“Daddy I Don’t Want You to Die”

This morning for breakfast we ate Easter pancakes. Jess made Easter Egg ones, bunny pancakes, a random caterpillar pancake, and as a final joke for me an empty tomb pancake.

But as any good Christian dad would I tried to take the opportunity to talk to my kids about what the Christian community celebrates on Easter Sunday. First I asked them to see what they’d come up with and I was please to discover that after they’d ruled out Jesus’ birthday they settled on some blend between his death and his coming back to life. Close enough.

I proceeded to dialog with them about the idea of resurrection, about how Jesus died but he didn’t stay dead, and about how we don’t have to have any fear of death because it doesn’t have any kind of permanent hold on us. I’ve got to be honest with you when I say it came out quite eloquently. I did a pretty good job of taking the concepts and relating it to a four and a six year old. Somebody should have patted me on the back (apparently that ‘somebody’ is me)

Then India says:

But I don’t ever want you to die daddy!*

Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that. At this stage in the story, resurrection kind of requires death doesn’t it? It’s a bit of a prerequisite at this point. And speaking to two children who (apparently) are very aware of the fact that their daddy could die young does not make resurrection quite the hopeful topic…not something necessarily to be celebrated at this point.

It broke my heart to be faced with the obvious reality that my children are already grieving my potential early death. It broke my heart to realize that I didn’t have a very good answer to her alluded question: why be excited for new life then when all I want is continued life now. Or put more simply: why hope when my daddy is dying?

I could write all sorts of answers to the question(s). I’ve got theological answers that ring true to me and to the Jesus narrative as I understand it. I’ve got answers that bring ME comfort. But for the child left behind, for the child who is scared of losing their daddy, for the child who is watching their dad’s body deteriorate…what’s the use of talking about resurrection? I mean, seriously, when it comes down to it India doesn’t really care that one day we’ll see each other again or that daddy has been promised a new body that won’t have cancer. She doesn’t. Why should she? In each and every scenario where resurrection is mentioned it requires her losing something she loves. It demands loss and pain in her life. Why is that good news to her?

My hope (I think) is that through my writing, through the life and hope exuded from my wife, and through my presence in my children’s life they will have a context cultivated within them that will allow them to one day understand why the Easter promise is worth hoping in. Part of my reasoning for blogging so openly and honestly about all this is that if I die from cancer I want my children to have a glimpse into what was going on within me. I want them to know it’s ok to be pissed at times, to find joy in small things at times, to have hope despite suffering, that its ok to cry, that its ok to be numb, and that Jesus is with us always. And I know that if I do die from this my wife will continue, as she has always been, to be an example to them of what it looks like to live a beautiful life even when life isn’t so beautiful. And I’m trying my damnedest to be as present and available for my children each and every moment so that there are no regrets if or when I pass. Are those three things enough to shape my children for understanding Easter?

But…lets be honest…this would all just be easier if my cancer would just go away. If my cancer would just go away then we could simply let Easter be about eggs and chocolate with no questions asked. Actually, if only Jess hadn’t made those gaudy and awkward empty tomb pancakes then all of this could have been averted! Lets just shoot for getting rid of the cancer so that this whole blog will be a moot point moving forward. Sound good?

 

* there was much more that followed this statement from both her, me, and Jones. I’d love to recount the whole thing but I don’t think I’d be able. India’s statement captures their thoughts on the matter.

Jesus Doesn’t Belong in an Egg…that’d be awkward.

Did you do it? Did you practice Lent this year? Did you give up something that you value or enjoy for 40 days (remember that Sundays don’t count)? There should be a large cloud of people who will finally eat a piece of meat today, who will order a beer with lunch, or who will sign back into Facebook. The idea, right?, is that for 40 days you’ve been living in the reality of a dead God. God died for three days and during Lent we honor/grieve that reality through our own small attempt at giving up a piece of life. All throughout Lent Sundays are a break from that because Sundays are resurrection days, they’re the days that we celebrate the good news that God is no longer dead and that we have no fear of death.

So today, on Easter Sunday, the final piece to the lenten puzzle, all you fast-ers finally are set free from the grief of a dead God (and the loss of your TV time…or whatever you gave up). Congratulations! You did it! God’s not dead anymore and neither is your apetite!

Let me be honest and say that I didn’t give up a single thing for Lent. It just seemed foolish to give up one more thing when I’m already struggling with so much being taken from me. I know that’s not a very spiritual approach…but it is what it is. (insert lots of jokes here about giving up cancer for lent, giving up chemo for lent, etc. Those jokes are always funny…seriously) But the celebration that happens on Easter Sunday is becoming more core to my heart and my identity than ever before: resurrection.

