Testimony: A Trial of Faith is Available For Preorder!

Testimony: A Trial of Faith is Available For Preorder!

Greetings all,

200113-Testimony-Cover2It’s my great joy to announce Testimony: A Trial of Faith is available for preorder for just 99 cents!

If you’ve read the blog series, you already know the story. This project is here for two primary reasons:

  1. I wanted to testify what God has done in my life in as broad a way as I could think. Having this as a title makes it possible to spread this testimony.
  2. I had always intended for this to raise money for cancer research.  As promised, all royalties from this title don’t go to me; they go to the American Brain Tumor Association.  To be clear, I will use some of the money to pay for printing and marketing (AMS campaigns and the like), but any actual profit goes to ABTA.

There are a few things I want to make clear.

  1.  This is a Christian book. I’ve never made a secret about my religion. I love entertainment and fantasy as much as the next person, but God is the most important being in life. This story is mostly about my growth in Christianity as my mom battled with cancer.
  2. This is personal. There are truths here that aren’t flattering toward me. This project isn’t designed to make me look good; it’s designed to show how God could take someone as sinful as me and open his heart. Reading this might very well change what you think of me. My hope is you see how I have changed. I still have so very far to go, but by the grace of God I am who I am.
  3. This has some edits. Rather than focus on my family (who I didn’t get to do much with), I focused on my own reflections through the process. There are interactions and discussions, but the story is far more about my reflections on what I learned about Christianity than it is my mom and her struggle with cancer.

I love God, and I pray every day that He wipes cancer from the face of the Earth. It is my great prayer that this testimony is pleasing to Him as an offering. It’s my great prayer that he work through this to provide a lot of funding for brain cancer research and maybe even (if it is His will) a cure.

If this can help lead to more effective treatments, perhaps some other son won’t have to mourn his mother as a result of this disease. I’d be honored if you’d help in this manner.

You can preorder the story here or in the link above.

Thank you for reading,

Matt

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

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

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

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 28

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 28

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.

The Pieces

It would be a week before we had an informal service for Mom.

That first weekend was mostly an opportunity to see each other. If one were to ask me how many siblings I have, I tend to stop and count. My childhood to my adulthood has seen a sort of core group of siblings. That group consists of five of us (the five youngest).  There are more, but the divorce, distance, and time have estranged us in some ways. I keep in contact with a few of them via social media, but I’m honestly terrible at things like that.  Even among those five, I tend to interact the most with my immediate two siblings (the children of both my mother and biodad).  Why? Simply because I see them the most. I’m positive I don’t call or message any of them as much as they’d like.

However, those of us in that core five were all there. I’m stunned because I simply can’t remember the last time we were all under the same roof at the same time.

We’re all extremely isolated individuals, me more so than the rest. But we had time together to talk. This isn’t the part where we all huddled together and held each other. We’re a family of task oriented people. We see a thing to do, and do that thing. The closest “group hug” we came to was the one I spoke about in the last segment. We spent the bulk of that week seeing more and more family and arranging for the service.

We went to the funeral home the following Monday. We were all pretty much still angry and hesitant at that point. We didn’t bicker with one another at all (which is frankly evidence of God’s grace in and of itself). We didn’t even snap or bark at anyone.  I could feel the tension, but we all focused on respect and making sure we had Mom’s final arrangements at heart. Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not claiming we were all ready to lash out (although I was).  I’m simply stating it’s hard to let go emotionally when it’s so darn hard to let go physically.  I had no idea how long it takes to arrange a cremation.

We picked an urn. My aunts needed a smaller necklace because Mom wanted at least some of her ashes spread with her parents. Some of us wanted death certificates.  I was one of those. I don’t have any idea what I would need it for. I think I just wanted something. I certainly didn’t want any of the ashes. I don’t begrudge those in my family who do, but I personally wouldn’t be able to function if I had a constant reminder of the wound that exists in my life right now.

The rest of the week was mostly spending time together. We played cards. I’ve played cards with my mom for 38 years. Playing a game without her felt like trying to shuffle with one hand. All of us kept having those moments where we found ourselves looking for her.

One sister kept walking to the living room expecting to say hi to Mom.

