I just finished my last chemo therapy last week. Of all the things I’ve had to go through with cancer, chemo was probably the hardest–even harder than weaning, though that was emotionally draining in different ways. Once they told me that chemo was a necessary treatment in my case, the 9 weeks of treatments loomed ahead like the Forbidden Forest full of fire swamps, giant rodents, and quicksand. It was going to be awful, but there was no way around it. I had to do it. I had to just suck it up and bear whatever difficulties it would entail, and march through the foreboding depths of it. And I’d have to do it four times.
My husband and I steeled ourselves both mentally and physically as best as we could for the journey, not really knowing what it would be like but trusting from the testimonies of others that it wasn’t exactly fun. We went into the first six hour infusion session with a positive, lighthearted attitude, trying to meet the trail with as much joy as possible, and then finding that the days that followed were dark and difficult as my body ceased to cooperate with me and the nausea made it difficult to function. Subsequent infusion sessions were more difficult to take with joy because we now had full knowledge of the horrible thing we were willingly enduring, but we still had to do it. If I could have found another way through cancer, I would have. I asked my oncologist if there were gentler more natural options and he didn’t feel, from his experience, that those routes would give me my best chance.
Maybe if I didn’t have children, maybe I would have tried those natural, more holistic routes anyway, but for the love of my babies and because I want to be around for graduations, dances, weddings, and even grandbabies, I did the chemo. I went through the Forbidden Forest. I waded through the mire of one of my most difficult trials here on earth, knowing it would be difficult, knowing it would hurt, knowing there would be days when I didn’t think I could do it, and I did it mostly because I love my babies and my husband and I didn’t want them to bear the pain of being without me.
At the end of my last infusion, I was the last person left in the large blue room full of IV carts. The lights were turning off, even nurses were leaving, and then, I was finally disconnected and able to leave, hand in hand with my husband who had sat with me through every hour of every infusion. We got to the car and I lay back my head against the headrest and he said, “We’re done. It’s finished. We don’t have to do this ever again.” I heaved a sigh of relief. Even knowing that I still had three days of the after effects awaiting me, there was still relief. I wouldn’t have to knowingly march into this place anymore to receive infusions that would poison my body. When my body started to recover from this last chemo, it could keep on recovering. I wouldn’t have to hack it down again with more poison. I was done. It was finished. It is finished.
I didn’t want to draw parallels between my chemo journey and Jesus’ sacrifice because I’m not worthy of that. I’m not worthy to compare my path to that of my Savior, but as Good Friday has drawn near and I’ve dwelt on the price He paid, I’ve been recovering from my own now completed trial. As I read the account of his death in the gospels and watch it reenacted in film, the significance of what he did seems so much more meaningful in the light of my recent sacrifice. Chemo is but a bee sting compared to crucifixion, but as it is all I know, the Lord has graciously spoken to me of his sacrifice because of it. When I read about how he completed the deed he came to accomplish, there was a knowing that I experienced that I’d never felt before.
“It is finished.”
When Jesus said those words, it didn’t just mean his life was done or that his sacrifice was done, it also meant that He could finally lay down the weight He’d carried throughout all of his humanity. I knew my chemo was coming a week or two before it came, and I had all that time to look forward to knowing that I had to do this awful thing. For thirty three years, and probably for all of eternity before that, Jesus had this pivotal point in history to endure–this finite moment of agony that divided infinity with a weight only He could bear. As the only perfect human being ever to exist, He was the only one who could be the sacrifice. He was the only perfect substitute to receive the just punishment for sin. The only one. There was no other way. He had to be the one to do it, or it wouldn’t be done. As I have read the passages of Gethsemane over and over in the gospels and even in different languages, I keep seeing those words, he prayed, “If there is any other way…but Your will be done.” He didn’t want to die on the cross. Being omniscient, He knew the agony of it like I knew the minor agony of chemo after having endured my first infusion. He knew about every lash of the whip and what it would feel like and what it would do to his body. He knew how the weight of the splintered wood would feel against his tattered skin. He knew how hard it would be to breathe with all of his organs failing as he tried to hold himself up through the nails in his feet. He knew what the vinegar would do to him when he drank it. He knew that the minutes of his dying would drag on like horrible hours. He knew that the ultimate pain would be the endless moments where His Father would hide his face and He would lose fellowship with Him. He knew.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He said.
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” He said.
“Yet not as I will, but as you will,” He said.
And then, the soldiers came and in a whirlwind of a day that began in the wee, dark hours of the morning, he was dragged through trials, sentencing, beating, torture, agony, and death. He took the footsteps He needed to take. He received the nails that needed to pierce. He spilled the blood that we so desperately needed to survive. And then…it was over. He had done what he came to do. He had finished that which had been his destiny from the moment he took his first tiny breath and nuzzled his face into his mother’s breast. It was finished. He had done it. Not only the act of dying in agony was complete, but the weight of knowing that He had to die in agony was now lifted.
It was finished.
For you and me, those words mean the world. He could have decided not to die. He could have decided that we deserved the fate we’ve chosen. He could have left us to our own brokenness. But He loved us too much. Our brokenness was His. The death our sin required would have left Him bereft because he loves us. He loves us. So, He did what He had to do to keep us. He took the punishment we deserved. He knowingly went through Calvary for us.
This year, that is what gets me the most. That He not only did the difficult thing, but He spent his whole life knowing that He had to do it and then he went through it anyway, and all because of me.
When my chemo was done and I laid my head back in the seat of my car with relief knowing that I had done what I set out to do and I didn’t have to keep doing it anymore, I released a burden I hadn’t fully realize I’d been holding and those three words hit home for me in a new way.
It is finished. Not only the act of the sacrifice itself, but the burden of it.
It is finished. My debt is paid. I may have had to endure chemo, but I will never have to endure life without my Jesus because he paid my punishment for me.
It is finished.