“It is not the going out of the port, but the coming in, that determines the success of the voyage.” – Henry Ward Beecher
My daughter just finished running her first half marathon. She is, as I often say, a rock star. A mother of two, with her youngest just having turned one, life in toddlerville is exhausting in itself. But to get back in the game after having our second granddaughter, she began training nine months ago, wondering at first if she would even be able to finish the race. In the end, though, she beat her personal goal by two minutes. She finished, and finished strong.
Seeing a personal goal through to completion requires endurance. Every day you have to learn how to thrive in adversity and you have to stay at it until you cross the finish line. Neither is an easy task. Discovering you have cancer serves to bring life goals to the forefront in a big way. For me, I am passionate to finish strong, having been faithful to God’s purposes for putting me on this earth. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but let me let you in on a secret:
Having cancer can wear you down to the nubs.
Don’t get me wrong. There is surprising joy in this journey. But for those of us so afflicted, we will have to fight well and endure much to gain what God has chosen to give us in this place of suffering and fear. Like the promised land in Numbers 13, the blessings of cancer are immense, but there are also giants in this land – “men of great size whom we are not able to go up against, for they are too strong for us” (Numbers 13:31).
Frankly, given a choice, I would opt for a “giant-free” life. Do you know where I can order one? As you know, I prefer being in control and giants such as cancer just serve to prove that control is indeed an illusion. But what if life is about more than avoiding the giants that make us feel like “grasshoppers” in their sight? I mean, it’s great if you can, but what if there’s more to our existence than that?
What if, instead, our purpose in being here involves fighting against the giants we encounter with the certainty that God is with us? From these battles I think we gain a great gift: enduring faith of the “never give up” variety. If cancer can wear you down to the nubs, endurance counters it by drawing a line in the sand that declares, “I will never surrender my heart to you.” This is what I want to do with the rest of my life – with endurance, I want to continue to push back against my fears so that they are never allowed to define me. In so doing, I hope others would say,
“In a land full of giants, God was certainly with him.”
In the last book of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Tales, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ a ship is going east toward the home of the great king. On board is a little mouse named Reepicheep with the heart of a lion. He is a brave and fearless warrior because his heart is set on a higher purpose – arriving at any cost in Aslan’s country, the home of his king. Here’s how he describes his determination to endure anything to finish the journey of traveling to his king:
“While I can, I sail in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I will paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise. . . .”
Today, a new journey lies before me. Apparently, the FDA will not sign off on my getting another round of Xofigo because, well, it hasn’t been done before. Therefore, I am left with either the black market (is there such a thing?) or another clinical trial to obtain this treatment that has so extended my life and health. The good news is it just so happens that a new trial for the extended use of Xofigo has just started up at Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans. Imagine that.
I still have to get into the trial (my people are currently talking to their people). Then, if I’m accepted, I’ll be traveling to New Orleans weekly for the first month and then monthly for the next 5 months after that. It sounds like a hearty dose of endurance will be required. But, hey, the food is amazing and you meet some of the most interesting people on Bourbon Street!
Plus, if I’m approved, they say I’ll be the first man in the United States to receive two rounds of Xofigo. Makes you wonder what everyone else knows that I don’t! No matter. I’m happy to blaze a trail.
So this crazy journey continues. Living well now and finishing faithful and strong when the time comes remains the goal. Learning joyful endurance is the gift given in the crucible of this struggle. It is a high calling to enter into suffering like this and plumb its depths. Everyday there are battles to fight. My fears must be slayed with the knowledge that God is with me in the midst of this giant-filled land.
As this battle rages, may I just say the most important thing again:
He is more than enough.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
~ The Apostle Paul – II Corinthians 4:16-18