Dad wouldn’t go into the bedroom.  He and I both slept in the living room. I haven’t spoken to him about it yet, but I have to admit, I simply couldn’t sleep.  Something happened to my back during the trip, and I’m just not used to having people around. I think there were perhaps seven people in the house at any given time, and there were times where there were perhaps 15-20. Neither my dad nor I do well around large groups. I’d discussed getting a hotel room, but it became pretty obvious that we all just needed each other, even if we just had to be around one another.  Thanks be to God, my back eased up after a few days. I think having Dad around, sleeping in a chair or couch next to the couch on which I slept was more of a comfort than I realized even in that moment.

The days were harder I think. There were things to do, and that required going through my mom’s stuff. I am firmly convinced that my mom stalked her children. She had copies of things I’d thought lost long ago. She had pictures from events I didn’t remember taking a camera to. She had every baby picture of every one of her kids in multiple sizes. She kept random letters from old teachers of mine. She had this for all five of her natural born children.

We each kept what we felt meant the most to us. I honestly don’t have a clue how one of my sisters managed it. She plowed through all of that paperwork to find what we needed for all the administrative things people have to have in times like this. I helped when I thought I could be helpful. We eventually got everything compiled into whatever group it needed to be in.

One thing remained: the obituary.

At first, I thought there was a form to fill out and that someone else would write it.  That wasn’t the case. Someone had to write it. A lot of people had thoughts on what needed to be said. Then I volunteered. I’ve written more than five books, and each of them are more than 30,000 words. Some of them are more than 60,000. I’ve written hundreds of news stories, dozens of features and thousands of captions. Mom’s obituary is 337 words, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written.

I waited until everyone else had gone to bed (or at least started that way). One of my sisters talked to me about the important things to note. The problem was, there were so many people who mattered. I did the math, and realized my mother is directly connected to at least 50 children (three generations).

After I finished researching and talking to my sister, I opened this very lap top on which I’m typing now, and prayed.

I don’t remember all of the exact words, but I was horrified. I wanted to pay tribute to my Mom, and I wanted any who read the obituary to understand why she was so special. If she knew you, she loved you. It was like the greatest disease you could wish for. All she had to do was meet you and know one of us loved you, and she loved you. She loved you and forgave transgressions for which other parents would cast you out of the house. She provided for you no matter what debt that put her in. She was meticulous in identifying birthdays, anniversaries, school days, and anything else that mattered.

I’ve prayed many times. I’ve seen many of those prayers answered. But in a moment, a flash of realization, God answered. He didn’t answer with audible words; he answered with inspiration.

To tell of everyone my mother loved or cared for would take too much space, and to list just some of them would raise them above the others, when my mom would never want that feeling. In these ways, my mother was so very much like our savior Jesus Christ.

I typed out the words in moments, but my eyes were flooding with tears before I finished the third paragraph. Then, as I teach my students, I had to revise and edit. I’d just finished shattering my heart describing a woman I loved so very much, and I had to stomp on the shards over, and over again to make sure that the skill of the writing matched the emotion of its content. I read it at least five times.

I tell you all, whoever reads this, I’ve often been described as dogged and driven. People sometimes speak of amazement with how able I am to focus on a task. This isn’t my strength. It never was. It was only ever the strength and faith God gave me, not one he placed in me as my nature, but one he loans me through his own. I’m weeping now, this very moment as I type this recollection. But I endure because of the strength He has given me.

When it was done, it all came rushing out.  I made it outside, sat on the step of the porch and let it all go. I don’t have a clue how long I balled. Amidst gulps of breath and sniffs of snot, I quoted every verse of scripture I could bring to mind.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew Chapter 5:4)

“We rejoice in our suffering, for suffering builds endurance, and endurance builds character, and character builds hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God has filled us with love through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).

“‘For I know the plans I have for  you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I thanked God for the strength he gave me. Eventually, the tears ceased. I went back inside, and went to sleep.

The next day, the family was happy with the obituary. We sent it off, and I created a program for the service, so people would have something if they wanted it.

My adopted sister and brother (I honestly couldn’t explain with a million words how my head works, so just know that if I think of you as family, you are) stopped by for a day. They brought their youngest daughter.  We talked, and they provided me company and comfort. I showed them all the stupid stuff my mom kept just because I had it once. She kept this photo copy of a random comic I bought. I didn’t even buy another issue, but there it was.

