Under the glow of recessed lights in the bathroom ceiling, I stand in front of the mirror gazing at the chiaroscuro masterpiece: My new body. Light and shadow highlight the ripples on the terrain of my stomach. I imagine the surface like sand blown by the intense heat of the Sahara, from smooth to a miniature mountain range of muscles moved by the precision of a surgeon’s hands and stitched back together. You could say I’ve been searching for certainty since a young age and the wilderness has led me there.
In the center of my midriff is a pink, fourteen-inch (?) vertical scar edged on each side by fading dots where sixty-four metal staples held my flesh together. Evidence of the life-saving surgery to remove a giant sarcoma tumor in my abdomen. The scar resembles a zipper caught on my belly button; flesh zipped to the side instead of straight up. No longer bikini worthy but worthy of admiration for what it represents.
On May 6, I awakened from a physical and metaphorical sound sleep, lying on a gurney, grateful to be alive and translating life differently. Entering a new world where the false ways in which I have defined certainty were graciously wiped away like sweat on a mirror. Where I was blind, God blindsided me with the clarity of love and rescue.
In the same way a soldier carries a medal of honor representing valor on the battlefield, that scar is a permanent reminder that the fear of uncertainty is no match for experiencing the certainty of God’s presence. What are your scars telling you?
Are we ever fully ready to receive the surprise of God’s love and belonging through the offense of affliction?
Because the promises of God are rarely realized by traveling in familiar, straight, comfortable lines without inclines, roadblocks, or interruptions. Not one of us can claim the epitaph, All I envisioned for my life came to pass in exactly the way I planned it. Case in point: Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So, God led the people around by the desert road to the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17-18)
God often chooses the long way around over the easy, concrete shortcuts because wandering in the wilderness leads to Red Sea moments, those times when life becomes completely out of your control and under the control of God’s powerful presence.
While the Israelites wandered through the desert, hemmed in by unwanted circumstances, they cried out, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11–12).
It seems laughable, being told you have cancer in the same month a pandemic is unleashed. Why now? Why must I be admitted to the very place every human being on the planet is avoiding—a hospital. At a time when closeness is not allowed, presence isn’t welcome, safety is in question, why must I endure the greatest battle of my life, alone?
Maybe you are asking the same questions. Why now? Why a pandemic? Where is God? When can we get back to life as normal? Why is it taking so long to find a vaccine? Why is my livelihood being compromised?
The questions I’m not asking? Why did the manuscript for my second book get rejected twice before getting it right? Why did God lead me to write a book called Searching for Certainty: Finding God in the Disruptions of Life? Why is my second book releasing now, in the heat of a pandemic?
Yeah, I’m not asking those questions anymore. Plain as the nose on my face.
In December of 2019, before I knew what was making my body hurt and why food became an enemy; before I knew I’d been walking miles of London with a pulmonary embolism and blood clots in both legs, I was finishing a book for you. A manuscript revealing all the hidden uncertainties I’d lived through from a young age. It was time to tell the truth but like you, I had no idea what was coming for us in 2020. I had no clue of the challenges awaiting me in three short months.
In the early stages of recovery—learning how to walk, dress, and bath myself without help—the questions that plagued me were this: Will the book I wrote before surviving a battle still be relevant? Will the spiritual practices I offer as help be practical amid dire consequences? Will the book need a major rewrite?
When the anesthesia wore off and brain fog lifted, I entered the editing process and thankfully, the manuscript provided healing and peace. The book I wrote in the months previous to the pandemic translated even more relevant than I had hoped. And influencers confirmed that with their endorsements.
We are not working from home, we are surviving a pandemic albeit living in lockdown, isolated from familiarity, and disoriented about the future. We await that miraculous moment of release when we can finally live in a land free from fear of sickness and resume a livelihood liberated from the gloom of death. But right now, much like the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, some of us are overwhelmed by circumstances and doubting God’s goodness. Holding onto concrete assurances equated with certainty rather than taking hold of the right hand of Certainty who parts the Red Sea.
Maybe you are in the middle of a Red Sea moment too? All you can see in front of you is what you don’t have. You can’t identify God’s presence while weighed down by a mountain of stress. Abundance seems like something you only read about in storybooks.
What if the axis of uncertainty is a reorientation back to God’s love—stable, steadfast, and secure—preparing you to receive his promises? Could you wander with him through the wilderness if fulfilling purpose and claiming abundance is the point of the journey through uncertainty?
Back home, in the early days of recovery, that scar and the changes in my body freaked me out. But our chiaroscuro God, the God of light and shadow, is redefining hope through the beauty of imperfection. I discern compassion and kindness over a harsh, critical voice. Look at how I created your body to withstand trauma and heal! Look, I’m doing a new thing, can you perceive it?! See how much you are loved?! It is true, you are fearfully and wonderfully made!
Is uncertainty creating a barrier or a bridge to intimacy with God for you?
While we are waiting in the dark chrysalis of uncertainty called Covid-19, I’ve been preparing to release Searching for Certainty: Finding God in the Disruptions of Life. Weaving memoir with the story of the exodus, I share simple spiritual practices that transform the fear of uncertainty into peace that sustains amid the unknowns. it’s a reminder that you are not overlooked, unseen, invaluable or forgotten, even when the silence of unchanging circumstances feels deafening and the future translates as a foggy mirror.
He has never stopped thinking about you. He will never stop listening. He will never stop fighting on your behalf.
At the right time, light will appear and the way to freedom will be made infinitely clear. We are not trapped by uncertainty but being prepared to fly free into the certainty of God’s love. I know because I have lived it, and now I am sharing how you can experience that freedom too.
Searching for Certainty releases this October 2020 and is available for preorders now. Why pre-order a book? Your early purchase is a signal to Amazon and other book retailers that the book is wanted. And that’s important to the early success of a book for an author. I’m grateful for your support.
Pre-order Searching for Certainty and receive exclusive bonuses as my thank you gift, created to help you to find God in the disruptions of life.
- Phone Lock Screen
- Computer Wallpaper
- Hand Lettered Printable Quote
- Photo from Shelly’s Private Collection
- Plus a download of the first chapter of Searching for Certainty