Our lives of faith don’t call for foolish bravado; they call for childlike trust, holding the hand of the one who calls us by name and leads us into the fog, who knows every nook and cranny of our lives like the back of his hand.
Jesus doesn’t promise to take away the hard work of our lives. He never says we will always be healthy or happy or that following him will be easy. He prepares us for quite the contrary, actually. But he promises rest and relief for those who have the courage to walk in his way and the faith to bring their burdens and weaknesses to him in prayer.
“Writing,” Henri Nouwen wrote, “can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write.”
The essence of love is giving without thought of remuneration, of listening without regard to what we get out of the conversation. If we can give nothing else to another person, we can give them our attention. We can turn off our cell phones and computers and televisions and just sit a foot apart, look into each other’s eyes and listen to one another.
Whether I have been healed by God through the power of prayer or through the natural reactions of my God-gifted body, I am – for now anyway – healed. Whatever the outcome, I have been healed, for I am at peace. So for me the question remains the one posed at the top of this reflection by the great New England naturalist poet Mary Oliver, as it is should for everyone, regardless of health or healing: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Perfection (and the search for perfection) is a tough nut to crack and a dangerous road to journey down. For if we live our lives in constant quests for perfect lives, perfect love, perfect health, perfect family, perfect jobs – how disappointed in ourselves and in God we will be when that perfection never comes (or makes a brief appearance and then disappears in the next turn in the road, as it often does.)
If we live our lives well (at least this is the way I define “well”) then we live not in numbness and lethargy and apathy, but fully alive and feeling, aware of the sacred around us, and with an ongoing commitment to living an examined life — one centered on the presence of God, the teachings of Christ, and the power of the individual to change the world in some way, however small.
On February 24, a week and a few days after a bone marrow biopsy, I learned that I have a new, and more serious health condition than the one I have been battling over the past four years. In fact, it was the chemotherapy I received this past summer for that disease, called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), that is the cause of my new health challenge. Against 99 to 1 odds, the chemo seriously damaged my bone barrow to the point where I have a condition called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS, formerly known as “preleukemia”).
Just a quick post to say that my collection of essays about facing disease and treatment with faith is about to hit the virtual and physical bookstore shelves.
This past summer, I accompanied my parish youth group on a one-week mission trip to Nicaragua, where we helped build homes and a school near the northern city of Chinendega. But first, we were told that we were going to climb Cerro Negro, a 2,400-foot high volcano that had last erupted about a decade ago.