Students in my class would recognize what’s called a phase card. It’s a card that indicates what privileges a military student has.  My mom kept it. I don’t even know how she got it, but there it was. If some random person took a random photo of me, she found it, printed it, and put it in a book.  She did this for every one of us.

Dear God, almighty Father, praise you for giving me a mother who loved us so much.

One of my nieces, a talented stage performer, recorded hymns. Not only were they beautiful, but they were so comforting because these were hymns my mother requested. They were hymns of praise and worship. As I’d grown in my faith, I realized how estranged my family had become with Christ. Those requests, and hearing someone we love sing them, comforted me because they demonstrated that though we struggled with (at best) misguided churches, my mother’s faith remained all the days of her life.

All that was left, was to say goodbye during the service.

 

 


Questions and Revelations

Did the verses help?

They didn’t help. They filled me. They gave me strength. They weren’t like some bit of fresh air from a stuffy office; they were the source of any effort I could offer. They still are. If one were to ask me to prove God exists, I can’t really point to anything specific. I don’t think that’s how it works. Instead I invite them to seek Christ. Read God’s word. Let it be what you turn to in times of need. If you do this with an earnest heart, you’ll get it, and if you never do, there isn’t anything I’ll be able to say or do that will convince you. Since I’ve began this journey, I’m certain that my ability to get through it is based primarily on God’s word and the ability he gave me to seek it to find the right verse for the right occasion.

What did the obituary say:

I thought about where to put this, and it just seems this is the right spot. One can read it if he or she wishes, but he or she can also move on.

These are the words God wrote through me to pay respect to my mother:

Marietta Zavala

June 23, 1949-July 26, 2018

Marietta Zavala, 69, passed away July 26, 2018, in Yuma, Arizona.

She was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 23, 1949, to Dale and Corinne Starbuck.

She moved to Yuma in 1984, where she began working at Yuma Proving Ground until she retired Dec. 1, 2010.

She is survived by her husband Rafael Zavala, and her sisters, Gladys, Dawn, and Michelle.

She is also survived by her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, but to offer names would require more space and time than a simple column can provide, for what made her special, was her endless love, compassion, and generosity to anyone she met.

She managed birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and holidays for more than 50 people, a number which only reflects those she was related to by blood or marriage, but she loved and cared for so many others who think of her as Mom, Grandma, or Great Grandma. She never let a single child she ever met go without presents or, more importantly, a phone call to tell them how much she loved them. This is the legacy she leaves on this earth. It is one of a woman who would always welcome those who needed somewhere to stay; it is one of a mother who cared for children as if they were her own regardless of their relationship. That boundless affection was reflected in her constant desire to prepare her home to be a place of welcome for those for whom she cared.

When someone needed anyone, she was always the first to be called and the first to be there. She will be missed by all those who are now unsure of who to call because the one who was always there has been called to Heaven.

The family is scheduled to host an open house memorial from 4-7 p.m. Aug. 3 at 7584 E. Olive Ann Lane, Yuma, Arizona, 85366. Flowers and letters of condolence may be sent to the same address. 


If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 27

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 27

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.

The Trip Home

I was talking to my friend, and we were halfway to the airport. I was actually talking to her about how much I read the Bible these days.

“There’s no way I could get through this time without the strength reading the Bible has given me.”

Then my phone rang.

Dad called to tell me that in the early morning of July 26, 2018, my mother passed away.

I don’t remember a word of that conversation. I hardly remember any of that morning if I’m being honest. Sure, bits and pieces are there, but my mind tends to focus on tasks when I’m feeling sad. Accomplishment is something that drives me (a sinful thing that, but I am a task oriented person). At that moment, getting home was something I could do.

I hung up and said a brief prayer. I told my friend my mom died, and my friend was kind enough to volunteer to let everyone at work know.

I do remember reiterating that, while I was absolutely sad, I had a degree of comfort. I believe this happened for a reason. I can say with complete assurance that I’m a better person today through the faith and comfort God granted me throughout this journey. I felt strengthened, and I know that strength didn’t come from me; it came from God.

