Nancy was talking with a good friend of mine the other day and he asked if my blog was an accurate reflection of how I am doing as we walk this journey.
It was a good question. A question which demonstrated a level of concern and care for both me and my family. Many of us have “put on a strong front” for others in the face of difficult times. We have all had someone tell us they were doing “fine”, or “good” when deep in our hearts we sensed there was more, much more to their reality. Caring people have the desire and ability to see past the simple answers and to give permission for people to share the truth of their reality. In those moments of sharing truth and reality God works and moves in amazing ways.
I am reminded of one of my dear friends. Byron was much older than I was. He had recently lost his wife and was in a less than healthy place. Life was not easy, the grief he carried was a heavy burden and it shaped much of his reality as he journeyed through life. One Sunday morning I passed Byron in the hallway. I knew little of who he was at this point in our relationship. I was aware of his story and respected him but we were not the good friends we came to be. I asked the question many of us ask, “Hello Byron, how are you doing?” “Fine Pastor, how are you?” With a smile and a quick, “great, have a good day” I moved on down the hall. A few steps past Byron something did not feel right, Byron did not seem “fine”…he seemed sad and to be carrying a heavy burden. I went back and asked again, “Byron, how are you really doing?” With that we began a conversation that led to our deep friendship and much more. We stepped into the church nursery and Byron opened up about the realities of his life experience and the pain that was weighing heavy that afternoon.
Too often we hear “good” or “fine” and do not take the time to understand the reality behind those words. Sometimes we speak those words because we do not want to burden others with our problems. We may speak a short answer to the question, “How are you doing?” because we struggle to believe anyone truly wants to know the reality of our lives. Byron took a risk that Sunday morning, he answered honestly. It led to one of the richest friendships I have had. We traveled together. We shared life together. There was an openness and honesty that was beautiful. Together we started a ministry which trained people how to walk with those who are hurting and in need. God redeemed and transformed Byron’s pain into life giving beauty. I had the honor of watching as healing was brought into his life and he started to show up to church with a “guest”. I watched as this “friend” became much more and ultimately I had the privilege of officiating at their wedding.
Looking back on our relationship it all began with an honest, “Not too good pastor…I am hurting.” As Byron let me into his world we began a very special journey.
Back to my friends question. Is this blog an accurate reflection of where I am physically, emotionally and spiritually? Yes, it is. I work to share the joys, struggles, uncertainty, and overall realities of this journey.
Today I arrived at church and sat in the parking lot for a few minutes thinking about the energy and effort it was going to take to get out of the car and into the church. I thought about how much easier, and nicer it would be to simply drive home. After a few minutes I started to laugh…here I am planning how to best get out of the car and into the church, something that a few short months ago would have been no problem at all. I am feeling a little more tired and weak these days, and yet this has been one of the most productive weeks I have had since starting chemo. With Joseph’s help I have completed some necessary projects around the house. My time in the office has been productive, efficient and creative. That creative piece is important to who I am. When I am being creative there is a sense of energy about life that is contagious. I am moving slower, I will definitely not be running any marathons. If there was a situation where people were fleeing a wild animal or a bunch of zombies…I would be the guy who falls back watching the crowd flee to safety while being consumed by the attackers. Yet, in the midst of that reality I am functioning in a way that is healthy and effective.
Nancy and Rayann are in Roatan this week. One of the sacred things about this place is that each time I visit it reminds me of the importance of slowing down and being present to those who God brings into my life. I am reminded of what it means to be present in the moment and give attention to those whom God brings across my path. In March of 2007 Father Savage, spoke these words to me, “Wisdom slows things down.” They rung true then and still do today. Wisdom slows down our activity, our agendas, our conversations, wisdom simply slows everything down because in the rush to get somewhere we often miss what God has for us. This Cancer thing is slowing me down. Every move I make is intentional, thought out, and planned. This is a good thing…or a God thing.
May we all slow down, take the time to hear and speak the truth of our experience to those around us…it is then we will move from mere acquaintances to become the community God longs for us to be.
God is Good All the Time…All the Time God is Good