Halfway, Hope & “The Task”

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Hello again Friends & Family,

Jana and I hope and pray that you are well, and we give thanks for you! Truly, we are all in a similar race together (though my brain cancer is a more visible example than most) – the marathon of being. We each have our sufferings to endure – and hopefully, through our shared efforts, we can encourage each other to keep pressing on and to keep envisioning our hope to come so that we can keep the faith and finish well.

We have reached the halfway mark of my radiation treatments, and that is something to celebrate! Despite my hair starting to fall out and resemble a bedraggled hyena’s rather than David Beckham’s, we raise a fist of solidarity in the good fight. And at least we can be sure that the radiation is doing some kind of damage. Lucy and Anja are so sweet when I say, “Sorry about the hair….” They just say, “It’ okay, Papa – You look great!” Awww:)

As I had ventured a bit introspectively last time and tried to be honest, here I will eschew such downcast drivel and return to optimism only. Just kidding… Truth be told, as I was speaking to our wonderful secretary Anna here at work today, I realized  that the tough balance is holding at one and the same time one’s strength in light of God’s power and faithfulness and His abundant promises, and at the same time being honest and in touch with one’s emotions – specifically, a tendency to get down – and, shall I say it, to have self-pity….)

To this point, I was reminded by a sermon this weekend that the hallmark of the faithful is gratitude, ever seeing that truthfully, if we have food and clothing (I know this may seem CRAZY to our culture, but it is biblical) we have ALL that we need. For, we receive all that Christ has won for us on the cross when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. And so truly we have no other needs (“The Lord is my Shephard, I shall not want.” i.e. “I lack nothing.” –Psalm 23:1 ) So, gratitude is fundamental in this fight – in the marathon of being – in order to keep the balance between the tendency to be all that we are called to in God’s power and in the human need to feel and experience honestly.

To drive this point further, I read this morning of a father who lost both his daughter-in-law and then, 7 years later, his wife, to brain cancer. Both died within 1 year of their diagnoses. This is crushing. Many on this website (called Inspire.com, a chatroom sponsored by the American Brain Tumor Association- ABTA.org) remarked that this is too much pain to bear: the poor father. My response, in addition to deep sorrow for his losses, is to see that my burden, our burden, could be a lot worse. And so I am further filled with gratitude and spurred on to carry the cross that the Lord has given me and Jana and our family.

And that brings me to “The Task.” I am seeing that in the flurry of the furious starting line – as the emotions, surgery, drugs and diagnosis all swirl about – hope can be an all too-easy medicine. Cheap medicine, to borrow from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s notion of “cheap grace.” (This is grace with no cost. Hope with no cost. Yet, Christ won our hope for us on the cross and calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. The hope He has given us came at a great great price, indeed!)

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Yet, hope can become a catch-all for the self-focused emotions surrounding fear and loss, and a defensive reaction against despair. In contrast, the hope that we are called to as Christians is much deeper, more resilient and honest than such reactive denial to which I am humanly prone. And so I see that I am experiencing a pruning of my emotions. God is showing me, through the slow-groggy doldrums when lifting the head from the pillow is a chore, that the eternal hope to which he calls us — and completing the race towards that hope — is “The Task” that is the real stuff of my calling now. And so I see a real need to be sober and focused. For the tendency is to get all wrapped up in myriad distractions: the science of the hope for a cure; soccer (which, of course, is VERY high on the agenda, nevertheless:); petty selfishness; self-pity; you get the idea…

Now, it is high time to focus on the real TASK at hand: to run the race with integrity for His glory. And so one must channel one’s energy at this task. Here are a couple of thoughts I leave you with as you mark out the parameters of your task – your calling:

  1. What is your hope? What does your finish line look like? What will you receive when you arrive?
  2. what does your race-course look like?
  3. How can you be sure you ran with integrity?

My answers, in case you were wondering:)

  1. My hope is all that Jesus Christ has promised me: His righteousness, eternal life, the Holy Spirit, all the riches and blessings which are His which he won for me and for all of his children. My finish line looks like crossing over from life to New Life – eternal life. When I arrive, I long to hear the words: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
  2. I don’t know what your race looks like. I have a reasonable idea of the landscape and footing of mine – and Jana’s and our kids: It is uphill, rocky, muddy, tortuous, painful, demanding… Likely, your course, should you choose to acknowledge it instead of going the cheap hope way, will look something similar to ours — which is why I am sharing these thoughts! (I know that “there will be trouble in your life” because Jesus said there would be. And so we should not be surprised at this. The challenges we face are common to man. The calling is to meet these common challenges in an uncommon way!)
  3. Integrity can be defined by the adjectives “good” and “faithful” which I long to hear at the finish line. No one but Christ is good; and we can only be good by his goodness being ascribed to us. And we can do this by being faithful. So, a very key component of integrity is our faithfulness. And faith must be in the object of a person, not simply an idea. (Would you trust your life to an idea?!)

Okay, that’s all I got for today. Health update: hanging tough, though 30% chance of sadness. Hair drifts expected. Jana — plugging along, as upbeat as can be. Lucy and Anja – 25% oblivious, 75% cuties! Prognosis: mortal and hopeful. Prayer requests: that we are given the strength to run with perseverance and integrity the course set before us.

May you be encouraged today.

Love & respect,

Patrick and family

PS – Shortly after writing this update yesterday, our family received the heartbreaking news that our beloved Uncle Larry, Jana’s dad’s blood brother and life-long best friend, died of a heart attack. Larry was a wonderful man and is survived by his loving wife, Aunt Marie, and his amazing and faith-filled kids Cary and family and Laura and family. After hearing this sad news, I wrote a follow-up blog to this message — which I will post shortly after this goes out. If you’d like to hear about a man who kept the faith and finished the course, then please read on!