Advent Waiting on the Cancer Journey – Reflection by Jill Aylard Young

by Christine Sine

This evening’s Advent reflection comes from Jill Aylard Young. Jill serves on the board of Mustard Seeds Associates. A recent Princeton Theological Seminary graduate and originally from Covina, California, she now lives with her husband Matthew and daughter Grace in Elysburg, PA where Matthew is pastor of Elysburg Presbyterian Church. Focusing on her roles of mother and pastor’s wife, Jill is continuing in the ordination process, leads a weekly prayer practice group, and plans to become certified as a spiritual director. Her parents, brother, and sister live in Auburn, WA.

Jill with her mother

As I write this I am waiting to hear results of my mother’s scans, to find out if the cancer is being kept at bay or how far it has advanced in her body. Each time we have one of these “reality checks,” we experience emotional aftershocks from the day we first got the horrendous and totally unexpected news of the large cancerous tumor in her kidney that we later learned originated in her bladder.

I’m praying for my mum, that “love would cast out fear” as she waits this day. Over the last several months she has been remarkably hopeful and positive. When we visit in person or Skype long-distance, communicating via web-cam between Pennsylvania and Washington, I see her embracing life and her loved ones – delighting, for example, in each new developmental step that her 15–month-old granddaughter Grace takes or in hearing from her son-in-law about how his sermon is shaping up for the coming Sunday. But waiting to hear from the oncologist is always very difficult for her…and for the whole family.

As I care for our dear daughter Grace, tidy up the house, and prepare for the women’s prayer practices group that is meeting at our house this evening, I feel an anxiety, a fear, a dread around my heart. I want to sooth these feelings by snacking on the Moravian Christmas cookies that I’m laying out on a plate for our guests, or with the satisfaction of checking things off my “to do” list even as Grace tugs for my attention.
Here in this dread-full waiting I feel a nudge, an inner longing, a thirst for a different kind of waiting….for Advent waiting. Rather than satisfy the urge to fill the spaces and cover the fear and sadness, I desire to heed this gentle but urgent tug to slow down…to “prepare a way for the Lord” in my heart….to sit as Jesus’ feet like Mary instead of busying myself like Martha. I want to sit quietly in stillness of heart and mind and just be with God…and know that God is with us on this painful path of cancer.
While we wait, hoping and praying for encouraging test results even as our psyches try to prepare us for the worst, Advent beckons us to ground our hope in Emmanuel – hope that God is with us in this darkness. And to hope for the coming completion of God’s good purposes when fear and disease will be no more – that day of Christ’s coming again in glory for which all creation groans (Romans 8:18-23). May we embrace the light and life that is breaking in now – even if not always in the form of physical healing.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

(from “O Come O Come Emmanuel”)

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Don Hackett December 24, 2009 - 2:25 pm

Thank you, Jill, for allowing us to join you briefly in your journey. May we continue each step knowning that God is with us. Peace to your family in Christ. Don

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