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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Article Three - Light in The Darkness

When you are told you have Cancer your world gets very small. You are dealing with the diagnosis. How bad is it? What caused this? What am I going to do?  Treatments have to be set up. Schedules need to be dealt with. You decide which people need to know what is going on, and you have to get yourself ready. Your new world is small, but incredibly complicated.
Once things are "in place and settled down", the spiritual and emotional challenges begin to emerge from the fog; they take shape and look you in the eye.

In spite of  common elements, Cancer is a distinctly
lonely journey because it is not the same for everyone. Some have very treatable illnesses and attain the  blessing of a lighter and brighter perspective. Optimism is an essential part of healing for Cancer patients, and when the person who is ill is radiates positive energy, it makes most people comfortable.
Others have gone deeper into the Valley of the Shadow. The battle is intense, complex and exhausting . The shadows there obscure and challenge the light of faith causing denial, fear, and sadness.  Many have died while they were still in the Valley. I almost did.

On a spiritual level when  safe routines are broken, or sudden change comes, people are led (or forced)  to a place where two things can happen:
1. Losing Sight of God and faith, or
2.The nurturing of a deeper, more real and Honest relationship with God . Neither of these will happen without a struggle.
Our scriptures are filled with images of  people struggling:
Jacob alone at Peniel wrestling with God.
Abraham receiving and giving up the life of his son.
Job, challenged by life tragedies
Jesus in Gethsemane

Psalm 88:18: You caused my friends and loved ones to leave me.
    Now darkness is my closest friend.

I spoke to one of my parishioners in a quiet shared moment at the Cathedral. I had said "God had me right where he wanted me; late at night alone and helpless in a bed in a palliative care room bed after radical chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  I told God I was ready to listen."
My friend asked "What did he say?" My response: "Absolutely nothing"

 Then I added..."Now let me finish".  "God said nothing. All was dark.  But I continued to wait ,and  in that I became totally honest "with whatever was out there" .  Lying in physical and spiritual darkness I let everything go. As I openly declared my sense of fear, anger, weakness, and helplessness I realized that I was fully acknowledging the presence of some of these things for the first time in my life. In that moment, I was overwhelmed by God's elusive presence and knew I was closer to God than ever before in my life.

Much has been written about these ideas of " Luminous Darkness, and Dark Nights of the Soul", and I have experienced them both at different times and at different levels in my life, but never like this.
It gave birth to a whole new hope and faith within me.
Shortly after that I spoke to my Children calmly, and with great peace letting them know that no matter what the outcome, I was going to be just fine.

Now,  almost four years after as I continue sorting through the collateral damage, I am still discovering and learning to articulate what I have come to call the "Giftedness of the Darkness"

Cancer changed me forever because I could no longer ignore the questions or the deep call from within, to integrity and courage in seeking the truth.
I have come to see that the questions I have asked after my catastrophe are  really the same ones I have been asking all along.

It has deepened the empathy I have for those who suffer, and has caused me to place even greater importance on the value  of the Church as a community of people, bound in faith and authentic love and concern for each other.

Recently, I was working through a long, difficult day.  Suppertime  was near and some family and friends were gathering at our place to share a meal.  When I arrived at the house two of my grandkids were already there. 
 I had a just few hours, before having leave the rectory and head out again.  In my tiredness   I wished I could settle in for the evening, hang out with the family, and have an early night. 
My wife placed my infant grandson in my arms because: " I am getting supper, you have to go out again, so make the best of it."
I did. Having Trygger in my arms, and Teghan running around demanded my full attention. As I walked and rocked and gurgled and sang to my grandson his big blue eyes began to get heavy. It took about an hour, but he finally fell asleep in my arms. This little meditation emerged from my heart:
Long rough days...are best ended when you rock your grandson and he falls asleep in your arms.
We pour our hearts out to the world in the hope that the truest words are heard, and the broken ones are forgiven....when a child trusts you enough to let go and sleep...eternity whispers to you and says....all will be well. Thank you Lord.

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