Living While Dying

Some of you were notified of this post last week and then wondered why you couldn’t access it. It’s because I have not been able to come to a satisfying conclusion and had locked it back down. I also wasn’t comfortable with what I was sharing because it’s what I feel to be a very dark confession and as such I questioned whether is was something I wanted to post on the internet, let alone have the people that I admire most read. Thankfully God in his providence provided a fitting closure to my confession.

Almost 6 months ago, when I first began this journey, a very dear friend emailed me with a number of questions that I never replied to. Mostly because they leave me emotionally conflicted and asking the same questions of myself.

17 years ago in the midst of my divorce I used to find myself writing rambling discourses in a journal. Inevitably it was always late at night and I began to call them my “11 O’clock Requiem – the ramblings of a mad man.” Here I find myself taking pen keyboard in hand and trying to reply to my friends questions.


My Dear Friend,

I write to you out of everyone else I know because of all that you and I have shared with one another. I’d like to say that I write to you because of your incredible depth of empathy and while that is more than true it’s more so because I know how great a sinner you are in your own mind. You are one of the few people I know who views their depravity as being as unfathomably deep as I do my own. And likewise I know you also shudder when you look too deeply into the darkness of your own soul. But even in saying that I also know that you and I stand solidly on the cornerstone that is our salvation even while like Paul we find ourselves crying out, “What a wretched man I am!”  So bear with me brother, what follows is the old “11 O’clock Requiem” and the repentant ramblings of a mad man”

[blockquote align=”center” variation=”mossgreen”]How do you do this? How do you go about living when you know/think you are dying? And how inane is that last question when we all know we are going to die some day? It’s that last sentence that reminds me of one dear friends email after I shared with him the news of my cancer. Let me ponder whether or not I have any really good questions for you. I’m just so very curious as to how each heretofore “normal” experience is affected by your cancer. It no doubt has sharpened a number of things for you…. Forgive me if I’ve let you down here as far as providing fodder….

I want more than anything to be a comfort and encouragement… perhaps you can try and answer the question “why does the revelation of cancer, etc. change everything?” does it have to change anything? Aren’t we all in the same boat? Do people act differently toward me now? What has changed and what has not? Why would someone find it harder or easier to talk with me? …. yuck… I have some gall to ask these things…[/blockquote]

Gall or not they are questions that I constantly ask myself. Why does having cancer change my perspective on dying?
I wish I had some profound answer but the simple truth is because it’s going to happen sooner than I had planned.
Well that’s more than a bit pretentious of me and rather laughable as I can’t help but think of James 4:14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. What a word to use to describe our very existence. Could there possibly be anything more insubstantial than mist?

But the sad truth is it has changed my perspective and unfortunately not all for the better. When I first found out about my cancer and the fact that it was stage IV and everything that I read pointed out to a very short and low survival rate – when that was my truth, when the bell curve of my life seemed to be very short indeed – it was then that my spiritual life was energized in a way that it hadn’t been for quite some time. Oh, the knowledge and words had been there but the walk… well the walk had been a slow meandering at best. But with deaths specter looming in my near future my ponderous walk turned into a steady jog. I found myself running towards God and just as often felt that the Holy Spirit was running along side me.

But as you and I know all too well Satan can tarnish the most beautiful of things.

“How? How on earth could Satan cause you to stumble?”, you ask.

Pride my friend. It almost always starts with pride. And while I started to have “feelings” that I was heading towards a fall it wasn’t until I was reading the book you’d given me years ago that my sin was fully revealed. I was reading the prayer The Dark Guest in the book “The Valley of Vision” when the Holy Spirit pointed out my folly like the ghost of Christmas future pointing out with his bony finger the tombstone of Ebeneezer Scrooge.

[blockquote align=”center” variation=”mossgreen”]”…for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.”[/blockquote] And I would add to that – even when what I eye is my own death.

I know, right?! What twisted deluded path have I been lead down to think such things? But for the first time in my life I felt that the 800lb gorilla sitting in the corner (the one you and I are all too familiar with) was moved aside and I found he’d been sitting on this – hiding it from view. This seemingly simple, innocuous thought “to eye my name in all I do“, but the truth is there is nothing innocuous about that phrase. The reality of that phrase and how it has surreptitiously wormed it’s way into everything that I’ve ever done was revealed for the whale of sin that it truly is.

At the revelation of my cancer I felt very close to God. Oh I may have felt buffeted at times but I was firmly fettered my friend.  I looked back on past trials when I had fallen and I reminded myself of God’s unwavering faithfulness through all of them. Instead of wondering why this was happening to me I instead saw this as my final exam. This was to be the culmination of all my past trials and I was determined that with God’s help I would glorify Him no matter what. And maybe that would still be the case if the cancer had continued to progress, but it hasn’t. All the prayers and medicine have had the effect that everyone has desired. 6 months in and I’m still feeling good and the cancer is being held at bay.