If we don’t have hope in resurrection then what do we have? Because of Easter I’m freed to anticipate a new body that doesn’t suck, a restored world that is no longer broken, a continued life that isn’t marred or marked by death, an invitation to live this life free from the fear of death, an invitation to bring to this world what I know will be true in the resurrection: peace, harmony, love, community, beauty, etc. If I know its going to be true then than I have no reason not to invite that reality into today’s world–to live into that reality today. For example, if I know that in God’s intended and promised future that ALL peoples will be gathered around one table (a metaphor) then I know that if I live into that today there is no space for prejudice, racism, and exclusivism. What I know to be true later I can try to make true today. It’s an invitation to live differently, to live into the future in the way that Marty McFly did in Back to the Future (sorry, bad illustration).

Anyway, it is important that those who are following Jesus don’t get caught up in trying to make Easter a Christian holiday. It’s not. Easter (as a holiday) is about family coming together, candy, bunnies, and eggs. It takes too much work to try to find a way to spiritualize eggs, bunnies, and candies. Dont’ do it. You look funny when you do. Easter is an awesome time for our families and neighbors to come together and have fun, don’t ruin it by attempting to argue and push Jesus into those little plastic eggs. Jesus doesn’t belong in an egg. Candy does (everyone knows that right?).

Instead we need to embrace and celebrate the end of Lent. Call it Easter Sunday if you want, call it whatever you want, but today (for those who are following the Jesus way) is a day to remember as fully as you can that you’ve been given the greatest dual invitation ever:

  1. Freedom from death through the promise of resurrection
  2. Living into that, as of yet, only partially realized promise today through “resurrection living” (i.e. showing hospitality, impartiality, a commitment to peace, etc.)

So don’t miss the Easter egg hunts: they’re too much fun and of too much value.

But also do not miss the end of Lent: it’s too beautiful to waste.

Healing or Death…or something in-between

Don’t be ashamed or disappointed in me, but I don’t understand or get prayer one bit. And this blog will not be one that details my confusion about prayer and how God works. That’s too big a topic, it’s too dear to my heart right now to spill out, and I wouldn’t even know where to start.

But I feel compelled to share that I don’t know if God will choose to heal me. I don’t. I believe he can. But I don’t know if he will.

Is this a lack of faith in my God? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

When I look at the life of Jesus I see a few very clear things about the nature and identity of God (’cause if we want to know about God we should look at Jesus right…I mean he is the most clear picture we have of how God thinks and acts). I see that Jesus had incredible compassion for people and that he hated to see people suffer. I see that when he encountered people who wanted healing he showed compassion and brought healing in one way or another (but rarely the same way twice). I see his compassion not just in bringing physical healing but in bringing holistic healing. He didn’t just get rid of the skin disease but he touched the untouchable person–that goes deeper than physical healing and begins to enter into the emotional realm. He didn’t just heal people physically but liberated oppressed people through his teaching and empowerment. And then clearly Jesus wasn’t just liberating people physically but inviting them into a new world of living that was free of fear of death because of a hope in resurrection and new life. Jesus was all about bringing life both here, now, and forever. I buy into that and therefore place hope in the fact that he can and wants to heal me from cancer.

BUT! (yes, I think there’s a but)

I also see that Jesus didn’t heal everybody. People died around Jesus, even his friends died. Not every cripple that lived in the time that Jesus walked around the Mediterranean was given the gift of walking. Even further, most every follower of Jesus that is considered a main character in the story not only died but was killed because they followed Jesus. They weren’t rescued from pain but entered into it because there was some larger story that they were invited into. Following Jesus actually allowed them to face death without fear. Why fear death if you know that death has no hold on you? Death plays a huge part in following Jesus–its a part of the story that can’t be ignored. I mean obviously even Jesus didn’t avoid it and hung next to a couple other guys that didn’t avoid it either (though I don’t think any of those three had cancer…though I can’t prove it!)

I’m not claiming to write a thesis here on Jesus and healing, nor am I going to make attempts at backing up every theological point I’m making (or not making). I’m not saying that I’m ready to die from cancer. I can say that I’m not ready to buy into any time frames that the statistics give me (though again, with my freakish cancer there aren’t actual specific statistics). And I can say that I want to believe and hope that I am ready for whatever my story brings me. And I can say that I want to believe that God can heal my broken body in an instant. But I also want to say that he can also work miracles in the story of my death. We all die, the question is how and to what end.

So please keep praying for my cancer to disappear, for a freakish miracle to happen that baffles every one of my oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, and pathologist. I think that would be a beautiful story and I want to tell it. But also know that part of my prayer is that God doesn’t just defeat the cancer but that he transcends it–which means that if it does take my life (and the surgeon says it will) the story that God can create will be bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. Life out of death–beauty instead of ashes–first are last–meek inherit the earth–God does stuff backwards and upside down both in death and life. That’s the story the Bible is constantly telling.

Lets tell an amazing story together.