As my wife Diane and I pulled up to the Skokie, Illinois Hampton Inn & Suites last evening after a six hour drive, we noticed the Block Cancer Center just off to our right. I wasn’t feeling great, and as I read the word “Block” a kind heaviness seemed to come over my heart. Diane quietly said, “I just can’t believe we’re here to go to a cancer center,” giving voice to my very thoughts, word-for-word. We checked into what I can say is one of the nicest rooms we’ve ever had at a hotel. A small apartment, really, with full kitchen, two flat screens, a small hallway leading to a spacious bedroom with a luxury king-sized bed. The appointments throughout the room and bath are classy but homey. We are amazed and keep excitedly talking about how our girls would love it here! All for a discounted rate of $139 a night, compliments of . . . having cancer.
Ah yes, the cancer. I can’t shake the thought, as Cancer’s palpable presence begins to pull me downward for the first time since the diagnosis. How many times have we checked into a nice hotel at our final destination — Walt Disney World, New York City, Seabrook Island, Key West, San Antonio, Boston, West Palm Beach . . . — with nothing but carefree excitement and expectation? Nothing but a “to-do” list to occupy our thoughts, or better yet a “to do NOTHING” list? But this time there is no excitement. Not even expectation. Each thought in my mind of “isn’t this awesome?” is quickly married to “. . . Cancer”. Cancer is with me as I unpack, and Cancer is with each small bite of dinner I swallow. Cancer follows me to bed and is with me even as I fall asleep. Cancer wakes up with me . . . nearer to me in those pre-dawn moments than my wife, who is nestled against my side.
We get up and Diane makes me steel cut oats. The Cancer is still with me.
I sit down with my Bible and it sits inanimate in my lap. I read something or other in there. I read God’s voice as if it’s nothing. I hear, nothing.
“God, help me.”
I remember Frank’s text message to me from Sunday. ”What was it about?” I search my mind. ”Perseverance. Yes, perseverance. Oh how I need perseverance in this moment. What verse did he text me? James 1:2-4″: ”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
“Yes, Lord, may it be so. This is a trial, isn’t it? Such a trial. May I count it all joy. May I know you are at work in me, producing perseverance, sanctifying my heart. May that bring me joy. Even here, even now.”
I then remember an Andy Stanley lesson that Frank shared with me years ago. It concerned Joseph, Jacob’s son. You may recall, briefly, that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, whereupon he was taken to a foreign land, purchased by a government official (Potiphar), falsely accused of assaulting Potiphar’s wife, thrown in a dungeon, forgotten and left to rot, left to die, for years and years. But as he preached, Andy Stanley kept reading the same few words from Scripture “but the Lord was with Joseph.” Sold into slavery. ”But the Lord was with Joseph.” Cast into the dungeon. ”But the Lord was with Joseph.” Held there and held there. But “the Lord was with him.” Every step of the way, amidst fear and misery and uncertainty and seemingly endless plight, seeming hopelessness, “the Lord was with Joseph.”
A reminder to me, sitting on couch across the street from the Block Cancer Center, hours away from our consultation. A reminder that although cancer may be in me, “Jesus, You are with me. . . . You are with me.”
And then He reminds me of His kiss. On Saturday (see Blog entitled “Day 18 — Matters of the Heart”), my Lord and I shared a very intimate moment, where He ministered deep to me and I experienced His presence, His love, in an especial way. That moment was a kiss from my Savior. I believe, perhaps, He gave me those moments, that kiss, partly because He knew last night was coming, and He knew this morning was coming. And that it would be hard for me. And He wanted me to remember — to know — that He truly is with me, whether I am experientially in His embrace as I was on Saturday, or struggling as I am now in a Skokie, Illinois hotel room across from the Block Cancer Center.
My Savior, Jesus, wants me to know that though cancer may very well be inside of me, Cancer need not be with me. For He is with me. Yes, He will not leave me, nor foresake me. . . . And later, as we begin to pack up and head over to the Block Cancer Center, I discover that He has planted that truth once again, foremost in my mind and foremost in my heart. . . .
Thank you my Savior. Thank you Jesus. I love You. . . .