Donald Miller calls it The Lie. The most persuasive deception he has ever had to unlearn.
I am unlearning it, too. A whole generation is. At least I hope we are.
So forgive me if I seem a bit self-indulgent. A blog about ME can be a sinful-pleasure for sure. It is the story I know best, however, and I’m only just beginning to relearn that my life isn’t all about me. After two years of being The Patient, it is though I am having to unlearn The Lie all over again.
I am trying, though. And here is my effort today. I will turn the cameras elsewhere for at least a couple paragraphs. For I’ve been reminded in recent days how the effect of this illness in my body has been an adversity for many: our church, my friends, my boys, my bride, her folks, my folks, our siblings, and the polar bear community near the arctic circle.
And here is how I was reminded: my hometown’s high school hockey team was in the state tournament two weeks back. They won (Go Rams). My whole family was in the Twin Cities for the games (along with half my hometown). Ade and I rode back up to the farm with my mom and dad at the end of the weekend, and we spent the week up there, the first half on our own, the second with Jen and Eli.
Good idea. Except one thing. My world falls apart without Jen. It tilts off axis and spirals into a black hole of unopposed gravitational gloom. Trudging through the dark days of the week (in fatigue and irritability) without her (and with Aedan in tow) was almost enough to awaken my conscience to the absurd amount of work she does from week to week to keep her boys happy. And this would’ve done it, were it not for the good graces of Baba Buddy and Mama Deb, stepping in with Ade when they saw what I was unable to do.
But then towards the end of the week, when I was up and able to get out of the house, I ran into Bro Jeff from the Roseau Times Region. He invited Jen and I in for an interview the next day. His questions occasionally suggested that he really wanted this story to be more about Jen as a caregiver, and less about me as a wee little sick boy.
Well done, Bro. That did it. I snapped to and saw my bride again. I saw her again. Here was my hero. Here was my bride – busted up and broken human being that she was – being the hands and feet and lips and sweet-smelling hair of Christ in our home for her husband and her sons.
We talked about it later that night. I asked her to tell me what sorts of things had been hard for her in recent months. It was good. It was good for me to step into her soul through her words that night. It was good for me to see her again.
And so I consider myself at least twice blessed. Once in the very fact that I’ve been so cared for, so loved. And again for being able to get a glimpse of it. To get it. To understand the cost of it.
And it adds fervor to my prayers and my requests for them. For I’ve come to understand in a new way how our hurts as individuals become our hurts as a family. Aedan feels it in his way. Eli feels it in his. In more directions than might be imagined, the inconveniences brought by the hurt and by the cost of its healing become the burdens of many.
So this time, when I hope for these final months of treatments to be manageable, and the recuperation that follows to be quick and complete, I long for this not merely for my own sake, but for Jen’s, for Ade’s, and for Eli’s; for our folk’s, our family’s, and our friends’; for all those who’ve had to navigate the peculiar nature of our needs and our circumstances in whatever ways it might have affected them.
Lastly, this glimpse into the communal effects of one person’s needs (in this case, my own) has reminded me that even our hurts, as intimate as they can be, are not always about us, or ever completely about us. Sometimes we are called to hurt so that others may be called to heal.
I heard it said recently that the right question to ask when confronted with unaddressed suffering in this world is not “Where is God?” but “Where are God’s people?” Had I ever asked that question at any point during these last few years, the answer would have come as easily and as quickly as I could have opened my eyes.
So here I am answering that question now.
Thank you God for my bride. Thank you for my boys. Thank you for Jen’s mom and dad. Thank you for mine. Thank you for brothers and sisters and in-laws. Thank you for doctors and nurses who become friends. Thank you for your Church. Thank you for family and friends and strangers who write letters and emails and send cards and checks and show up with shovels and cakes and hot dish (it is hot dish, you know – not casserole [see Zechariah 12:32]). Thank you God for folks who take the time to read this and who are somehow moved by it. Thank you that there have been people near enough to me and my family to be the seeable, touchable, smellable, tasteable, hearable, and huggable manifestations of your grace in our times of need.
Please. Please help us to be this and become this all the more for folks who hurt like we do and who hurt more than we do. For there is still so much hurt here. Help us. Please. And thank you.
Grateful. Still. His.