one and you lose your faith. It happens all the time. It would happen to me.

Somewhere in the midst of his surgery, hospitalization and chemotherapy, I pulled out my little-used Bible. I didn’t even know there was a sort of index in the back – but I found it and, in my searching, came across these words:

“Our God is able to save us, but even if He does not, we will still worship no other gods.”

Seems like three guys with names I couldn’t pronounce were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace.

Our God is able to save…but even if He does not…

Able to save my husband, but may not. Either way, would it change my faith?

As Bill slowly regained consciousness, I started reading aloud to him. Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time, Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, Laurence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, those great juicy articles in Vanity Fair – any kind of written word I could get my hands on. Even more of the Bible. The words calmed us, inspired us, united us in our battle.

“You just continue to defy the odds,” said our oncologist about six months into it. “God isn’t ready to take you yet.” That was about the time her husband died of complications from juvenile diabetes. Even if He does not. There she was, living it out for me.

Like I said, I believe in the power of words.