Sometimes when I can’t sleep I give myself “mental projects to think about.” The hope is that instead of obsessing about how I’m not sleeping, I’ll distract my brain and trick it into chasing rabbits right into Dreamland. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I quiz myself: name the fifty states in alphabetical order; list the Brady kids from youngest to oldest. Other times, I replay favorite memories that I don’t want to forget. I try to visualize the scenes like I’m watching a movie of my life.
A few nights ago, I gave myself an assignment that may seem a little strange. I tried to make myself remember exactly what we were like just before my dad went in the hospital on December 21st, 2008. Those memories automatically led into memories of the days that followed: the brain surgery, the diagnosis, the beginning of radiation and chemotherapy. Then I pushed myself to remember further back in time, back to my parents’ visit here last August. In my mind I could see the pictures Dad and I took during that time. Dad and I aren’t in many of those pictures because we were mostly behind the camera. I wish I’d known to take more pictures of all of us during that time. I just didn’t know that in a few short months we all would be forever changed. Regardless of how God chooses to use my dad’s illness in our family’s life and in our lives as individuals, regardless of which side of heaven my dad receives his healing, we will never be the same as we were before any of this happened.
Sometimes the heaviness of this journey hits me like a ton of bricks and I feel like I can’t even get a good, deep breath. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of the blog post that Beth Moore wrote on Good Friday this year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated Melissa’s statement myself: “Life is brutal, man.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried over, clung to, and found comfort in what Melissa said after that: “He (Jesus) knows it’s scary to be us.”
Sunday, Curtis (my pastor), preached from John 11 about Jesus and Lazarus. I could camp out and ponder huge chunks of that passage from now until I get to ask Jesus and Lazarus all my questions in person. Also this weekend, I watched a video of Rachel Barkey, a 38-year-old mom who is living with terminal cancer, and many of the points she made paralleled what Curtis said in his sermon. I was sitting in church Sunday thinking about how death and pain and suffering entered the perfect world God made for us because of man’s sin. Curtis wondered if perhaps that’s why Jesus wept when he was told that Lazarus had died. Jesus certainly wasn’t surprised by that news and He knew that He could take death away from Lazarus. But Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters and as he looked around and saw his friends struggling with the after-effects of Lazarus’s death, he saw the terrible, ugly scar that death had left on His Father’s world and maybe he wept at what sin had caused.
All of a sudden as I sat there thinking about the ugly effects of sin, this thought popped into my head: “You see how brutal life is as a result of sin entering the world. You know firsthand the ugliness it causes. Then why don’t you take your own sin more seriously?”
Ouch. I didn’t see that coming. But I couldn’t let go of that thought. I now see that just as when sin entered the world and God’s relationship with man was damaged, my relationship with God has been damaged by my own unconfessed sin. My time alone with God has been practically nonexistent lately. I haven’t taken my responsibilities at home or with my children as seriously as I’ve needed to. I’ve given myself leeway and made excuses for my behavior. After all, the past few months have been tough, right? But this weekend, I realized I need to be honest and call it what it is: It’s sin and it’s affecting my closeness with God at the time I need Him more than I ever have before. I just can’t afford not to be right smack in the middle of His plan for me right now.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that my dad’s cancer was due to something he did wrong or didn’t do right. I know there are some that believe that sickness is a direct punishment to an individual for his or her sin. I believe that when we mess up, we have consequences, but I’m speaking more generally about how none of us are immune to the overall consequence for all of us when sin entered the world though Adam.
If what we’re going through as a family is going to change me, I want it to change me for the better. I can already see ways that it has. One of the ways that I hope this has changed me, even this weekend, is that I see sin for what it is and for what it does and I hope that I take it more seriously in my own life.
This is drastically different from my Jazzercise, orange balls, ping pong ball bouncing posts of late, I know. But this is also a pretty accurate picture of what my life feels like right now. When I have a chance to laugh, I laugh until my sides hurt. When I think, I think until my head hurts. When something makes me feel, I feel until my heart hurts. And then I just take all those hurts to Jesus and He laughs with me, cries with me, forgives me, and helps me make it through whatever the next minute brings. Because He knows it’s scary to be me.
On a much lighter note, guess what came in the mail yesterday?