I was 15 000 km away from home when I heard the news, "The doctor says the tumor is large, growing rapidly and most likely malignant."
News like this numbs.
Being seven time zones away from your wife when she breaks this news to you is not good. I longed to hold her, cry with her, tell her everything would be OK. Instead, I stepped into a training event.
It's impossible describe the multitude of emotions that raged through my soul. For the first time in my life, I understood panic. Trapped on the other side of the world, I felt powerless. Angry. Alone. Abandoned. The uncertainty of the news was almost debilitating. But there was no way to be certain. We had to wait for the surgery.
The attacks and accusations came rushing like an unstoppable flood. Fighting them was like trying to block a raging tsunami:
"You will be left all alone when she dies."
"You gave away all your money and now you cannot afford the medical bills!"
"How could you help so many others but not your own family?"
"Where is your faith now? What good has it done?"
"How could you be away from your wife at this time?"
"You have no right to be teaching others!"
"God is not good. Neither are you!"
The hordes of hell that get unleashed against the vulnerable have no mercy.
"Honey, I'm coming home," I blubbered while fighting back the tears.
Michelle's reply was quick, "No, you finish what you went there to do. Please don't come home. There is nothing you can do here. The surgery is scheduled for after you return."
It was déjà vu. Michelle has said this previously - five days before my first trip abroad. Two armed men broke into our home, tied up her and the children, threatened them and tried to steal our belongings. I wanted to cancel my trip. Michelle told me to go. So, I faced my fear, did the unthinkable, and went on the trip.
She is my hero.
The god of the west provides only comfort, security and certainty. He promises joy in attachment to this world. So, we have promoted a form of godliness devoid of sacrifice. This god beckons me constantly.
He tells me to store away instead of give away.
He tells me to control instead of surrender.
He tells me to know instead of trust.
He tells me to be safe instead of risk.
He tells me to stay instead of go.
But his religion is devoid of purpose and meaning. So many western Christians wander around aimlessly seeking comfort in certainty. They confuse safety for joy. Fear dictates their every decision. Such a gospel will not change the world. And it will never fulfil our deepest longings. We avoid danger, discomfort and uncertainty while we die a slow, empty death.
But Christ calls us into an unpredictable adventure filled with real danger and peril. He calls us to a life of temporary sacrifice for eternal reward. In the timeless words of Isaac Watts, "Were the whole realm of nature mine - that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine - demands my soul, my life, my all."
I eventually returned home after a grueling but fruitful 25-day trip. Michelle went into surgery a few days later. It was an intense battle. She is recovering. The tumor is benign. We have a long journey ahead. This time, I have cancelled my trips. I have placed my life on hold to fight for my wife. This year, we are married for 25 years. I love her more than ever.
But I have faced the enemy and learned his name.
His name is not cancer. It is not discomfort. It is not risk, danger or lack.
His name is a life not lived. A person not known. An adventure not experienced.
His weapons are shame, guilt and fear.
They cut deep.
But they are lies.
I have faced the enemy and I have overcome.
I will be back with more determination than ever.
I will love. I will serve. I will go. I will not hold back.
I will step into uncertainty and take senseless leaps of faith.
I will dive with raw vulnerability into the face of rejection.
I will boast of my weaknesses so that Christ's strength may be displayed.
I will give beyond my ability and trust Him to meet my needs.
I will risk with reckless abandon.
I will pour out my life for others.
I may not change the world. I may die trying.
But I would have lived.