Thursday, September 30, 2010

End of September Thoughts

Bernie and Mike sing at Tamagawa Seigakuin's 2010 school festival.

September used to be one of my favorite months. Notice the past tense.

When I was a child, September meant the start of school. Not that I was eager for the summer holidays to end, but I did look forward to some new clothes, a new lunch box, and meeting my friends again for the new school year. September always spelled new and exciting to me, even if year after year our first assignment back was to write, “What I Did during My Summer Vacation.” (Although I didn’t voice it out loud, I did often wonder why teachers couldn’t be more creative in assigning paragraph topics.)

But that was a long time ago. These days I’m starting to think that it might be good just to jump from August right into October—at least if the last two Septembers are indicative of what the month is going to hold for me in the future.

It was early September 2009 that I learned my cancer had recurred. Then while waiting for test results to determine which course of treatment would be recommended, I found myself shadowboxing with fear, an opponent that was definitely present even if I couldn’t see it. In our sparring, I also discovered many opportunities to doubt God and his good plans for my life. I’m grateful that I emerged from that September stronger than ever in my faith, but I did have some scars to show from the battles.

I remember one day in particular. Despite feeling weak physically, I attended the annual school festival at Tamagawa Seigakuin. I’d be there only an hour or two at most, or so I thought. I knew I had a fever that was getting higher, but I couldn’t go home immediately. Complicating matters further, I met an acquaintance who offered to introduce me to a faith healer. Let me say it clearly: the Bible teaches that God is a healing God; it instructs us to ask him for healing; and I believe God can and does heal, even miraculously, even cancer. So there shouldn’t have been any problems.

But when I showed interest in her suggestion, my Christian friend lowered her voice conspiratorially and told me that this faith healer was Buddhist, adding, “But that’s okay. We all believe in the same God.” Do you realize what you’re saying? I wanted to shout out loud in my shock. Instead, I recoiled from her involuntarily as if she had the plague. Although I did accept the faith healer’s calling card from her, I asked Bernie to burn it later that evening. I felt strongly that I had to get rid of the evil I’d carried into my home. We also prayed together, asking God to put his shield of protection around us. As we did, peace returned to my troubled heart even as my high fever finally broke. Even now, more than a year later, I’m convinced my faith was on trial that day.

And this year? The trial continues, but in more subtle ways. After six relatively “healthy” weeks in which it was sometimes easy to forget that I have cancer, my oasis in the cancer journey has come to an end, at least for the time being. Fatigue has returned and, more recently, pain has become its companion. On top of this, I’m coughing again and running a low grade fever most days. All of this is right on the heels of my writing a victorious blog on September 4 in which I testified about the wonderful lessons God had taught me in the year since my cancer recurred. Those lessons haven’t changed, but it is definitely harder to share them jubilantly when I’m not feeling good and when doubts have begun assailing me once again. The trial is not over.

Needless to say, I’ll be glad to put yet another difficult September behind me and to enter October tomorrow. Of course, I have no way of knowing what October will hold. Yet these words of Paul renew my confidence and restore my hope:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).