See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

See Part 12 here.

See Part 13 here.

See Part 14 here.

See Part 15 here.

See Part 16 here.

See Part 17 here.

See Part 18 here.

See Part 19 here.

See Part 20 here.

See Part 21 here.

See Part 22 here.

See Part 23 here.

See Part 24 here.

See Part 25 here.

See part 26 here.

See part 27 here.

See Part 28 here.

See Part 29 here.

A Changing Life

As I type this, it’s been nearly two months since my mother died.

I think the first week back at work was the hardest. I ran into a number of people who only wanted me to know they were there for me, but the hard part was the number of reminders. “How are you doing?” (You know, ’cause your mom died).  “How are you holding up?” (You know, ’cause you’re mom died).  I was stuck in this weird place where I was trying to show my appreciation for their concern while balancing the desire to explain to them that the questions were just more constant reminders. I mention it now only because I’m trying to explain my mindset at that time. I have so many people who love me so much. They want to be sure I’m OK and know they are there for me.  I’ll always love them for that, but it was a struggle at that point.

It’s been nine Fridays since my mother died. I use to call her just to talk and see how things were. My first Friday back at work, I caught myself picking up the phone. It was Friday. I’ve always talked about what a creature of habit I am. If something becomes a part of my routine, it’s trained into me like an athlete.

Whenever we lose someone we truly love, the simple fact is we’re never going to be the same. This is because love is sacrifice. We train our bodies to behave a certain way around our loved ones. We deny our instincts to the point to where we change our habits. Maybe you stopped smoking because your husband or wife didn’t like it. Maybe you started working out to shape your body for that girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe you stopped biting your nails because it annoyed a friend. Those changes are sacrifices we make. Sacrifice is the greatest show of love anyone can offer. God sacrificed his only son for us, and Jesus willingly obeyed, sacrificing himself for us. This was so that the price for our sins could be paid, which would grant us a way to be with them.

For us mere mortals, that sacrifice becomes most apparent when the one for whom we’ve sacrificed is no longer there. So we have this choice to make. The temptation is to let go of those sacrifices. Some see it even as freedom after a time. But if we let go of those sacrifices, I’m of the opinion that we also then let go of the person we were, thus changing from that person who loved us.

Anyone can sacrifice for someone for a short time. Even I can clean my condo if I know I’m having a visitor. Any guy courting any woman can put the toilet seat down the first time he visits his girlfriend’s house. But it’s only sacrifice if we truly give it up. And it’s only sacrifice if we let it go even after we lose the reason for which we’ve sacrificed it. Otherwise the sacrifice was only tolerance. Tolerance isn’t the wonderful mindset I think people make it out to be. The word tolerate means to allow the existence or practice of something one doesn’t necessarily agree with, without interference. Merriam Webster adds this short alternative, “to put up with.” But if we only tolerate, the more we’re forced to tolerate, the more we want to resent. Resentment then leads to frustration, which leads to anger. I’ve even seen that anger build into genuine hatred.

No, readers, I feel that tolerance is only a delay tactic that ultimately leads to even more hostility. Sacrifice yourself for those you love, or don’t. You have that right to choose. But if you only tolerate, you’re setting up that relationship for utter failure.

So now I’m looking at my life, and I find it odd sometimes.  I can’t say my life is completely different. At this point, things are running just about how they used to run. The differences are in the little things, and those little things (when they come), hit hard.

Now for the part some might not like to hear.

Did the death matter?

That sound’s like a cold question doesn’t it? But we always talk about how “we’ll never be the same” or “this death had such an impact on my life.”

But if you go right back to the life you had after a nice “show” of remorse at a funeral, did it really matter? If two weeks after that death you’re right back to who you were, did the death matter?  Looking at my life, I would say no. It doesn’t remove the emotions. My point is that if I go right back to the man I was before my mom got sick, her life, her suffering, and her death become meaningless, and I refuse to disgrace her in that way.

I choose to show my endless love, a love not bound by existence, by changing because of that love. I want to be better because in doing those things, I prove to myself that the lessons my mother taught me matter.