As I went through the usual airplane process, I arranged with my brother to pick him up so that we could drive to Yuma together. I was honestly very happy to have the company.

I kept going to those same parts of the Bible I’d found the night before: Matthew Chapter 5, and Romans.

I have no idea how many times I read them. I do know that each time I read them, I felt my strength returning. It’s my opinion that Romans (while starting in a place of hopelessness) is the most uplifting book of the Bible. I’m sure there are other opinions, but my mom had just died, and whenever I felt overwhelmed, that was the Sword of the Spirt and the Shield of Faith I wielded in my battle with despair.

After I arrived at my brother’s house in Phoenix, we piled into the rented car and started the drive home.

We spent a portion of the drive talking about our regrets. I’m still of the opinion that a lot of the turmoil my family suffered is a direct result of my failure to show up when my sister called for help all those months ago.

My brother shared his regrets. They’re his, and so I won’t share them in this. What matters is we found comfort talking things out.

One issue remained unresolved at that moment. My nephew, who’s favorite person in the world, was in the car with us, and we hadn’t told him why we were going to Yuma. Whatever we were going to do, we wanted to do it with as much of the family as we could have around us.

We met two of my sisters where I returned the rental. There, my brother (in law) and sister talked for a moment, discussing what the best option would be. How  do you tell a child his favorite person in the world was dead?

We decided to get home and go from there. Somewhere in that process, I volunteered.

I’m not honestly sure why I did it. I know part of me wanted to save his parents at least a piece of the heartache. As one who knew it had to be done, I’m sure a part of me just wanted to see a necessary thing finished.

So after we got home and settled in, we sat The Boy (this is how I refer to him in public/social settings) down in a circle.

I don’t remember every word I said, but I remember the way I wanted to do it. I started by telling him how much we love him.

“We didn’t tell you why we’re here,” I said. “Grandma’s gone.”

“She’s not here?” he asked.  The rest of us knew, but he didn’t understand yet.

His mom explained that she’d gone to be with Great Grandma. Eventually, I said as softly as I could. “She’s dead.”

“She’s dead?” Tears immediately started falling.  We pulled him in for what might be the record for largest, longest family hug ever.

He cried for a short time, but after a few minutes (as kids often do), he started running around, laughing and playing.

I’m not asserting in any way he just bounced back. He’s a curious, intuitive boy. A lot of us are still concerned about how he’s handling this, and it’s just hard to know in a time like this.

As The Boy started roaming around, I pulled my sisters (those who were there at that point) into a hug. I held them there, letting them cry in my arms, telling them we’ll be OK.

It had to be in the early a.m. at that point. I offered to read the books of the Bible I’d been reading with someone, and one of my sisters volunteered.

From there, we went to bed knowing we’d have to start picking up the pieces the next day.

 

 


Questions and Revelations

Why does Romans begin in hopelessness?

I really don’t know how to word that assertion, but it’s accurate. The first four chapters establish that we are sinners; we are worthy of God’s wrath; and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. So yeah, pretty hopeless.

Then it talks about peace with God through righteousness. It tells us of our salvation and how nothing can pull the saved from God’s love through Christ (Romans 8). So it starts by making it clear there’s nothing man can do to find salvation, but then explains how God assured our salvation. This is so that we remember that God deserves the glory for our salvation and resulting eternal life with Christ.

The unnamable question:

I’ve been pondering the best way to present these thoughts. How are you able to do this? How do you feel after it happened? Do you feel let down because God didn’t save your mom? There’s a question in there that’s composed of all of these questions.

In science, there are some things we claim exist simply by pointing out how those suggested things affect the rest of the universe. A black hole is an example. We point at the light being sucked into something, and declare that’s how we know the black hole is there.

Honestly, I get frustrated sometimes at how some try to refute God’s existence through science when it takes the same amount of faith to believe in, say, the theory of evolution as it does to believe in God. You’ve never seen God or a miracle! True, but there are absolutely no fossils linking man to monkey, not one. So for someone to claim God doesn’t exist and that evolution is real, they have every bit as much evidence to literally point to as one who claims God exists.  It is a statement of faith. I digress the world at large knows, historically that Jesus existed. Beyond the Bible, there are records. Colleges give degrees to people for the study of the human life of Jesus. His existence is factual while others try to deny his deity. However one might want to argue whether Christ rose from the dead, no one, believing or not, denies he lived. Meanwhile, science has had the same 2,018 years to find the fossil showing the (hilariously titled) “missing link.” I don’t often get into debates like this, but I need to establish this information to answer this unnamed question.

