Thursday, April 7, 2016

A couple of days after Eli was diagnosed in 2011 and sent to Memphis, I came home to gather clothes, get the kids settled, and set things in motion for our new normal. It was our first New Year’s Eve/Day split as a family, and our first Sunday split as a family because of cancer. New Year’s Day was that Sunday, and after being awake most of the night fearing what 2012 would do to our family, I determined myself just to get through worship that morning and get home. I had yet to build enough strength to hold my thoughts from the dark corners of my mind without busy distraction, nor had I developed any tools to control the emotions driven by those wandering thoughts. The elders of our congregation had planned a singing service for Sunday night worship, so I had decided not to go. To stay home. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically spent to an extreme beyond my experience, and it was pretty obvious just to look at me. No one would blame me for staying home, in fact, most would expect me to stay home.

Before I continue, I wanted to share that yesterday was Eli’s last radiation treatment. So, The Masters is not the only effort to yield a victor this week in Augusta, Georgia. He has handled it so incredibly well, that it makes me nervous that it is doing nothing and wasn’t enough. I know, they can’t win. He has symptoms, I worry. He has no symptoms, I worry. He seemed a little less energetic yesterday, and his color seemed off to me, but he hasn’t
Last day of radiation. We get to take our mask home... and burn it.
complained of anything except to say “Stop looking at me.” We ordered a big cookie that reads “I Mastered Radiation” with a golf scene on it, in honor of our host city’s current national event. The cookie was dry, though, very disappointing for the price. And, he bought himself some “big head books.” That’s what we call them, but they are actually the “Who is” or “What is” series, which are biographies and accounts of historical events. We have a ton at home because that is all he thinks he can read, so I just go with it (believe me there is worse, and Abbey’s got 30 Warrior Cats books to prove it). But he finished the one he brought from home about Martin Luther King, Jr., which he specifically asked for, and I want to keep his reading effort going, especially since he is not in school. He went in the
store wanting Elvis Presley, but when he saw Rosa Parks, he never put it down. He narrowed his biography choices to four, and she won out over Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, and Babe Ruth. Two years ago, when we toured The Henry Ford in Detroit, we saw the actual bus that she made her stance in sitting down, and he remembered that, plus she is from Alabama. He also got books about the Hindenburg, and about Pearl Harbor.

Earlier in the week, we visited the Augusta Canal Headgates and Savannah River at Savannah Rapids Park in Martinez, Georgia. Absolutely gorgeous weather and surroundings, so I coaxed Eli out of the car, and we walked a short part of the trail along the river, probably close to three-quarters of mile,
maybe a mile by the time we got to the car, but very good for him. He automatically says “no” to anything outdoors.

That’s about it for us. Unless something changes with him, we won’t see the doctor until Monday, and will hopefully find out when his MRI is then. We got to share our cookie with Colter, and we were glad to here that he was finally able to start on his third round for this trial. I’ve said before that Eli makes it so easy to cruise along in denial, but I had a big jolt of reality last week. I found out that the kid I told you about who was taken to Atlanta because of swelling in his brain that we thought was due to the medicine attacking the cancer, sadly, had swelling due to progression of disease, and his disease is
medulloblastoma. So, that was a kick in the gut. The only thing keeping me from hysterically demanding an immediate MRI for us is that he was not on the radiation arm of the trial, and Eli continues to be asymptomatic - unless of course today’s lower energy level is the beginning of something. Can you see how every day, every stutter of breath, every extra blink of his eyes, every stammer of a syllable, every apathetic answer from him makes me crazy? I was also just so heavy-hearted for the parents 22-month old Quinn, who passed away early this week. It wasn’t medullo, but very aggressive. Please, remember them in
Stop looking at me.
prayer, and, a new cancer kid in Colorado, Jamin, that was diagnosed with medullo, and Riley, who has been on the trial Eli did in Houston. She was able to find a hospital to continue it, and it was having a positive affect on the cancer. But the neurotoxicity from the treatment has gotten unbearably worse at this point, so they are halting treatment for a while, and will either pick it back up or try to find something else. So, I’m trying to stay positive, trying to enjoy the moment that we are in, but it is hard to keep your head up when the ground is crumbling. We have zero appointments today, so we are going to Atlanta to the Lego store, and hopefully will be easily distracted.

Back to my story: As evening worship time neared, I remained in my sweats and t-shirt, doing laundry from when I had been gone and finding that busy distraction that I needed to get through a day. Abbey and Caleb were playing up and down the hallway, and they stopped in front of me, and Abbey said, “Do you know what time it is?” I said, “yes.” And, she said, “Are we not going to church?” I’ve written about this moment before because it was such a defining moment for me along this “journey.” I remember their faces so clearly, looking up at me, fixed until I answered. Abbey was nine, and Caleb only three and a half. That moment is frozen in my mind because, for the first time in my 40-plus years, our adversary took shape and became real. If you don’
t believe that the Bible is the divine word of God, then the following will be disagreeable to you, but I hope that you continue reading.

Though I had read the apostle Paul’s depiction of Satan as a roaring lion, read of his incarnation as a snake at the beginning of time in Genesis, and knew that the apostle John described him as a dragon in Revelation, it really wasn’t until Abbey posed her question that I saw him. It was like a light switch had been turned on, illuminating the being behind the dark curtain that was pulling our strings. Suddenly, now, seeing that we stood toe to toe, it was him who waited for my answer, not Abbey - from me personally, and from me as the one responsible for training my children to wrangle with him as well. Weak inside and out,
 I took a wobbly swing at Evil, and landed the first of what has been and will be years of blows between us, and said, “Yes, we are. Y’all change your clothes and let’s get ready.”

