I swear, my intention is not to blow up your inbox with blog posts. I tell myself to take a break, be careful not to be over-exposed. Ha. As if that hasn’t already occurred. But unexpectedly, something will happen that my brain won’t stop fixating on, and I just have to get it out. I never knew I had so much to say until I started talking. Well, writing, as it were.
Today is 04/14/17, Easter weekend. Thursday night was a nice, relaxing evening. I picked up groceries for dinner. I came home to an open bottle of Rosé. I wrapped prosciutto around asparagus, prepped and began baking red potatoes, and lit the Big Green Egg. Kim and I sat outside enjoying the short-lived, bug-free (and thus deet-free) air, drinking a glass of wine, waiting for the grill to heat. My daughter, Joy, joined us. It was easy.
My wife told me that the day had been a difficult one for her mother, Gaga, though. It was a year ago that I had the failed surgery to remove the tumor down in the “sewer.” It was also the day that the health of Kim’s father, Gibby, began to decline, starting with a trip to the ER on the same day I had surgery. What a difficult day that was for our family! The resiliency of my children amazes me.
And then, on the day the US dropped “the mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan, Kim dropped one on me: “When you came out of surgery that day, having spoken to the doctor and done some research on the web, I didn’t expect that you’d be here today.”
Well, here I am, cooking salmon on a Thursday night.
The post from Wednesday (Celebrating Life) came after a rather difficult Tuesday, which came after the typically surreal Monday of treatment and CT scanning in a foreign city. Oh how I was struggling on Tuesday. I was agitated and emotional, burdened. I had the realization that I’m fighting two cancers: on one front, the tumor and microscopic metastatic disease and, on the other, doubt in God and all his goodness. And when additional worldly problems occur, as happened this week, I want to scream. Or at least talk very loudly to Kim. Honestly, I want the two cancers to simply disappear, even though I know that somehow the struggle with both is changing me, growing me, hopefully for the better.
After stunning me (and Joy), my wife entered the house to grab MY bible (she’s typically a phone-Bible person). She opened and began reading Hebrews 3, the chapter she had read at 4:30 that morning when she was unable to sleep. Speaking of the forever wandering Israelites, the writer says, “So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest” (Hebrews 3:19, NLT). We can define rest in many ways and there is always a risk of taking scripture out of context and using for our own purposes, but Kim’s message to me was that I’m exhausted from fighting in large part because of my lifelong struggle with unbelief. Though I know I’m cured, in a spiritual sense, the “old man” in me has some serious baggage. So on days like Tuesday I’m unable to find rest.
But there is encouragement for me and for those that empathize. From 3:15, “Remember what it [Psalm 95] says: ‘Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.’”
What exactly does that mean?
Here are my thoughts.
We have an expression in the church, for those who are considering and have the opportunity to be ordained to some office, be it Deacon, Elder, Pastor: external call and internal call. The external call is the voice of friends and family who encourage someone to pursue formal service, and the internal call is that voice inside that urges one to do it. The two calls can confirm your purpose, but sometimes there may be confusion. These are varied voices after all. Still, it is critical to listen to both, albeit discerningly.
My pastor/friend/brother, Jared, has frequently told me that, in those times when he is questioning his call to be a pastor (internal), he continues to hear words of support from others that his work is meaningful, helpful, and needed (external). And in the midst of the conflicting voices, he explains that he takes the external call very seriously, because it just may be the voice of God. (OK, he never actually said it like that, but I think this is what it comes down to).
And so, from time to time, I sit at my computer and tell a bit of my story. And when I write, I know what I’m trying to communicate. I have an expectation for how people might respond. And when I say that the tumor is stable but was spooked because it didn’t continue to shrink, I’m saying I’m unsure of how to feel. I guess I’m mostly happy that the situation hasn’t worsened. It could be good news, but how can we be sure it’s not just a snapshot between the transition from great to bad? So when I say “Thank you Lord,” I’m not raising my hands and shouting PTLs. I’m willfully submitting my appreciation to God out of a hope that He’s in control. Choosing to believe. Acting in faith.
Social media is a fickle thing. Sometimes you get crickets. Sometimes you might get vitriol, though I avoid trying to say anything controversial, other than occasionally writing a little about a man named Jesus. And then sometimes there’s an outpouring of support and unexpected responses, like “Great News!” and “Praise God!” that I saw with Wednesday’s post. Wasn’t feeling that. Wasn’t expecting that. So many external voices in unison, conflicting with the one, sometimes doubting, voice inside. Could it be? “THE” Voice?
So we must listen. We must also encourage and speak truth to each other. Kim didn’t expect me to be here a year after they discovered inoperable disease in my abdomen. Honestly, maybe I didn’t either. But it is safe to say that the “Great news!” that has been proclaimed at critical times over the past several years has indeed been so, because it has always been an encouraging reminder that we’re not alone. And I’m still here, dang it!
I’m listening to you. I so appreciate you. Though I struggle and fret, in the comfort of such great love and support I find rest. Thanks again.
Have a great Easter!
** Photo credit to: http://www.voicedream.com/reader/