Wasn’t it the same for the Apostles after Christ died? Shouldn’t it be the same for all who are saved? The Apostles mourned. They had the honor of seeing Christ risen, but he didn’t stay with them in the flesh. I have to think they missed him after he ascended. I can’t think that Peter was perfect after the ascension. I wonder if he was ever tempted. I think he was to a degree. In Galatians 2, Peter pulled away from a meal with gentiles because they wouldn’t be circumcised.  Paul rebuked him.

But there were other displays where Peter showed he’d changed for having known Christ. Peter, for those who are unfamiliar with scripture, is (in my opinion) the greatest example of change. Greater even than Paul.

I suppose this tangent is coming.

You see, Peter’s given name is Simon. Jesus called him Peter as a sort of nickname. That nickname was a form of positive encouragement for Peter to act like the man Jesus wanted him to be.  Yes, Paul did terrible things, and then stopped, but the terrible things he did, he did out of misguided zeal. He thought Jesus wasn’t resurrected. He thought the Apostles were wrong. When Jesus revealed himself and called Paul to be an Apostle, yes he changed his actions, but that zealous heart and manic drive to do what he believed was God’s will was still the core of his personality (Acts).  Paul changed his actions. Peter changed his ways.

Both were great men, and Paul is more of a favorite of mine (personally) than Peter. (Andrew, who I’m the least like, is my favorite because I’d like to be more like him so that I could then be more like Christ.)

We therefore change who we are for the people we love, and I am changed for having known my mother and, through this trial, better known Jesus. Before my mom got sick, I watched sermons on my lap top and read the Bible. But I was stagnate. The more I studied and the more I fed my spirit, the more I came to understand Jesus. It also helped me understand my mom and the example she provided.

Love is sacrifice.

I can’t imagine the number of things Mom wanted to do in life from selling her house and taking trips to I don’t know what else. But she constantly denied herself things I know she wanted simply to provide for those she loved.

Christ humbled himself, then allowed himself to be punished for our sins just so that we could be saved by his blood.

So who are we then if we continue to be who we were? (Romans 7)

This is the question that drives me every day.

I loved my mom. No, that’s wrong. Her death does not mean the end of my love. That’s stupid. If that love is gone my remorse and desire to change should be. I could consider myself free from the willing sacrifices I made for her because she’s not on Earth any more. I don’t have to get along with my sisters because she’s not here to be saddened by it. Her mortal death would make me free from her rules. But I still love her. Her presence on this Earth doesn’t remove that love, so I’ll honor her memory because I still love her now.

This is how we should act for Christ, if indeed we love him too.

Christ wasn’t there to rebuke Peter, playfully calling him Simon as a gentle reminder of the man he used to be. But Peter still remained the man Christ had helped him become.

I believe (because my mother had proclaimed Jesus her savior when I was a child and had been baptized) Mom is in Heaven with Jesus.

Jesus certainly knows what I’m up to. I’m not sure what scripture says about those who’ve left this world or not, but I still like the idea of mom watching from above.

So let me be changed. Let the death of my mom and, more importantly, the death of Jesus Christ change me. Let me be the man that honors my love for them. Let me let go of the man I was. Let that show my love, and let that be what gives meaning to my mother’s death.

Can I claim to be changed? No.  Foolish, selfish, and (if I may quote Paul) wretched man that I am, I still act far more like the man I was than the man I want to be (Romans 7). But I will claim to be changing. This evolution of my body to align with my spirt isn’t going as quickly as I’d like. I constantly ask myself if I’m any better, especially days when I find myself resentful at work or even with one of my siblings. That’s the old me. I shouldn’t be that man anymore. Am I really any different?

Yes. At the very least I now instantly realize I’m not acting the right way and re-focus my thoughts to be in line with how I’m supposed to act.

There are changes in my life I do recognize. I fear to lay claim to them because I have this odd habit. Every time I proclaim, “I’ve changed!” I amazingly do the very thing I so proudly claimed to have stopped. It’s silly how it goes. “I don’t cause anymore!” “What the #### are you doing!?” “I’m not so prideful anymore!” he said proudly.

