Autumn 2011 #12
At 11.25pm a day of great richness is about to close. The date, May 20th, is a memorable anniversary, although not one I cherish. The twentieth of May in 2009 was the day on which the Neurologist said I had Motor Neurone Disease; and on the twentieth of each month since I have earnestly prayed these words: “Two years standing, two years eating, two years speaking … and then I’ll ask for more”. Prayer is, I think, a tricky subject. So much about prayer is deeply confusing; not least the question of exactly what to pray for. After all, how often have the things we don’t want turned out to be invaluable; while the things we have pursued most energetically show themselves in time to be mere ephemera. But I felt those words were inspired by the Spirit. And, perhaps they were! Here I am today at the very end of two years; and just two weeks ago I performed my daughter’s wedding, standing up, using my voice, and we ate together at the reception! Today I celebrate victory.
What, though, is the “more” to be? What should my prayer become from this day onwards?
Just a few weeks back Bugger the power chair and I did some blindfold driving. In a leadership training exercise designed to build trust amongst team members, each of us took a turn being led blindfold on a circuitous route by the spoken prompts of a companion. On foot this would be novel, in a wheel chair it is exceedingly, diabolically nauseating. Without the physical feedback that a blindfolded walker would receive from his feet and legs, I could not tell if I was travelling forwards, backwards, left or right, up or down. Speed is impossible to judge, and very soon the sense of disorientation becomes appalling! It is fundamental to have a sense of your own direction; and terrifying when you do not.
Following the consultation, 24 months ago, I went straight to our church office. Later I would drive the lonely hour and a half to our home; but first I needed to shed some tears: an avalanche almost as alarming as the diagnosis itself. Our pastor was kind and strong; earnestly reminding me that all of life is a Gift, even its most challenging hour. At some point he disappeared next door in search of bottled water, and returned instead with a tray set with glasses, napkins and a carafe of iced water. “It’s a Gift!” the cafe owner had said.
Driving home in the early evening I called at McDonalds for a customary mocha. Several customers in the queue were quick with advice when the young barrista-in-training admitted he was not mocha-savvy. (It’s so reassuring when the general public rises to assist the person with a walking stick who isn’t getting a fair go!) He followed the proffered advice, and presented the finished beverage with a flourish and the words, “No charge Sir, it’s a Gift”. True story!
Today, May 20th 2011, has been a gift indeed. Both our recently married daughters were with us, filling our home with their excitement after a shopping day about town. Wonderful, joyful day! Best of all, perhaps, was our early morning moment together for reading and prayer, when my Favourite Wife and I opened the day’s passage:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
In the face of the unknown, flying blind, still with no diagnosis, this passage speaks with great reassurance. As for “more” … right now I am content with faith-filled surrender.
When memorable, joy-filled days end, as they must, I sometimes find myself in a wistful mood; the air of celebration dampened by a melancholy thought… will there ever be another like this? Not a new phenomenon, I’ve been indulging in this glum moment for years! But the great thing is that the rich days, the gift-days, just keep coming. Not every day or every week, but often enough.