It was two years ago today that the phone rang and the voice on the other end deposited my life into a stormy sea. “Ed, this is Tim. I’m sorry to have to tell you that you have stage IV, advanced, metastatic prostate cancer.”
Out of nowhere God chose that evening to shake my life like it has never been shaken before. Initially, I was panicked that in a few short months I would be gone. It’s hard to describe how that feels, but that’s what the doctors were telling me. We braced for impact on a ride that was turning out to be much shorter than we had anticipated.
Six months later, it looked like the doctors were right. Overwhelmed with pain (the cancer had already jumped to my bones when it was discovered) and after a failed round of “last ditch” chemotherapy, it was a grim winter and hope was fading fast. I remained in shock, depressed and shaken to my core.
We are shaken when something causes us to lose our composure and control – like the folks in the photo above. Yet being shaken can also be a good thing, I’ve learned. In the book of Hebrews, the writer speaks of God removing the things that can be shaken from our lives, so that the things that cannot be shaken may remain (Heb. 12:27).
What grace and challenge – there are things in each of us that are unshakable, but to live unshakable lives, the other “shakable” things have to first be removed from us.
This means, since we are loved by God, there’s “gonna be a whole lot of shakin’ going on!” in our lives.
Let me be the poster boy demonstrating that this can happen without warning. Remember, I used to live a “normal” life like you. Having almost died last weekend (http://wedonotloseheart.com/houston-we-have-a-problem/), I have an even better awareness of our vulnerability in this world. A spec of bacteria almost killed me, for Pete’s sake!
We will all be shaken in this world, but when it happens, God graciously uses the chaos to refocus our lives on what matters. For me, as the parts keep flying off, I’m learning to let go of who I thought I was (a put-together pastor who kindly helped others get their lives together, too), so that I can become who I really am (a needy, broken, scared man who is in a fight way over his head and yet is growing increasingly in awe of God).
But now something new is challenging me. In case you haven’t noticed, my “die fast and be a martyr of manly vigor snuffed out early” plan is not working very well. Miraculous drugs (Xofigo, Xtandi and Provenge – I’m looking at you) being made available to me in just the nick of time are allowing me to “take a licking and keep on ticking.” All things considered, I actually feel quite well, God be praised.
But here’s the problem: I’m bone-tired. Betsy, too. We are worn thin. The constant effort to stay alive is wearing us down cumulatively. The shaking of my life is now becoming long-term and becoming much more difficult than we ever imagined.
I feel like I’m a medical zombie. Show me a waiting room and I’ll sit down and go to sleep. Show me a long sharp needle and I’ll stick out my arm. Show me a hole in my chest and I’ll stuff gauze in it. Schedule me for emergency surgery and I’ll be there. I feel like a lab rat, running through a medical maze.
And I’m tired of it all. Just so very tired. Want to know a secret? Being in the hospital last weekend was a relief. I couldn’t fight, but the doctors and nurses could, and did. Having someone else fight for me was a great gift from God to my heart.
“You beat cancer in how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.
So live – live – fight like hell.
And when you get too tired to fight,
then lie down, rest, and let someone else fight for you.” – Stuart Scott
Looking to God, with need always comes provision. You all have been that provision. I haven’t been alone in this since I received that phone call two years ago tonight. I’m certain I’m still here tonight because of all of you. You have become a web of support for me and my family that has sustained us and upheld us every day in this storm.
You have laughed, cried, trusted, prayed, stood beside us and loved us in a myriad of ways. In all my life, I have never seen such love and care for anyone, much less me. From infection control nurses who offer to come to my home every day (thanks, Linda!) to widows who write me and pray for me, to the amazing family who just texted me this:
“We’re 3.5 hours from you and wonder if it’s too much for us to stop by for 30 minutes to pray for you?”
Since you’re in the neighborhood, sure, swing on by. Some of you are just crazy. Or angels from God. It’s just hard to tell.
I believe life is about being captured by God’s love and then the people we touch with it and who touch us.
Two years in this storm, thank you for being God’s provision and for touching me,