Recent photo of my parents in my office

Recent photo of my parents in my office

August 26, 2007

Another Overdue Report

Thank you for your prayers, your gifts, your faithful willingness to give to me when I've lost so much of my capacity to give as I used to. For all of those e-mails that I wish I could respond to more individually, I also give thanks.

Increase in pain. That's the primary description of my recent health. This is graduate, though, and alternates between days of freedom and days of near crippling sensations. I've begun to take a very mild dose of the anti-pain drug that the doctor has prescribed for me. It combines acetaminophen with a small bit of norco -- the one I'd been avoiding when I last wrote. This helps, but, of course, I don't want to become dependent on it, if possible. Nonetheless, it does enable me to focus on activities other than pain, so that's better (such as WRITING about pain :-)). It means that I can work, that I can help out at home some, and that I can drive, type, read, and so forth.

When I compare the energy that I used to have with the current energy I now have, I am a bit stunned, however. I used to be able to process activities and ideas more speedily, and LOVED doing that! Now, I have to be more cautious, and move more slowly, especially in walking or bending over. Sleeping can be a challenge -- not once I've fallen asleep, but to get into a comfortable position IN bed.

On the personal and more inward side, I have been challenged to trust in God's love and goodness. I have seen that I am must take more authority over this situation than I ever have. It reflects the authority that I have long needed to take in other aspects of my personal development.

This shows up in certain well-intended models of Christian prayer. Someone can pray for another who is ill by saying something like this: "Lord, we know you can heal, and we ask for that, but whatever your will is, we know that you will always be present." This is not entirely theologically amiss, but I am beginning to sense the means whereby such prayer can open a door to despair for someone like me. In other words, if I begin to believe that God wants me to begin planning my death ceremony based on a prognosis given me by a doctor, I wonder as to the justice and meaningfulness of my life. If my life is to end, I think I must at least go through the battle that Jesus had in the garden, in which he bled in "fighting it out", so to speak, with his Father. He still ended saying, "Not my will, but thy will be done," but he never accepted that conclusion passively.

This has called me to a deeper level of prayer that takes much more energy. I would say that in my early childhood, and consequently through the rest of my adolescence and adult life, I never learned well how to cry out in anger, in opposition, or in conflict that was appropriate, holy, and ultimately resolved in a restorative way. So now, here's the opportunity, indeed the NECESSITY to do so. And sometimes there are people present here to help me do that, and sometimes not. I think I understand a bit more why Jesus went back to the slumbering Peter, James, and John a couple times, asking for their presence in the battle. Of course -- they didn't understand at all what he was fighting, and neither have I in the past, especially in the case of so many others who have deserved my help and intercessions in time of need.

And yet -- it is only by those times alone that I think my faith is able to grow. If I had people with me all the time, comforting me and "solving" the spiritual complexity of pain, where would the questions be that I have to fight out with the Lord?

If it occurs to you, pray for me as I seek willingly to look in the face of whatever pain comes, and then to break through the passivity I would be tempted to accept -- that God didn't care, that I wasn't wanted anyway, that my life was over with and I might as well accept that injustice now and become embittered. (Believe me, these are easy temptations some days).

Rather, pray that I could step into the the authority I have to resist the battle, crying out with whatever needs to emerge from my soul, but in a holy and worthy fight -- perhaps like the anger toward death that Jesus himself displayed at the tomb of Lazarus. In those few times where I've been able to reach this point of freedom, I have sensed new energy and healing also flowing into my bodily illness. I'm able to hear the voice of the Lord, and know that Jesus really does love me.

And only THEN if no healing comes -- only then will I know that I have fought the good fight without becoming a whiner or a complainer.

God, forgive me for the numbers of times I have pitied myself, and whined against your provision. Help me to accept the discipline that you bring to refine my character, as a loving Father does to his son. I choose to live and to grow more into the image of your own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

4 comments:

martha said...

We're crying out to the Lord with you!

Claudio said...

Dear John,

Your last report really spoke to my heart. I find myself in the midst of a much smaller battle than yours, but painful nonetheless and, in the heat of the furnace, I am consumed by the same questions that poisoned Adam and Eve’s hearts: does God really care? Does He have the best in store for his children? Why did He throw me onto such a battlefield? Sometimes, I even dare to cry out in anger. Worst of all, I’ve been tempted to … “throw in the towel”. The burden is too heavy at times and the battle too bloody! I am not Jesus! Indeed, it is as one Christian author said in one of his books: we want to receive life, but we don’t want to bleed.

As I think about life's issues and struggles, my thoughts go to Peter’s conclusion: “But you Lord, only you have the words of Eternal Life” (paraphrasing). So, what shall we do? To whom or where shall we run in the midst of such a war? Peter's words lead us into the heat of the battle - to the cross – where Jesus is, even when we are lacking in faith.

So, dear John, I agree with your prayers: God, forgive US for the numbers of times WE have pitied OURSELVES and whined and GRUMBLED against your provision. Help US to accept the discipline that you bring to refine OUR character, as a loving Father does to his son. WE choose to live and to grow more into the image of your own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

…and dear Lord Jesus, let me add this request to this prayer: help us not so much to have faith in you, but rather, to have YOUR faith in God. Amen!

Robert Wallis said...

John,
I just finished reading your most recent entry, and while I can't truly empathize with your struggle, Jesus can--as you appropriately alluded to in his garden battle. I couldn't agree more with your language of fighting the good fight. Whatever else God may have in store, what you are becoming during this process is not only healthier in body, soul, mind and spirit but also--through your meditations, you are becoming a more useful member of the body of Christ. Thank you for pressing through the discomfort and pain to share your thoughts with doctors, family, and ultimately with us in your blog.
I am praying that you will find not only increased faith but increased joy as you speak to your Father in heaven. Fundamentally, you are his son, John, and he loves you, though why he has chosen you to go through your particular light and momentary affliction rather than, say, me, is a mystery none of us will fathom this side of heaven. On the one hand I am (candidly) glad it's you and not me; on the other I am a bit envious of the clarity, intensity, and deepening in your walk with God that such a struggle elicits. Whether a like struggle is ultimately in my future is one which my good shepherd and father will, in his sovereign love and goodness, prepare me for and bless me with if he sees fit. Until that time, however, I am encouraged and strengthened to walk out my somewhat ordinary life for God's glory in a way that I can hopefully look back on unashamed--fighting the good fight, if you will, even if it is not the pressing battle you are in. Your struggle assures me that all of our struggles can be tinged with glory and (perhaps more to the point) are being watched by many others. So, thank you again for not only going through your fight but sharing it with us. Rest assured that you are--even this day and this hour--the fragrance of life and (to be true to Scripture) the stench of death to some folks. Bear it well! With love and respect, Robert Wallis
PS - I have recently been writing out my prayers and been receiving quite a bit of benefit from it. There is something about writing out the truth we know that drives it into my heart in a way uttering the same prayer only orally doesn't do. There is a book that has been of special help to me and Andrea in this regard. It is called "The Valley of Vision" and it is a compilation of Puritan prayers that is a wonderful blend of truth, poetry, cadence and faith.

comemorning said...

John,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and prayers and for allowing us as a body of believers to enter with you into this time of testing and, as you said, time of discipline. We are lifting you up in prayer; may you be strengthened and healed in body and in spirit.

With love for you and Margie and your children,

Emily and Jake