This Christmas season brought with it some personal reflection. I’m not really sure any particular event caused the self-assessment or whether I just finally slowed down enough to think about things. One thing I’m sure contributing was thinking about my dad’s death four years ago on December 25. That entire month four years ago was not fun for my family. It brought my first cancer diagnosis, the death of our bulldog, and my father’s passing. Thinking about that led me to thinking about the four years since. I’m not sure you’ll completely understand the point of this post without a thumbnail sketch of the my last four years. Here goes (probably not all in exact chronological order) –
- 1st cancer diagnosis
- Bella had to be put down
- Dad went to be with Jesus
- Mitchell and Marissa lovingly gave us Cozmo
- Served as an elder at church for several years
- My cancer surgery and recovery
- The Queen changes jobs (her own choice)
- My cancer returns for a 2nd time – radiation treatment
- I teach an overload for several years so my colleague can work on her Ph.D.
- I help oversee the move into the Bartholomew Performing Arts Center at York College
- Mitchell/Marissa move to York
- Mitchell/Marissa find jobs
- I hit Mitchell’s car the same day Marissa’s car got hit
- Marissa found out she was pregnant
- Mitchell/Marissa find their first home and move in
- Sophia Madelyn is born and I become a grandfather
- My cancer returns for a 3rd time – hormone replacement therapy currently ongoing
- I oversee the change in our music degree plans and the associated curriculum changes
- Matthew changes jobs (his own choice)
- The Queen changes jobs (her own choice)
- Mitchell changes jobs (his own choice)
- My oldest son and his wife inform us they are leaving NE and moving to CO in the summer
- The Queen starts a doctoral program
- I exponentially expand my “kitchen game”
Whew! That’s a lot of changes in various aspects of my life. It would appear to add credence to the adage “change is the only constant.” Please don’t interpret this as a plea for sympathy. I believe the blessings of the past four years far outweigh the challenges. This is just a transparent slice of my life. I am confident you could compile your own list. Each of these transitions have given me the opportunity to handle them in a God-honoring or a God-doubting way. Probably the truest reality is to ask those around me if I have been successful in navigating through each of these as I intended.
Regardless of any difference between my intent, here are some of the concepts I think are included in our life’s litmus test. Are we God-honoring or God-doubting? (And I have NO business answering that for you – it’s mine to pose the question) What should someone who wears the name of Jesus be like? How do trials, hardships, and transitions affect my spiritual journey? If we’re going to proclaim the name of Jesus, we can’t just verbalize some worn out religious platitudes. If we’re going to wear His name, shouldn’t we try to reflect his nature? I know there are some that may disagree with me, but I have come to the point where I refuse to interpret the life of Christ through the epistles. I believe it should be the other way around. As I have spent more time examining how Jesus lived, I think I have noticed the following changes in me: I love more, I love more unconditionally, and I judge less, If my self-reflection doesn’t match your opinion of me, please feel free to let me know and hold me accountable.
Over the past four years I have drawn consistently deep comfort and help in the assurance that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is one constant among all the other transitions, and He is the one to lead and guide me through each one. I believe he often does His work through the people in our lives, and I would not be where I am today without the family I have. I have grown to love and appreciate each of them for the unique qualities and richness they bring to my life. Those things are more important than any moment that tempts me to go “whew!”
I’m not always sure what God is trying to do in my life and heart, let alone those of my family, my students, my friends, and my colleagues. I am acutely aware that I don’t need to know – Jesus would have me love more and judge less. That is something I can practice on a daily basis. That will probably lead me through any uncertainty or overwhelming feeling. I am also trying to let my first response to something that in the past would have made me go “Whew” become “how can I best serve in this situation?” That has helped me tremendously. I certainly do not hold myself up as an example of anything except someone that needed to grow, and has tried to use the transitions of life as fuel for change and betterment.
I don’t know that I’ve shared anything of great significance or value, but they say writing is really more about how it helps the writer than the audience. If there are no epiphanies present – I’m ok with that. I sense I am a different person than I was four years ago, and I know I trust more what I can’t know in my “whew” moments.
As we take life’s journey, let us never forget the power of community, love, and self-reflection. I’d love for you to share your thoughts and stories with me.