No matter what someone believes. No matter what master they serve: God or science, the flesh or spirit, themselves or nature; there comes a point when the evidence to definitively prove that belief falls short through the eyes of those who cling to other beliefs.

So this is what I believe:

I am able to do this. I feel comforted through this process because of the grace God has given to me, which is sufficient to carry me through this trial though the flesh of my heart is broken.

I am so very sad that my mother has gone, but from a certain point of view, it would be worse to think God didn’t save her. Why? Because the point of life isn’t to exist until one dies.

This existence we are in is not the end, but the beginning of eternity. God saved my mom years ago when she professed her faith in Jesus and then taught us about him when we were young. Never once in my middle years or as I grew did she ever deny Christ or declare the end of her belief. To think, “God didn’t save her,” to me, implies that this mortal life is all there is.

So I hold to the belief that this life is the one in which we endure, for as long as we have to, until God calls us home.

Yes, I wish God had cured my mom of cancer, but that’s not remotely the same thing as saving her. Salvation is reconciliation with God through Jesus crucified. Everything else is secondary and just nice to have.

When I started this, I explained that 90 years of suffering still won’t compare to eternity. As sad as that day, and the days that followed, were. They are pieces, slivers of eternity that will seem as nothing especially when Mother and I are reunited in God’s kingdom.

God didn’t, hasn’t, nor ever will let someone down, but we mortals sometimes elevate ourselves above him because (in this case) I think in terms of what I want more so than what God wants. It is at these times I remind myself that all God does is for my own good.

There will be mockers out there. Someone will read this whole thing and say, “What good is your God that you showed all that faith and he still let her die?”

My reply is that “God is good, because he gave me that faith, and even through this heartbreaking loss, he allows my faith to remain because all that he does is for good, and not for evil.”

It is good that my mom isn’t being woken by pain. It is good that my mom is finally called home. It is good that I feel, deep in my heart, a strength that I simply can’t attribute to myself or anything in me, so it must be from Him.

Sure, like a selfish, petulant, and spoiled child, I want more. I cry out for my mother even while I plan to marry my fiancee.

The aforementioned doubters will say, “I thought God would give you a perfect life.”

He will, but this perfect existence is one to come, not on this world or in this time. Even if I were more selfish than I already am (which is extremely so), I can’t possibly call my life horrible. Perfect? No, but I don’t expect perfection because Jesus hasn’t returned, and I haven’t died to go to Heaven.

Those doubters will point and accuse, but I ask of them (and of you), what reason do you have to assault my faith?  Why do we argue? Why do we debate? No sane person would ever point at the sky and say, “It’s blue.” No sane person would even hear a fool who jumps up and counters, “No! It’s green!”

Why? Because that person is clearly wrong, and you are clearly right. It’s fact. We don’t argue the things which we believe to be fact. We argue the things we doubt so that we might be convinced of our misperceptions or emboldened in our beliefs.

So these days, when someone tries to assert God doesn’t exist or Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, I realize I don’t have to argue. The sky is blue, and if they don’t see it, no amount of me pointing will make them see. Only God can grant sight to the blind. I can live in my belief. I can state my faith. I can do as I’ve been commissioned and spread the good news. But I, and all humanity, lacks the ability to make anyone believe.

As one who enjoys debates and the one who began this question under the framework of proof, I acknowledge that any who is convicted of their beliefs can do the same as I have just said. For I believe, and no amount of pointing will make me see anything but Christ and him crucified for my salvation.

But only one who reads this on the surface will see this as a commentary on debate. It isn’t, and I explain here to make it plain. This is a commentary on faith, which by definition can’t be proven until the end. And the reason for that faith exists because I know my mind. I know how analytical I am. And there is absolutely no internal organ, muscle or synapse that exists in me that can make we wake up and believe. Therefore; the only possible source of that faith and confidence must be external, and therefore be from God.

