When I lost almost everything important to me a few years ago, in my quest to survive, I found myself learning things I didn’t realize were out there to be learned. In part one I talked about the surprise of meeting a new friend – a Buddy – named “Chemo.” Here I’m going to tell you about my surprise discovery of a Birthmark, and how my Buddy, Chemo helped me find it.
“How great is love that the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God and that is what we are.” 1 John 3:1
I’ve always had a lot of hair. As I recall, one barber actually charged me extra because of it. Instead of the normal gradual receding of the hairline over the years of aging, it happened suddenly, and overnight my head looked like a forest that had been clear-cut. Among the aforementioned unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy was a premature loss of all my hair, and I mean all, as in right down to eyebrows and eyelashes. Try to imagine yourself without those. I’ve never had very becoming facial hair (beard or mustache), but without eyebrows you just don’t look right. Baldness happens to some of the nicest people I know. Some even have a better look (I don’t know, they look cleaner than people with hair), but I wasn’t one of them, especially bereft of eyebrows to offset the extraterrestrial appearance I’d assumed.
I was told that while chemo poisons bad cells, which is what you want it to do, at the same time, it exterminates a bunch of good cells, ones that you’d prefer, if possible, to keep – like the hair-producing ones. Chemo is not discriminating in that way, it just assassinates everything in its path, preferably without killing you at the same time. So when you see your hair falling out in clumps, a person could choose (in some freaky way) to celebrate this as an indicator that the chemicals were doing their thing. The assassins were hitting their targets, so chalk up the loss of mane as collateral damage. I didn’t need a blood test or an x-ray to tell me that cells (some bad and some good) were being gunned down by the new sheriff in town. The evildoers were being brought to justice and getting what they deserved. So when I felt bad, I could somehow boost my morale by knowing something good was happening.
The good news was that the assault on the top of my noggin uncovered a pleasant surprise – a birthmark that I didn’t know I had. After all, I’d never seen my scalp before. As long as I can remember, it’s been covered with hair (once black, then grey). Upon careful inspection, my friend Mark said the mark looked like Africa; Dan said, Brazil; and my daughter in law, Tori, said it resembled a heart. I’m going with the heart, claiming that God kissed me when I was entering this sometimes-heartless world! Though it never left a mark, except to wear off their delicate hair in that one spot, when my children were babies, I just couldn’t get enough of kissing them on the head. When I can get away with it, I still like to do it. God planned me (and you), happily anticipated my birth (“planned parenthood” at its best), stood there in the birthing room awaiting his opportunity to gently and affectionately brand me on the crown of my head as one of his with a kiss.
Besides killing cancer cells, another good quality of chemo is that it uncovers clues of God’s love for us! I’m pretty sure that his benevolent brand of one type or another exists on everyone who comes into his world. He wants everyone to have a good beginning. Sometimes we just have to be ravaged by one form of suffering or another in order to see the brand and appreciate its worth. He kisses everyone, but most people gradually cover up the evidence with hair – his love is thus obscured.
Though he loves us in such a fanatical way, he has a funny way of showing it sometimes. There’s this “free will” system that he’s intent on protecting so that his love can be freely reciprocated. It’s the one aspect of God’s character that requires such reciprocation. It’s a part of him that is mutually enjoyed between him and his beloved. When things are working the way they’re supposed to, he enjoys giving his love as much as we enjoy giving it back – and he enjoys receiving it back!
There was a time during my dark night of the soul that I said to a friend, “I hate free will! It causes too much pain for me and for the rest of the world. It’s not worth it!” When he recoiled, I explained my situation and how the free will experiment had broken my world. Eventually though, I came back around to see that without it I wouldn’t be able to freely respond to the kiss on my head. If I had been programmed like a computer, given a line to recite, “I love you,” neither he nor I would be gladdened. If my love was involuntary and my worship artificial, its inherent ecstasy would be lost on both of us as receivers and givers of each other’s love. As it is, we both enjoy an unimpeded and unforced romance between us. Sometimes I still do object to the free will experiment, but I do love both being loved and loving him back, and I’m pretty sure he loves it too.
I’ve since grown a new coat of hair and the kiss-mark is once again obscured. But when I begin to doubt my place in his heart I look at the pictures of my bald head and remember that I’m inerasably marked as his beloved.
[Stay with me for part three…]