I have shared much of this family’s story with the analogy that we are walking through The Valley of the Shadow of Death. For short, I have just called it The Valley. We are now three shots away from exiting delayed intensive and going into a three year stretch of Leo’s visits only being monthly. His counts are at rock bottom and his immune system does not exist, and from here, it will all climb. His appetite will go back to a regular four year old appetite. His energy level will climb. He’ll fight infection. He’ll fight his brothers. He’ll still think gas is funny.
And us… how do you go back to normal now? What is normal? What’s it going to be like the first time he gets a fever? What’s it like when one of the other kids gets a fever? When we start going to other people’s houses how do we control the urge to disinfect their whole house?
Where does The Valley end?
One of the things about cancer effecting your family is that you cannot go back to before. You also become intimately acquainted with the idea that there is a lot of danger in the world and no one is exempt.
So what do you do?
Do you become a hypochondriac, attempting to know and control all sicknesses and their access to your family? Do you adopt a fatalistic approach that we’re all doomed? Do you bury your head in the sand and attempt through avenues of distraction to forget that danger is real?
I know what I want to say is that I want to choose a life of faith. I want to choose a life that recognizes that there is danger and that there is God and that He will always be good regardless of our proximity to danger.
I want to say that because it’s the right answer.
For real, though, I don’t know what happens in the moment because fear is real and so is death. For real, once you have looked at reality with unrestrained gaze, you find that it’s huge and unrelenting. There is no limit to what can scare you out of your mind. The reality is that we will always be close to the shadow of death. We will always be near The Valley.
But we cannot try to make a home in The Valley and its despair. We cannot make a life out of chasing mountaintops for their enduring virtue of not being a valley. We have to walk and journey. We do that with people at our side. We do so in some gloomy nights where we feel utterly alone. We will feel like we can make it. We will feel invincible. We will feel drained and incapable of another step.
And there, I find my need for God.
I have very few wasted days now with kids and with Desiree. Knowing what can be taken from you can help you realize the gold of the immediate moment. Such richness exists in a moment so that recently, in celebration of my birthday, I had my children, my bride, and my parents there, and I felt that kings in all of their splendor have not ever dined in such elegance.
And there, I find my joy in God.
I can take a nap anywhere, anytime, any day. Just give me about two minutes and a pair of earphones and I can sleep. There is so much work to do and so few days to do it. I can only do so much with my time, but I can say that I don’t seem to have much regret in the last eight and a half months of my life. Having to walk so closely with God for peace, for need, and for joy has made for very little unfinished business in doing work the way He says.
And there, I find in Him rest.
I will always be in The Valley, but in it, I will fear no evil because the rod and staff of the Good Shepherd comfort me with growth, life, and strength.