Teaching Men How to Fight Like a Girl
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." Ephesians 6:10
When the Psalmist, David, wrote about "the valley of the shadow of death" I doubt that he had cancer in mind. Still the truth remains, the specter of death has always cast a shadow of fear over people. Regardless of the century, or our wealth, status or position in life, death is the great equalizer. It comes to everyone with a relentless finality. When David walked through his valley, he turned to God and developed a face to face intimacy with Him that moved him through the darkness of his fear and into the light of His Presence.
I have read the 23rd Psalm many times since I was a child. It was one of the first passages of Scripture I committed to memory. It has been judged to be the most familiar passage of the Bible, and it is the one that is turned to most often when people plan the funerals of their loved ones. It is no wonder that it is what God used to call me to Himself when Dana and I were processing the initial shock of the words, "It's cancer."
Those words are everything people have said they are. They strike fear into the heart of everyone who has heard them spoken to them or stood by when they were dropped on the ones they love. They are like a sledgehammer to the chest, and leave a person breathless with panic. They send the mind racing ahead on a road of speculation that takes a person to every worst case scenario that the imagination can conceive.
Worry and fear are first cousins in the family of emotions, and they conspire and cooperate with one another to take people who are facing a fight with cancer to the city limits of "What if."
What if we have waited to long to discover Dana has cancer.
What if we cannot find out where it is.
What if we cannot find the right doctor.
What if they remove her breasts.
What if she loses her hair.
What if they cannot get it all.
What if she does not recover from the surgery.
What if the cancer comes back.
What if our insurance does not cover the cost.
What if she loses her job.
What if she loses her insurance.
What if she loses her life.
There it is. Worry and fear keep taking a person step by step to the place that the enemy wants them to go. Death is the ultimate destination that a person find at the town square in the city of "What if."
I am a sucker for a good book title. It grabs the attention and sets the table for the feast that the author has prepared for the reader. One of my books on Lincoln is entitled, "Tried by War." Lincoln would not have become the man we know today if it had not been for the crisis of the Civil War. It fell to him to find a solution to a problem he did not cause, and heal a country that tore itself apart during his presidential administration. War does that. In the midst of all the death and destruction, it creates life. The life of Abraham Lincoln would be profoundly altered by the impact of the War Between the States.
David had his valley of the shadow of death. Lincoln had his. Dana and I were beginning to realize that we were walking through a valley that would introduce us to a series of events that would profoundly change our lives. Nothing would ever be the same again. Life would not return to normal. It could get better, or it could get worse, but it would not go back to the same predicatable game plan that we had come to expect and enjoy.
When the movie, "Fireproof" was released by Sherwood Pictures, it contained a statement that was worth the price of admission. One of the characters referred to the crisis of his life as "the new normal." I will be forever grateful to the Kendrick brothers for their insight on this concept that they shared through this movie. It took a while for me to get there, but after about a year of resisting what God was allowing to come into my life, I began to settle into a realization of this "new normal" and to release my right to have God restore what Dana and I had lost. We were going to learn that God was giving us something else to replace it. To receive it we would have to let go of what we were holding on to with a whiteknuckled grip. Our predictable, carefully prepared plan and perspective for our lives was a poor substitute for what He had in mind.
Cancer had not been on my "To Do" List. It had not been in my plan for our lives as a husband and wife. I would not have wished this on my worst enemy, much less the woman I loved with all my heart. I did not have the same kind of faith that Dana had when she heard the words, "It's cancer." She called it her "Great Adventure." I called it something else. Can't tell you what I said, but God heard it. Over the next two and a half years, God was going to hear alot of things that I cannot put in print. However, in all honesty, I have to tell you that I would say things to God that I never thought would come out of my mouth. Not proud of it. Not bragging about it. Just telling the truth. I do not have the same level of integrity that David had. I wonder if David meant to have all those prayers of his put in print. I sometimes wince when I read them, and think he should have had an editor remove some of those lines like, "O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth." Psalm 58:6 Probably not going to see that one on a plaque at "Hobby Lobby."
Cancer has a way of releasing our grip on the pretentious piety that sometimes passes for proper Christian behavior. It cuts through the carefully created image of who we think we are in Christ and reveals a much less flattering picture to us. It brings us to the end our ourselves, our resources and our reserves. Any Christian maturity that I thought I had developed over the previous five decades of walking with Christ was going to be put to a test that I did not want to take. It would take me places I did not want to go, and trigger reactions in me that I could not believe I could express to the God I loved.
Fortunately, I would discover a God of grace I had never met before. I would be ministered to by a Spirit of comfort that I had studied about, but had never had to lean on for that level of strength. Jesus would emerge from the shadows as a close companion who would come to me in the middle of the dark crisis and make sense out of the things that confused my mind and struck fear in my heart. I would learn more about my wife than I had ever known was there. I would be humbled by her fighting spirit, and her persevering faith. I would wear pink as a tribute to her and the women who faced this enemy with a toughness that tenderized my heart. I would shave my head to identify with what she was going through and to laugh at the very thing the enemy wanted to use to bring tears of shame.
The valley of the shadow of death was a reality to David. It is still a reality to us. Satan will still make sure that we are reminded that Dana's younger sister died of this same disease. This means we never let our guard down. We refuse to face life in our own strength. We stand firm only because we kneel. We have learned it is not always a bad thing when life knocks you to your knees. If you pray while you are down there, you will be stand stronger and fight harder when you get up. The call of God is to stand in the strength of His might. Bending our knees is the way we have found to yield our will and to stand our ground in the fight of our lives.