But unfortunately with time comes complacency and the further the specter of Death has retreated from view the weaker my spiritual walk has become.

And that which I believe was designed to humble me and draw me nearer to God was turned on it’s head and my name is the name that I began to hear in all that transpired.
– It was Mike that was handling everything so well.
– It was Mike that had such a humble demeanor.
– It was Mike that found his strength in God.
– It was Mike that had such a cheerful disposition during such a dark trial.
– It was Mike who’s writing is so inspirational.
– It was Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike.

And at every turn like a football player that has just scored a touch down; I kneel before the masses bow my head and touch fist to heart to head and then point to the sky in praise, all the while hearing, Mike, Mike, Mike…

Even writing this – my confession – I hear my name, and as I recognize that to be the case I find there to nothing laudable in my writings. I find my actions to be nothing more than the trappings of the pharisee, loudly praying for all to hear while in my heart there is nothing but dead rags.

My friend if there is to be pity for my condition, then let it rest on my soul and not this mortal coil.

A most pathetic sinner,
Mike


That my dear reader is where I left things last week and is what I emailed to my friend and why I did not want this to be all that was posted. This morning I found myself reading a blog that I’ve enjoyed in the past and came across this verse and once again heard Satan’s denunciations all too clearly.

[blockquote align=”center” variation=”mossgreen”]Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”[/blockquote]

And as quickly as Satan wagged his finger at me God graciously provided the following sermon by Pastor Patrick Thurmer at Living Faith Church in Cape Coral, FL. It’s not a long sermon at only 12 minutes and you’ll get through the meat of it in the first 5 minutes but I highly recommend listening to the entire sermon. It’s light hearted tone was exactly what I needed to hear this morning.

 

I wish I had some pithy closing commentary but I don’t. What I do have is God’s word – thank God!

[blockquote align=”center” variation=”mossgreen”]Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”[/blockquote]
2016-10-31T07:39:01+00:00 December 20th, 2013|Categories: Living While Dying|5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. David G December 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Sounds to me that you are where you ought to be, struggling with what you should be struggling with. Go ahead and preach to your soul, scold it all you want. But don’t forget to pour the gospel all over it. You are well loved.

  2. Bobbie December 20, 2013 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    I love your raw honesty. Every soul responds as every soul shares at some point a oneness in your glimpse into eternity. Thank you Mike for sharing and allowing The Lord to hold us all accountable.

  3. Rose Blondell December 21, 2013 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Mike, we ALL have fallen short in following what God has asked of us but we/you know that because of Jesus we are all white as snow in God’s eyes. What a comfort for all of us.
    I believe this and I know you do too.
    Blessings and love,
    Rose

  4. Helen December 23, 2013 at 10:26 am - Reply

    You write what we all know about ourselves. –sinning and falling short of God’s glory and all. Mike, as your sister (favorite though I am!) my whole body is numb and heartbroken when I read about your cancer being the agent of death for your earthly body. I am praying for a full cure, but always end with “Your will, not mine, Lord” It’s like the little phrase I have to say at the end of any plea to have God know I really REALLY believe in Him, so that he is assured of my love and then will give me my way. He loves me, so why is he taking you from me? I believe it’s all in his big plan and that ‘his ways are above my ways’, but it’s my struggle to let go of the thought that His ways should be my ways. I mean we Christians know what Heaven will be, so why are we in such a fuss to extend our stay here? I don’t know. God does. I just know that I love you so so much. I thank God for giving me you as my big brother. I thank Him for all the time we do have yet to share here on Earth – and the blessings He’ll continue tobshower upon us while here, too. Can’t wait to see you on Christmas!!!!!

  5. Keri Jacobs December 27, 2013 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    I had to read this one about 3 times to really get it.
    I do think I tend to question every motive I have as well… or overanalyze it. Am I really doing this for the Lord or some pride thing? Am I really trying to help this person or is it because I get some kind of high from feeling needed? I think I listen to the voice of the accuser too much. I’m great at feeling I never do enough, or that I don’t do it well enough, etc etc etc. I don’t often know how to rest and sense His grace.

    Reading through this blog tonight I found some stuff I hadn’t seen before – the 11pm ramblings (I don’t think 11 is that late BTW !!) and the Come to the Table writing – that was really cool. And the ice dream one, that was troubling, but in a good way, I guess.

    I’m going to listen to that 12 minute sermon – just haven’t had a chance to yet.

    Your sister’s post up there was very sweet and it makes me want to give her a hug. Just keep telling us ‘things are going well, are uneventful, nothing to report” and it makes me feel like this infusion stuff is licking this cancer. What I hope anyway.

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