This past week we heard not so good news about Andrea's cancer. Her scan showed more cancer in her liver and something in her left lung. But we have also felt the Lord telling us to abandon ourselves. Abandon to His will; abandon our desires, to trust Him fully. That He knows the desires of our hearts.
The physical reality seemed to crash over me. Andrea’s pain in her back, shortness of breath, pain in her chest, constant cough, changes in her vision, all remind me of what we face. Yet God is giving us a peace that He is in control. We only need to trust Him and abandon ourselves to be used for His glory. Even typing those words makes me think; five months ago I would have been afraid to type those words. I would say I was giving in to Andrea’s death. And maybe it is the Lord preparing my heart. If it is, then there will be peace, grief but with peace. When I woke up this past Saturday this is what I felt:
This trial seems as if we are standing on a cliff, and before us is a valley, deep and wide. In the distance is a wall of water and it is headed our way. I can hear it, I can see it. I’m scared of it in a way, because it seems more powerful than me. There is nothing between us and the water but the valley and the ground we stand on. I wish it would turn away, or miss us but it won’t, it hasn’t. It is headed our way. Andrea and I are on the cliff, high above the valley floor, just holding each other. Then it hits, the first part of the water crashes into the cliff and shakes the ground under our feet, the water sprays in our face. It is scary and the physical impact of the water begins to erode the sides of the cliff. The water turns brown from the eroding soil. Chunks of the soil are washed away; it is amazing how easy some of the soil is taken away. There are waves of doubt, wonder, and worry. Are we really safe? Will this hold? Look at the power of the water! Maybe we should leave, abandon our stand and make a run for it, to higher ground behind us. No, this is our place, right here and here we will stay. As they say, “Come hell or high water.” The water settles into a constant flow, vice the initial impact that shook us so violently. There is some peace, as the water seems less threatening; it is just a steady flow. Yet when we look down we still see the soil being washed away. So it goes, periods of peace and confidence, and periods of doubt. Will it hold? The water is all around us, there is no escape now. The higher ground behind us has been washed away. What we thought was a safer place is now gone. Then when I look down, the soil is gone; the water has washed it all away, but now exposed beneath our feet is the solid rock that existed there all the time. The water now helplessly flows around the rock. It is powerless against the solid granite. We now feel safe amongst the water, it no longer threatens us. We stand on a single pillar of stone. What we had first placed our faith in, what seemed so safe turned out to be no match for the wall of water and its constant erosion.
Waves still come at times, as they did this past week when we got Andrea’s scans. We think, “Lord how much more can the ground take, should we just jump in and go with the water?” He says, “No, stand your ground, trust me.” “But Lord look, the water is flowing over our feet.” He says “I created the water; it does not flow without my approval. It only goes where I allow it.” I see our friends across the way standing on the opposite bank, wanting to help. I can see the desire in their faces, their anguish. They are asking, “God why are you doing this to them. It seems unfair.” He tells them the same “trust me. Trust me, and see my strength in Jim and Andrea’s weakness.”
But I’m afraid that we will let you, our friends, down. Part of my fear is that as you watch us and believe for us, that we will fail you, that we will let you down. That you will doubt the ground you stand on. If Andrea’s dies it will be seen as if we failed. This week was a pretty big wave, and I would think that if I was looking at our situation I would be worried. But, please do not doubt. Don’t doubt your prayers, don’t doubt in God. As much as you want to reach to us and help us, I want to reach to you and say its okay. We have grown stronger for having lost all that loose soil and exposed the solid rock underneath. You see it was always there. I had covered it with soil I packed with my own selfish hands. Although it was smooth and had the appearance of strength, it was a nothing more than sand. It had to be washed away for us to learn what is true. No matter how this ends, I pray that you will not feel sad for us, sad as if we have no hope, nor doubt your own faith, but see a faithful God. I don’t want you to see us and think how strong we must be to face this wall of water, rather that you would see the solid rock upon which we stand. It is not we that are strong but the rock on which we stand which gives us strength.
I have one quirk, actually this is one of many, but ever since I have flown the last thing I would say to Andrea whenever I left for work and the last thing I say to the crew chief before he unhooks his headset is, “See you in a little bit,” and Andrea and I adopted this instead of saying goodbye. Now when I think about this cancer, and if the worst should happen, I think what will be the last thing I would say to Andrea. It would be, “See you in a little bit.” Those words encompass the truth of our faith. This life is just a vapor, and we will spend eternity with God in the perfection of heaven. So, this goodbye, if necessary, is not forever, because I will see her in a little bit. That is why the Bible tells us not to grieve as those without hope. Not that we won’t grieve but we have an underlying hope that softens the grief to this lifetime. And no matter the amount or the ferocity of the water that is headed our way, if we stand on a foundation of faith in God and our assurance in Christ we are on solid ground. He is in fact the one who calmed the seas and spoke calm to the winds.