Saturday, December 02, 2006

December 1, 2006 - O Lord, You Have Scanned Me

Yesterday I went for my six-month CT scan. Today, late in the afternoon, a voice-mail message arrives from someone in Dr. Lerner's office, notifying me that the doctor has received the radiologist's report. The report indicates, with typical medical understatement, that what's left of the mass in my abdomen is "stable."

This is good news. It means the tumor hasn't grown, since my last scan three months ago. The shrunken mass that remains is undoubtedly only harmless scar tissue.

Yesterday, as I lay on my back, half in and half out of the donut-hole of the CT-scanner, I was struck by how utterly remarkable this technology is. In the space of a couple of minutes, causing no pain or discomfort other than the prick of the needle that injects contrast fluid into my arm, the CT scanner peers into my insides. It "sees" parts of me that I, myself, have never seen. It reveals my inmost self (anatomically speaking).

Yet, there are deep mysteries even the CT scanner cannot discern – mysteries sung of by the ancient poet who wrote Psalm 139:

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me....

"O Lord, you have scanned me."

"For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance."

For this Hebrew sage, human gestation is a mystery. For who can discern the dark, mysterious processes that unfold within a mother's womb, as the human frame is slowly "knit together" over the course of many months? Only God can see into this shadowy place, the psalmist insists.

Today, physicians casually assume a Godlike vantage-point, as they peer into the wombs of expectant mothers with their ultrasound machines. In a similar way, using a different sort of machine, the radiologist has measured the dimensions of the scar tissue in my abdomen. Yet still there are parts of our inmost selves that stubbornly deflect the scientist's inquisitive eye:

"In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them – they are more than the sand;
I come to the end – I am still with you."

The doctors can videotape the beating heart of a fetus in utero, and they can scope out the size of a cancerous tumor – incomprehensible wonders, all, to the Hebrew mind – but still they cannot number "all the days that were formed for me," or for anyone else.

There are mysteries, yet, to this human life of ours. Day by day, in sickness or in health, each of us lives into such mysteries.

No comments: