Tether. Rope. Just a tool. Infinitely less treasured and considered than whatever precious cargo it anchors. It's frayed ends continue to go unnoticed unless they split far enough to break, let loose the treasure.

I never gave a thought to the thousands of tethers God formed inside me while I still slept inside my mother's womb. My frame was not hidden when You formed me in the secret place. One day in 2008, just after the birth of my son, a cascade of events started. Aaron and I pored over medical journals and came to the conclusion that we should at least try to be done having children. Sever the tether between ovaries and uterus. It was an odd decision to make, in the day of vasectomies. But that is what the two of us had peace with. So I went under surgeon's knife and closed a chapter in my mind, for my body.

In the twisted, burned ends of that tether was hope when cancer was named just one short month after the surgery. My cancer feeds on pregnancy hormones, and that surgery was a sigh of relief for both of us - at least that was taken care of already. Yet in that "secret place" more pain was planned: the very risk we prayed so steadfastly to push away came to be. The next baby my body fed and loved grew in a poor home, a small tube that was already scarred and severed, where life couldn't be brought to fruition.

That tether I once thought so little about now causes daily pain. In the tears I cry as milk comes in for a baby who will never be born, there is searing loss. In the ache deep in my belly where an ovary protests over it's now unwelcome home, there is burning and regret daily. It is one thing to believe in God's perfect design, and another to believe in His perfect plan. Where is His glory in undrunk milk, where is the servitude in the burnt offering of physical pain?

This decision - the cutting of my tethers, burning of the tubes that once carried babies to womb - has been fraught with regrets, uncertainty, bewilderment. It once felt so right, so God-given, the decision to stop having babies. In hindsight, the plan seems much less perfect. Where does cancer and death and longing fit with His plan?

There are a million answers in the sacred Book to this question. As the days pass, the trials pile on, and the pain grips, I am forced to see the one underlying theme to every answer He gives me: Grace. My grace is made perfect in your cancer, in your pain, in your loss. (II Corinthians 12:9) The Greek word for "grace" is used 155 times in the New Testament. He gives abundant grace - manifold, multi-faceted, multi-colored grace. (Ephesians 1 & 2, I Peter 4:10) Whatever the struggle, His grace is bigger. Whatever the pain, His grace can turn it to rejoicing. Whatever the loss, He will transform it to gain. I live constrained to the here and now, this fleeting moment that will be gone and forgotten in the blink of an eye: He exists in eternity, and sees it all, the rainbow of joy and blessing that is this anguished, wrung-out, failing, glorifying, succeeding, believing life I walk.
God uses suffering to display His grace. And what a benediction this is...what a benediction. God answered not by removing the pain, not by removing the trouble, but by increasing the grace which then increases our confidence in our salvation and in the presence of God and the goodness of God. It is these kinds of tests when we experience enduring grace that produce assurance. He gave relief - but relief not by removing the problem, but by pouring on the grace. It's amazing when someone has been told they have a terminal illness, or a loved one has a terminal illness. One who walks with the Lord finds a flood of grace, the likes of which they've never experienced before. As believers near the end of their life, an illness, you watch God just expand the grace until there's a certain joy and anticipation that overwhelms all the sense of loss. God wants to display His grace. He has a right to display His grace. He finds His glory in His grace. ~ John MacArthur's sermon, God's Purpose in Our Pain, transcript available here and well worth the read
Of all the tethers that have been cut, underestimated, disregarded, the thread that binds my soul to my body and spirit and it's desires is the one that needs attention. In the moments that come, the collective moments that will eventually sum up my life when it is done, I need to tear away at that tether until I am afloat on the ocean of Grace instead of banging against the boat of self. I waste so much time pondering purpose, while my body buffets against the boat. I need to close my eyes, grab the threads of that tether and cut loose...forgetting worry about how I will stay afloat on the sea He walked upon.