My faith is not justified because I got what I want out of this. Indeed, it might have been perceptually nullified. My faith is justified because I didn’t get what I want, yet I still believe.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 26

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 26

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.

The Last Calls

I was at work, coaching students on one of their writing assignments when I got a text from one of my sisters.

“Mom’s going back into the hospital.”

I wasn’t supposed to answer it or reply to it, but I did. I had a student right in front of me, and that student shouldn’t have had to succeed or fail based on my desire to reply to a text. I apologized to the student and helped her with the assignment. Once the assignment ended, I went and told my most immediate supervisor what had gone on. He was kind enough to forgive me, but it doesn’t make what I did right. I stand behind that.

I called my sister back after that. It started with the need to get her a bit of medicine to help her be more comfortable. By this point, my mom was already in constant, unbearable pain.

I’d mentioned previously that I’d called my dad. What I hadn’t told you yet was that the conversation ended when my mom woke up in agony. Even over the phone, I heard her crying. They had pain medication, but it would knock her out and give her a bit of sleep before the pain returned to wake her.

Hearing she was returning to the hospital at least gave her more access to care and medicine. Plus, the idea was to get her a bit stronger.

I called the sister who texted me. At that point, things just looked like a visit. My sister was still affected by the miscommunication that ended up in hurt feelings, so I simply reminded her to focus on Mom.

Wednesdays are usually fun for me. I have a trivia contest some friends and I participate in. I got home with enough time to change and headed out. I think I was about one round into trivia when I got another call.

The doctors had determined that Mom wouldn’t make it through the night. It was somewhere around 8 p.m. I was pretty numb by that point. I’ve never been one to rush, and the more emotional I feel, the more I tend to want to break things down into tasks. I told my friends what was happening. Then I paid my tab and headed home as swiftly and safely as I could.

The first priority was to find a way to get home as quickly as possible. We looked at so many websites. I looked for direct flights into Yuma. Ultimately, the trip that got me to Yuma the fastest was to fly into Phoenix, rent a car, and drive home. Unfortunately, the quickest flight out wasn’t until the next morning.

The sister who lives in Phoenix offered to wait, but I understood what it meant to be there. It was honestly touching to hear her willing to risk missing those last few moments, but I simply didn’t see the sense in two of us not being there. I thank God for that line of thinking.

Once I got the trip lined up, it was time to let everyone know.

First, I messaged my boss.

“Dear Matt,” he replied. “I am grieving with you and praying now for you, your mom and extended family.”

He told me not to worry about some of the administrative tasks I had to handle. Then he finished the message with, “May God grant you His peace that surpasses all understanding. God bless!”

Next I told those whom I work with.

They showered me with support.

“We love you, Matt. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do.”

“Thinking of you, Matt. My heart goes out to you. You’re on my mind.”

“Matt, please let us know if there is anything we can do for you. Peace for you and your family in this time.”

I asked my coworker, whom I think of as my Christian support, to give me a ride into work the next morning.

Next I called my girlfriend.

Then I sent a video chat to yet another of my sisters. This particular sister is one whom I adopted a few years back.

“It’s time,” I said.

At first, they (her and her husband, whom I also adopted as my brother) were excited. They thought I was telling them I’d proposed to my girlfriend.

“No, not that. Mom. It’s time.”

The mood immediately shifted. They sat together, stunned. After all those calls and all that work, I was running low on strength.

“I need you to know that I’m sad, but I’m comforted,” I said with tears in my eyes. “I know that what’s happening is for the best.”

I want to say I made sure to praise God. I honestly don’t remember. I know that I said my faith is in Him, but that’s it. I was running on emotion and exhaustion.

They talked to me for a few more moments, offering encouragement. I wanted to make sure that I explained how I wasn’t turning from God. I tried, with an undetermined amount of success, to explain that while my heart was breaking, I had comfort from God and His plan.

My mother raised me. She took care of us all when we left the bio-dad. She single handedly, cared for three children who were under 18, two who periodically needed a place to stay, one best friend who later became my brother, and pretty much every child she thought needed someone.

She was the cornerstone of my family, and she would be gone in a matter of hours.

