My younger brother, David, is an amazing man of faith, humor, kindness, and courage. Many of you know he has been on a grueling road trip. As I write this, David has been admitted to M.D. Anderson in Houston. His road is one of ups and downs, medication, and fatigue. Recently, through the haze of pain, he bravely tried to reflect on last week’s post and share some personal thoughts. Here are his words:
Let me first start by saying I love to travel. Planes, trains and automobiles are my thing. I’ll bump off the interstate and take a US highway just to roll down the window, smell the alfalfa fields, and look for grain elevators every 6 miles like clockwork.
I know there isn’t much to like about air travel but every time I see the Arrival and Departure signs at an airport my heart skips a beat and I recall the first time I flew as a 12 year old on a Delta Airlines Super DC 8 stretch.
And don’t get me started on trains as there is NOTHING better than a private bedroom with a large picture window and a good book while watching the American west from one of Amtrak’s western long hauls.
They all connote road trips for me and they certainly are a far cry from Abram packing up his tents, livestock and family and putting one foot in front of the other on the way to where? The Promised Land? With no return ticket?
Monday’s post about Abram, his idols, and his journey struck a chord with me. You see, I’m on a journey of sorts myself, and like Abram, it’s not one I willingly signed up for. In January I was diagnosed with stage IV Melanoma cancer.
For those of you who travel a lot, I’m sure you’ve become expert packers. You know which clothing you can get multiple wears out of. Your carry-on is packed with extra charging chords, toiletries ready in one clear quart plastic bag, and the indispensable People magazine. You are efficient and have exactly the right amount of “stuff”.
There are those of us, however, who arrive back home only to find six shirts never worn, untouched work out clothes, and a pair of Topsider deck shoes and Hawaiian shirt because “Weren’t we supposed to have a Cruise Night Party?”
Just like Abram, I started my journey with everything I had and yet God wanted me to pare down a few things. While the word “idol” sounds so ancient, there were things I worshipped that were excess baggage – mainly ego, pride and control.
Even before I was diagnosed, God had been convicting me that I was neglecting important areas of my life in order to carry this excess baggage. I realized I had a tremendous opportunity to spend time with two of my three sons who joined me in selling residential real estate. My healthy, yet aging parents needed and deserved more of my time. Susan, my wife of 34 years should be getting more at this stage of our marriage, not less, and when I wasn’t able to keep my commitment to the one volunteer activity I had re-introduced into my schedule, I realized I was not happy about who I had become. So I decided to sell the majority interest in the real estate franchise I had bought 6 years earlier.
Easy, right? Not. Not when the business had grown from nothing to the largest and one of the most successful residential real estate franchises in Chicago’s western suburbs…. not with my ego and pride standing in the way. Ego and pride, and heck, while we’re at it, why not add control?
I responded, “Okay, God, I get it. I’ll try to cooperate with You and off-load this pride baggage that is keeping me from getting where You want me to go.”
This was just two months before cancer roared in on a fighter jet. I realize now, how little I really understood what God was asking of me.
Seemingly overnight I lost the use of my left leg and have been dependent on a walker to get around, and slowly at that. For one who still could cut a slalom wake, snow ski the bumps on the Black Diamond runs and recently climbed hand over hand out of a 700 foot deep canyon in order to fish that perfect spot on the Rio Grande, I have had to let go of much that was dear to me – things that I let define me apart from God.
I’m reminded of a particular Canadian fishing trip we took years ago. We were flown into to remote outpost camp north of the 60th parallel and after a week of fishing for monster Northern Pike, the bush pilot came to pick us up. We were lined up on the pier with our gear and the pilot immediately started taking things OUT of the plane. Extra gas cans, spare outboard motor parts, and anything heavy he left behind for his next trip.
After he had finished dumping extra weight we all piled in. He revved the engine and we bounced and bounced across the water. We all strained our necks to look out the front window which wasn’t big to begin with. We watched the green tree line in the distance get closer and closer as we skimmed the top of the water. Then we started giving each other nervous glances. We felt the smoothness of air instead of the roughness of choppy water about the time we all thought we’d have pinecones in our laps. We cleared the trees because our pilot knew how much baggage we could take with us.
We all carry extra baggage with us don’t we? There are certain journeys that would become disastrous if we carried all of it. Our day-to-day journeys would become much easier, much more like the life God intends for us if we pared down to our most unencumbered selves.
My journey right now has lots of language like “miracles”, “healing”, etc. These are changes that we pray for. For me, though, I’ve found it is much more about the changes taking place within Dave than the “changes” I’m asking of the Lord.
I am so thankful that God loved me enough to prepare me for this cancer journey. It is confirmation that we are in this together. I don’t know how far along I am but already I have experienced an intimacy with my Creator that would not be possible with my idols/extra baggage along for the ride. Regardless of where my road trip takes me, I will be ready.
So that’s my sweet baby brother, David. Please, if he comes to mind, would you pray for him and Susan?
- Do you see ways that pride, ego, or control are part of the extra baggage you are carrying on your journey?
- In what ways can you honor God today and cooperate with His work in your life?