I decided to title this blog post like I would title a short story – The Bone Scan. Literary, rich with possibilities as to what Bone Scan symbolizes. Anton Chekhov. “Chekhovian”, critics could call it. They could sit back in their chairs and sigh after reading it and say things like, “It’s a very Chekhovian piece.”
Do what you will with Bone Scan, but I’ll stick to the basics. Kind of.
Today, two hours after getting radio active die shot in my veins, a woman in scrubs pushed a few buttons and slid my now very flat body into what, for lack of a better word, I’ll call a ‘scanner.’ In my head I was calling it a hungry, white, bastard mouth. That’s what I was thinking. But it was definitely a scanner or an MRI machine or something like that.
All morning I’d been morbidly humming to myself, with a sort of crazed half-smile, that Sjufan Steven’s song, Casimir Polaski Day: Goldenrod and the 4H stone/ The things I brought you when I found out/You had cancer of the bone…
30 minutes later when the whirring finally stopped and I was slid back out to the oddly comforting fluorescent hospital lights, I looked at the technician’s face for ‘signs’. Did she look concerned? Dutifully blank? Overly cheery? I held back, but there was a decent 5% chance I was going to yell at her sweet accommodating face, DO I HAVE CANCER IN MY BONES????? Instead, I timidly asked her if she could tell anything from the scan.
“The doctor should have something today or early tomorrow.”
“Okay, thanks,” I said, “I’ll wait to hear.”
I left the hospital mouthing her words in mock tone, someday today or early tomorrow, someday today or early tomorrow… Whatever. Lunch.
At times my mind whirrs too, like the Hungry, White, Bastard mouth, but I’m learning to reign it in. An overactive imagination has plagued me for years, and this cancer diagnosis has significantly upped the ante. I’ve been misusing my imagination, the same one that has at times served me well. It might be responsible for my D in high school Spanish, but I sure enjoyed the class, my desk sideways against an enormous window looking out on a cul-de-sac of trees. Poetry flew back and forth from one hemisphere to the other in my underdeveloped brain and kept me good and happy for 40 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
I had learned the art of settling my face into a faux look of interest and engagement regardless of what Mr. Jimenez was scratching out on the chalkboard. I usually passed my classes because the teachers liked me. I wasn’t paying attention but they thought I was. Which, in light of my poor test grades, meant they must have assumed I was pretty stupid or had a learning disability, which I probably did.
Eventually I discovered coffee and learned to compensate. Awesomeness. Then I went to art school, which was more awesomeness. It was like a free pass to finally use my imagination and I went a little bit crazy. It’s possible in a painting class I discovered the glue gun and glued a bunch of books onto a huge campus, painted it all white, called it Trinity, and got an A+. It ended up with a lot of admirers but I don’t think anyone came to Christ because of it.
The thing is this tangled mass of dendrites and folds is undisciplined, constantly poaching reality, not only with ‘what ifs’ but whole narratives of alternate worlds. Left unchecked, my day becomes not only you have bone cancer, but you have bone cancer, so obviously God wants to use you to tell everyone in the hospital about him and then he’ll give you just enough time to write a book about it, which will be amazingly good by the way, and everyone from here to California will read it and hear about how good God is even though people get cancer, which will be great, but then you’ll die because the book will go on to win the Pulitzer and if you won the Pulitzer you’d get all proud and that would be bad, so God will have you die from bone cancer because you’re just not humble enough to win the Pulitzer and walk with God both at the same time.
Like I said, I suspect I have a learning disability. I also might be an over-sharer.
I’ve come to realize my imaginative vignettes about what God might do are rooted in a desire to control God. I recently had a conversation with my daughter, who fortunately and unfortunately inherited my predilection for staring out windows. She had begun to worry she would lose her job. She thought that if God had her lose her job then she’d be forced to go into ministry and wanted me to assure her that he wasn’t going to do this, right? God wasn’t going to cause her to lose her job so she’d go into ministry?
“Of course not,” I said, speaking to myself as much as her, “Sometimes God does that sort of thing, but you’re just imagining this because you’re trying to figure out God. He’s much bigger than that.” I went on and told her a little story about when I was young and Rick traveled a lot. “I used to worry that Dad would die in a car crash and then I would write a book (always a book) and God would use the book to tell people about him.”
There was a silence.
“Actually,” she said, “I was kind of thinking that you might die of breast cancer and then I’d write a book about it.”
Yeah, so. My daughter and I both have the whole thing turned around. God decides what’s best and then shows us his loving kindness in and through it. He gently takes our hand and we go from strength to strength as we discover his great plan. And it is great.
We don’t write the book, he does.