Did you have a good week or a bad one? My last seven days have been a strange and unexpected mixture of both extremes. A week that started as Dr. Jekyll ended up as Mr. Hyde.
On the one hand, several amazing things happened. On Monday, my oldest son did a super-terrific job on his first-ever spelling test. That may not sound like much to you, but it is to me. As a two-time school Spelling Bee champion, I have high hopes for the Scarlett spelling legacy to live on. Some families raise blacksmiths. We Scarletts raise wordsmiths. Sam “M-A-D-E” me proud.
My beautiful bride had her birthday on Tuesday and turned…um… 24(?) . Her added years mean added beauty. I love growing older with her.
On Wednesday, our home refinancing was approved. We received a ridiculously low rate. Truth be told, I feel guilty about being secretly appreciative of the downturn in the housing market right now. But, things changed on Thursday. That’s when I got a message from my best friend from high school. His name is Mike Krause.
Mike is married to a beautiful young lady named Chrissi. Even though I’ve never met her, she makes Mike happy. That makes me happy. Mike is an Iraq war veteran. More recently, he’s a Nashville flood survivor. Mike’s also one of the wittiest guys I’ve ever known. His messages usually make me laugh out loud. Thursday’s note, however, did not. Sure, he was as clever as ever, but this time he was writing to give me the big bad news of the week. Mike has cancer.
Mike has cancer. Mike has cancer. No matter how many times I say that phrase, it still…
…doesn’t click in my brain. Those words, to me, do not belong together. In my mind, saying “Mike has cancer” is like saying, “This sentence is false.” It somehow seems self-contradictory. He can’t have cancer. But he does.
Mike is just 28. In my little world, 28 year olds don’t get cancer. I know it’s illogical, but it’s how I feel. Maybe it’s the naivety of youth which fools me into thinking that we Gen Xers are supposed to be invincible. Maybe it’s because Mike is my friend. I think that’s closer to the truth. Other people’s friends get cancer; not mine. In my mind, I typically think of cancer as something that only older people get. (Sorry older people.) Cancer is not for 28 year olds. My friends and I take our wives to the OBGYN. We take our kids to the pediatrician. We don’t take ourselves to the oncologist. At least, we shouldn’t have to.
Even though Mike had given me a heads-up about his doctor’s initial concerns, I didn’t think much of it. I was sure the upcoming tests would prove otherwise. I did pray for him. Granted, it wasn’t the most heaven-shaking act of intercession in the world. But I did pray. I asked God to give Mike a clean bill of health for Thursday’s results. God said no. In my own heart I struggle with God’s “No” sometimes. I suspect that I’m not the only one.
Mike has Hodgkins lymphoma. I don’t know exactly what that means. I just know it’s cancer. I also know that I hate it. I hate it for Mike. I hate that he will have to endure surgery, chemo, along with the little annoyance of losing his hair. Of course, he doesn’t have much to lose. That part should be easy. I hate it for Chrissi. Again, I don’t know her, but I’m sure she’s a little bit scared and a whole lot anxious. When I pray for her, I try to think of how my wife might feel. It’s difficult to imagine.
Disease and sickness can be hard to understand sometimes. Granted, it’s simple when people reap what they sew. It’s easy to understand why chain smokers have lung cancner and why alcoholics pickle their liver. That stuff makes sense. Healthy, Christ-loving 28 year-olds with cancer doesn’t make sense to me.
I’ve been meditating on John 9:1-3 since Thursday. The disciples encountered a man who had an unexplained illness. He was blind and had never seen the light of day. He was blind as a baby. He was blind as a child. He was blind as a teenager. Wrestling with this apparent injustice, the disciples asked Jesus,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”
That sounds a lot like how I pray sometimes. Calendars ask when. Mirrors ask who. Only human beings ask why. I feel like I ask God why a lot.
I love what Jesus says.
“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but [this took place] so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Jesus then heals the man in a miraculous way. Whether that man had been healed or not, I still believe that Jesus’ statement holds true. The grace of God is always evident in those who have less than perfect bodies. The works of God are on display in babies with cleft palates, in children with autism, and in teenagers with muscular dystrophy. I think the seraphim of Isaiah 6 were right: “The whole earth is filled with His glory.” God’s glory is even filling surgery rooms and oncology wards right now.
Mike has tremendous faith in God. I’m happy about that. In his note to family and friends, he wrote, “We are approaching this as a speed bump that will NOT possess our lives and that we will look back on as a time that God carried us through.” In other words, Mike believes, as Jesus said, that this has taken “place so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” I believe that too. Hudson Taylor said it this way: “Our difficulties are merely platforms to showcase God’s power, grace, and love.”
I’m praying for Mike and Chrissi. I hope you will join me.
Hopefully, my prayers are better now than they were at first. Being as young as he is, his prognosis is very good. He’s expected to do well. I’m certainly praying that way. I’m praying for God’s work to be on display in Mike like it was in John 9. That will be better than any spelling grade, birthday party, or low interest rate.
Sure, Mike has cancer, but King Jesus has Mike. That’s a good reminder for even the worst week.