Over the past few years, as I’ve lived with the brain tumor in my head, I’ve come across two fellow travelers – people who know, uniquely, the experience of living a life where your brain has already been picked.
One woman, Alicia Sky Kunerth, as diagnosed with the worst of all possible brain tumors in 2002. The other gentleman was diagnosed with a less aggressive tumor in 2004. The latter man, David Welch, started a website called 38lemon.com dedicated to spreading information and news about his own journey and about brain tumors in general.
This week each of them received news. One that they are tumor-free and the other that they are dying and nothing more can be done for them.
Sky is tumor-free. David is dying.
My mind doesn’t know how to assimilate this news. I am SO happy for Sky. SO happy. She has lived her life so fully these years since diagnosis. Frankly, I want to be more like her – and not just in the medical sense.
But I am also so sad about David. Just so very, very sad.
Logically, of course, I understand. In understand the differences between us are just as distinct as the differences between everyone reading this and the child who died just now of malnutrition or starvation or preventable disease. I understand the difference between lives spared and lives lost. My mind gets that.
I suppose it is my heart… my soul… that doesn’t get it.
Recently I was told a story about Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian musician who lost his young daughter in an accident. A friend who went to the viewing at the funeral home brought his teenage daughter. When Steven saw her he bent down and looked into her eyes and said, “God is not surprised by this. God is not surprised.” My friend’s daughter crumpled in his arms, a bawling girl in a grieving father’s arms.
I think, however, Steven has it right. God is not surprised. God grieves. God mourns. God shares our grief. But but he is not surprised. And he has been here before… it was God, after all, who grieved over losing his own Son… and he knew the end of the story.
This is what faith is ultimately about… not always understanding, but always believing that there is the One who does understand.
So I sit typing on my keyboard with a snoring Newfie sprawled out next to me, five-and-a-half-years after being diagnosed feeling a bit blue but generally quite fine – I ran for the first time in ages yesterday… and made a coffee cake too… the former made me feel like I could indulge in the latter… never knew how easy it was to make that crumbly part on top… potentially a bad thing to discover… rejoicing in the God who is greater than this universe no matter what the news might be, laid bare by the certainty of his love.
I think I’m battling the blues… and wrestling with God.
It is hard to figure out where one ends and the other begins.
The blues part is fairly straightforward – nothing feels quite right, decisions are hard to come by, enthusiasm for most things is low… the blues.
But so much of that feels like it is coming from this unexplained standoff I am having with God.
And that, of all things, seems the silliest of all things. Why on earth am I on a standoff with God? What is there to be standing off about? Yet that is what it feels like… it feels like I’m giving him the stiff arm… which, of course, is absurd. How do you give the Creator of the universe the stiff arm. Kind of like a turtle thinking he could hold back that 41-foot wave a surfer conquered the other day…
Not sure how to break through…
For the past year I’ve been working with friends to help them put together a new website. It is called Culture11.com and it is a good place to go. I encourage you to make it part of your browsing. But it is a site that is more clinical than personal – a site of the mind, not of the heart. That is good and needed and necessary. But it doesn’t give me a chance to speak to the stuff that matters – the eternal stuff, the stuff of the God.
And so, though I am CEO of the other site, I return to writing here because I have missed it and the community it once was.
It may well be that I am writing into a reader-less blog at this point. We’ll soon see I suppose. If that is the case then I maybe a new community will eventually form.
A friend wrote to me today, a very conservative friend, and asked if we were going to be alright after the election. I wrote something last night that is what I still think today. I wrote that all Americans should be proud at this moment. A nation that was conceived without recognizing African-Americans as people has now elected a black president. That should make everyone proud.
The thing I didn’t write last night but wanted to say today is this – he is just the president. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. He isn’t pope. He isn’t a priest or a pastor. He is our bureaucrat-in-chief. He is a part of our country, he isn’t our country.
These are distinctions with significant differences. The state of our country will not be determined by our president. It will be determined by each of us.
So are we ok? Let’s look in the mirror.
Two nights ago, in the midst of a grumpy, grouchy late night kitchen cleaning session during which I bemoaning everything from the state of the free world to who ridiculously dirty our dirty dishes get I said the simplest little prayer. “Jesus. Help.”
I didn’t much want to pray. I didn’t much feel like it. I just did.
I was still grumpy. Just slightly – very slightly – less so.
Then, after finishing the dishes I picked up Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.
I flipped to the chapter on submission.
The very short version? Surrender to God, realize my ‘rights’ aren’t really rights at all, give up trying to run or control other people, be free.
That was a lousy paraphrase. Buy the book, read the real version. Surrender to the Force.