Monday, May 10, 2010

Warning: Intense Post Ahead

I was at a retreat this weekend, deep in the New Hampshire woods. It was spectacular, being out there in the middle of the mountains, next to a lake, seeing the world "wake up" into spring after a long winter. Here in New England, spring feels like a miracle, every single year.

And (to be honest) we were people in need of a miracle. The retreat was for leaders of our church here in Cambridge: a time for us to hang out, connect with each other and with God. And as we were gathered in New Hampshire, talking, laughing, eating, and sharing stories, we were also getting phone updates from back home in Boston, about one of our pastor's struggles with what could be the final stages of colon cancer. He's in the hospital now.

His name is Andrew, his wife is Val. They're young parents, with three boys. They came out to Cambridge from California more than a decade ago to help start this church, and are beloved, awesome friends. That this is happening to them is somewhat unbelievable, and yet totally, unavoidably real.

And so as the news came in, bit by bit, we were stunned. It felt like we were free-falling, along with Andrew's health--like everything was moving faster than we'd thought possible. And yet in the middle of this gut-wrenching news, there we were surrounded by the miracle of Spring. It felt like God reminding us, "There's a bigger picture here...I take the long view...let me show you my perspective." And he did, a little bit. But then we'd get another update, and the panic would return. It was (and is) the strangest sort of tension.

Somehow, this juxtaposition has renewed my courage to pray, "God, please heal Andrew..." And yet at the same time to believe that if God's plans are different, he knows better than I do, and I can trust that. It's a complex feeling, one I can't really describe. But I wanted to try.

In the Gospel of John, when Jesus tells his friends he's about to be killed, he gives them some strange marching orders: "Do not let your heart be troubled," he says. Twice. I've been trying to obey this command, asking God for help. And you know what? It's kind of working. I'm still sad, and scared, and praying at odd intervals, "God, PLEASE don't let this happen!!!" But there's a core of calm inside of me--that isn't me--suggesting that even now, in the midst of this, it's safe to pray, "God, may your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

If you want to add your prayers to this bowl for Andrew and Val and their sons, our church family would be so very grateful.

Thanks for reading, you guys. In tough times and in celebratory times, I'm so happy to be part of our blog community!


Allie said...

I'll pray for them, and for your church family too.

Nancy said...

Breathing prayer now.

Jeff said...

We barely know them, yet we've been following and praying with you all on this journey.

Krissy said...

I've been praying for Andrew since I found out about his diagnosis, and I continue to pray. And pray. And pray.

I can't agree with you, though, on the whole "if this is God's will, I'll trust him" sort of take on things. I don't for a second believe that it is God's desire for Andrew to die, or for Val and the boys to be without him for the rest of their days here on earth. I know enough of God's love that, if it were his will, I, like you, could trust him in that. But Jesus is the definitive revelation of God, so let's take our cue from him. When did Jesus ever meet a sick person and say, "Ah, well, it's God's will for you to be sick, suffer, and possibly die of this illness. So good luck with that! And remember, God loves you!" He didn't, of course. He just healed people. Period.

So, if this isn't God's will, why is Andrew sick? After all of Job's suffering, God basically told him that "why" was the wrong question, and that there is so much going on in the universe beyond what we can understand. We do know that we live in a fallen world, and there is a battle being waged. We don't see or begin to understand the half of it, but we do know that our prayers are powerful and effective (James 5:16).

I only point this out because I think it's easier to feel passionate about God when we see his true character as expressed in Jesus, who loved and healed, than when we believe that God loves us but that he might also (seemingly) arbitrarily decide that it's better for a young husband/father/fantastic church leader to suffer and possibly die from cancer. I also think it's easier to pray when I know I'm not doing it to try to change God's mind, but rather to agree with God against whatever forces there are to the contrary that Andrew should be healed!

Finally, even though it is not God's will for this to be happening to Andrew, we can rest assured that God already has a perfect plan in place to bring good out of this situation (Romans 8:28).

Love and blessings to you, Trish.