At 51 years of age I am not the picture of physical health I was less than 5 years ago and for this I am thankful. Why? Because it means I am not the driven man I once was.
In the not too distant past I was a hard driving, marathon running, accomplishment addicted, approval seeking shell of a man. Yet today, illness and all, I have never been more alive.
Walk with me and you’ll hear a cough rattle in my chest where a bumpy film of persistent cancer cells, once located in my colon, are now attempting to fill my lungs. Join me on a bike ride and I am certain to have to stop to catch my breath on the hills. Hills I once attacked yet in this stopping I am learning lessons, I am convinced, I couldn’t have learned any other way.
But know this…over the last five years I have climbed steep mountains. Mountains I didn’t even know existed – 61 rounds of chemotherapy, 15 rounds of radiation, numerous CT scans and surgeries. Each of these trials required me to pause and in so doing I have gained a different perspective on my one and only life.
To me cancer has been a gift because it has required me to do what I would have never done on my own – slow down. While I thought I was accomplishing a lot…in reality my former life, to some extent, was an exercise in futility.
In the past, I was afraid of not measuring up. Afraid of not having what it took. Afraid I would not impress. Afraid I would fail. Before cancer, I avoided speaking in public because I felt I had nothing to say.
Yet, after my experience with the suffering living with cancer has required, I am at peace with leading with a limp. It is becoming natural for me to share where I have fallen short and what I have learned along the way. Through this experience I have discovered real connections/relationships are formed when we are authentic and vulnerable not when we boast about our latest promotion.
Because of cancer, I have something worth saying because it’s really not about me anyway. One of my discoveries is the old adage, “when I am weak I am strong” is true.
Now, even as I struggle to breathe deeply, I am comfortable with the full breath of whom God created me to be. I realize I am not what I do—nor am I what I produce, what I earn, or even whom I know. It has been a breath of fresh air to know I do not have to perform or impress, it is much easier than that.
Today I have discovered my greatest successes come when I say yes to the still small voice I hear in my heart. The voice that tells me to stop and share a kind word or a prayer with a fellow cancer patient. This could occur in the infusion room, the grocery store, the DMV or a cardio rehab class. Candidly, when I say yes to the voice…that’s when my life becomes an adventure.
In the midst of saying yes to caring for others I have discovered we tend to make practicing the Christian faith far too complex.
If we would simply…
- Read God’s word daily.
- Pray (Listen more than speaking.)
- Do what God says (Through the still small voice.)
…then everything else seems to fall into place.
It is freeing to know I don’t have to impress or perform for God and I don’t have to excel at sin management; I can simply follow the example Jesus set and try to live as He did.
Life is easier this way—and far more healthy.