So please simply accept this claim that I’ve greatly reduced the number of sins in my life from “too many to count per day” to “I’m sometimes discouraged by how many I count.” But this is a blessing. When God reveals our sins to us, we have the chance to feel remorse, repent and change. I think I need a bit of humbling realization here and there. To me it shows that I’m changing. I’d rather not keep seeing the exact same sin.  I’m struggling most with my pride and selfishness at the moment.

The point is, I’m working toward being better every day, and I wasn’t doing that before Mom died. I was content. I was satisfied with my state as it is.

The greatest change I’ve seen, the one I feel is the best tribute to the memory of my mother, is that I’m trying again. I’m trying to be better.

I’m sure there will be those who say, “See, doesn’t work.  This guy prayed and testified and trusted God, and his mom still died.”

News flash.  My mom was always going to die. She could have been hit by a bus or struck by lightning.

That person might argue, “But she died of cancer, and you had faith God would heal her.”

He did. He healed her so well she’s in Heaven with him. And when his son returns to earth, all those who were saved will return also, in perfect, sinless, cancer-free bodies. I just have to keep my faith and be patient. Sure, I have to be far more patient than I wanted to be, but how much patience has God needed just to see me reach this still wholly unacceptable state I’m in now?

If I were to have stopped this testimony the moment my mother died, did I ever believe in the first place?

But by this loss, I’m granted the wonderful opportunity to proclaim my faith (which He has given me) remains because my faith in him is not based on what he does for me any more than my love for my mother was based on her presence on this Earth.

And there, again, is another example of God’s unknowable judgements and inscrutable ways (Romans 11:33). If God had granted my supplication, sure I would have been happy. I’d have testified. I’d have sung in joy and praise of his name. But then what lesson do I have to teach the world?

Pray to God and he’ll give you want you want?

That’s not the lesson. And how many people would have been lost for the misconception that faith and trust in God will get you what you want rather than what you need.

Instead, the lesson I am blessed to teach is that faith and trust in God remain. Even if we don’t receive those things for which we ask, we always get what we need. The things we receive are always for our good. My love and praise of him is no more based on what he does for me (in giving what I want when I want) than my salvation is based on what I do for him (Romans 1-3).

Faith is the lesson. Faith in God. Faith in love. Faith that my mother and I will indeed be reunited. Faith that no matter what, my salvation is assured because of God’s love and grace and for no other reason.

I didn’t want my mom to die any more than Job wanted to lose all he had (Job 1). But the Lord gives, and he takes (Job 1:21). It is his sovereign right.

I used to think it was like a kid playing with a cat and a string. Yanking away the string just as the cat snatches it.  Horrible isn’t it?

But the thing is, I’ve come to understand that he gave them to us to begin with. They were never really ours. Instead, we receive (by His grace) these wonderful gifts, but any mortal gift is temporary. Nothing we gain here on Earth can come with us after we die. Even atheists will admit this.

So rather than lament what God’s taken, I praise Him because I had them to begin with, because I’m going to lose them sooner or later. My own mortality testifies to this. I wasn’t ready. I miss her, and it’s not sinful at all to morn her death.

But, I have now an even greater gift in that I’m changing. My relationship with God is closer. I have a better understanding of salvation. I have a greater awareness of my sin so I can turn from it (even if it’s with great struggle and effort).

This lesson is far more valuable than the selfish one I originally started working from.

Yes, my life is missing something for the lack of my mom’s presence in it, but I have so much more because she was in it to begin with.

Yes, my heart is sad because someone I love is gone, but it’s so much more filled because God’s love has been poured into me through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me (Romans 5:5).

I pray for you reader. I pray you’ve been inspired by this testimony. I pray your faith is encouraged or that God has worked through this memoir to call you to him. I pray this gives you comfort if you face a similar challenge in your life. I pray you don’t make the mistakes I made when I was facing this trial.

Mostly, I pray you be filled with love. I pray you remember that love is sacrifice. I pray you sacrifice the person you were for God first, and those you love. Husbands, I pray you love your wives as Jesus loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Let love be the way in which you live your life. May you have love in abundance from those around you, but may you first receive the love of God Almighty whose love for you was demonstrated by the most difficult sacrifice one could ever make. Amen!

Thanks for reading

Matt

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One thought on “Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 30 (The final part)

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