It really helps to know who you are fighting when you start swinging, otherwise, you are just swinging at air… and sometimes that hurts worse than when you land a punch. Anybody ever struck out at bat? Yep, plenty. And, no big surprise, but I only ever swung for the fence, so ouch. I’ve said before that it breaks my heart to read about parents who misplace or misunderstand “who” has inflicted this evil on their child, and family. I regularly read parents ask “Why did God do this?” They are angry and broken by this infliction on their families, so the natural response is to blame “someone”. Without a solid foundation in understanding the Bible - first, what it is, then what is written in it - these hurting parents can’t see clearly “who” they are facing. It’s confusing, and frustrating for someone pent up in defense mode, wishing to unleash, or fight back, or just unload that blame. But, the apostle Paul, in writing down God’s words in letters to the Christians at Corinth, shared one of Satan’s tricks, and said that he “even disguises as an angel of light.” Satan can act like something good in order to deceive us, misdirect us. So, he will not always, if ever, jump directly in our path as the proverbial fire-skinned, horn-coiffed anthropoid wielding a pitchfork. He won’t be so obviously evil, because who’s not going to fight back against something like that! Satan’s “disguise” as an “angel of light” is subtle, almost inviting, and may just limit our understanding to half-truths, or untruths about God to misdirect and create confusion because it won’t add up, and that leads us away. This kind of deceit makes me think of a cartoon race, where the villain pops up from a ditch down the road, and turns the race sign so that it points the wrong direction for the racers. Tricks to lead us away from the Truth. The apostle John, communicating God’s word to us through his writings, calls Satan the father of lies (or deceit) that has come to “steal, kill, and destroy.” That’s pretty plain talk. It seems obvious from that motive whose tool belt holsters cancer.

So, if God didn’t cause cancer to strike, the next question is why does He let it happen in the first place? He doesn’t, we along with Satan do. Again, a belief and understanding that the Bible is the true word of God is necessary to put the pieces together, because the clear explanation is there. In the writings of Genesis is an account of creation, the beginning of our time. God created humans with free will. He could have forced us to do what he wanted, to obey Him, to love Him, but he gave us the gift of choice. When Satan came to humans with his lies, and they chose to do as Satan said instead of follow God’s instruction, sin was allowed into the perfect world. Sin opened the gates to all things evil, and the cycle of life on earth was put into motion. Now, with this earthly realm defiled and temporary, God left the earth to create Heaven away from it where sin and evil can not reach.

So, if God didn’t do this, and God is not who lets it happen, the next natural question for most parents in the cancer world looking for answers is, why doesn’t He stop it. And, my answer is always, He has. He created Heaven where cancer and affliction does not exist. This is not a popular answer, but Heaven was created for that very purpose, as an escape from anything this world holds, and it is open to the blameless and to anyone choosing to enter through it’s “narrow gates.” Most people want their blessings and healing on earth, because though they like the idea of Heaven, they can’t quite make that spiritually intellectual leap that it actually exists due to their lack of understanding of what the Bible is, and what is written in it. So, they expect and want God (who is in the Heaven they believe doesn’t exist) to grant their inheritance on earth, to bless them in this life, and give earthly answers to their prayers, including the earthly healing of their child. When that doesn’t happen the way they wanted, the parent blames God for what he or she perceives as ignoring their prayer, or as a sign that God doesn’t actually exist. To blame God or to hate God is still a belief in God, it’s just a relationship that needs mending. Without the understanding of the Bible, and believing what is written in it is of God, that parent can’t receive or accept the blessing of knowing their child is in his Creator’s arms, out of Satan’s reach in Heaven, the eternal home to which our pilgrimage is intended to lead.

I read something funny this week. That people will blindly accept what is written by our media, or in our history books as truths, but argue that they don’t believe the Bible because it was written by men. Ha! I thought that was right on point. But, what we call the Bible was written down by men, so why do we believe that this particular ancient book is divine scripture, literally the words of God. It is not the only ancient collection of writings, and not even the oldest ancient book ever discovered. I found an online book that is a wonderful explanation as to why Christians believe the book we call the Bible is divine, direct from God. It is a children’s book, so it was the perfect level of understanding for me, but I think that simplicity made it kind of undeniable, too (https://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/hdyk.pdf) After I read it, I had a clearer understanding of the Bible as a book, and a deeper acceptance of it as divine communication. Then the leap of faith required to trust what God was telling me in it was not such a big jump. Once you decide to believe the Bible is divine communication, and study the make-up of it as a book, learn about context of text, and context of culture, and decipher the message of salvation, and become proficient in the tools given us like prayer, then so many things fall into place and make sense, like even the question “how do we know God exists?” Well, if you decided to accept that the writings of the Bible are from God, He says in it for us to just look around and we have our proof. Nature, things that man can not seem to duplicate, are proof of His existence. So, there it is. To me, the key to unlock all answers to all questions is not just arbitrarily believing there is a God, and that He is good, and loves us. But, first believing that what is in the Bible was intentionally inspired by our Creator, purposefully recorded by man, and providentially preserved for a few thousand years for our instruction and reassurance. When you make that decision to believe what is written in the Bible, then understanding and accepting that God provided Heaven as an escape and refuge from evils like cancer, and as a restful home for the wearied of this life, will be the blessing of peace and of comfort that you were looking for.

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