Sadness doesn’t begin to explain it. I prayed, first, thanking God for his grace and mercy. Then I started reading the Bible. I’m not honestly sure how much I read. I read a few Psalms. Then, I found Matthew, Chapter 5. Then I found Romans. Eventually, I prayed again.

I won’t quote the prayer because I’m not sure what words I said exactly (and giving false testimony isn’t something I intend to do).

What I know is I prayed, hoping God understood that despite my sadness, I chose to turn to him for comfort. I would not focus on my sadness. Rather, I would focus on him, and trust him to give me strength.

As He always does, He provided. The strength He gave me helped me get through the next day and those that followed.

 


Questions and Revelations

Why should we believe when you started this claiming God would save your mom?

I’m not in a place where I can state what one should do. However, even now I believe that prayer in faith is always appropriate. Yes, God could have simply cured her, but I’m not going to even dare claim that his sovereign choice not to was in any way evidence of his lack of love, mercy, or grace.

I’ll talk about this more in the coming weeks, but it’s important I establish now that the lack of getting what I hoped for isn’t a reason to turn away or feel abandoned.

I know that any who suffer desires an end to that suffering, but I also know that, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirt, which has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Not getting my heart’s desire isn’t evidence of God’s ignorance or abandonment; it’s evidence of his sovereignty and design.

One shouldn’t ever believe just because they got this or they got that. Again, God isn’t some genie. One should believe because a life dedicated to Jesus and serving him is far better than a life without. I can say that even in these circumstances. If I didn’t have my faith, I would be every bit as sad, and I’d have nothing in which to put my sadness and no way to find comfort that reached my heart. If I didn’t have God in this time, I’d have never made it through the next week.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 25

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 25

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.

Phone Calls

I think it took a few days to get a hold of my mom. She was exhausted from the trip, and the medicine she was taking always took something out of her. I had a chance to talk to one of my aunts, who I haven’t had the chance to see or talk to in quite some time.

Then I got to talk to Mom. I told her I understood she was tired. I talked to her about getting stronger so that we could try again. Mostly, we just shared our love for each other.

Even though she sounded so very tired, she wanted to make sure she told me she loved me. This is one of those things that wouldn’t change no matter what. I think I’ve learned from that call. We sometimes use, “I love you” perfunctorily. We say it like a sneeze or a casual bump during a ride on public transportation. My mom had lesions all the way down her throat. Eating was next to impossible, and talking couldn’t have been fun. But in our five-to-ten-minute conversation, she must have said, “I love you” four times.

It’s easy to say, “I love you” in times of joy or casual meetings. How meaningful it was to hear those words when I knew they literally hurt to say.

I spoke to one of my sisters next. At some point, the concept of salvation came up. She mentioned she was condemned because of a sin. I’m leaving this vague for a great many reasons. The most relevant reason is that there are people in the world who genuinely believe they’ve committed an “unforgivable” sin.  I don’t think my sister thought this particular sin was “unforgivable” except when viewed from the filter of our upbringing, and the false teachers we were bombarded with.

I digress. When people hear constantly that they will go to Hell for their sins, it’s possible they’ll be convinced.

My reply to my sister still holds true for any who feel they’ve done something or too much to be forgiven.

“If you haven’t accepted Jesus into your heart as your savior and repented of your sins, yes, you’re going to Hell.”

Not the nicest thing to say to a sister, but I wasn’t done yet.

“Nothing else can keep you from Heaven. If you know that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and strive to live a life without sin, then you are going to Heaven.”

I went on to explain one can increase their treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). One should strive to be more sanctified each day. However, in this case, my desire was to put the key to the Kingdom in the right place. No man can condemn you for your sins. No man can deny you entrance into Heaven. No sin is so great as to be unforgivable. The moment we accept Christ as our savior and repent of our sins, we are saved, one and all.

We talked a bit more about our childhood. I explained how much I wish I’d read the Bible more as a child, for I would have been much more prepared to recognize false teachers for who they were.

There’s a balance that those who evangelize must walk, and it’s done in respect to the aspects of God. He is grace and sovereignty. Some focus too much on his grace and forgiveness, but others are to easily led astray simply by focusing too much on his sovereignty and judgement.

The conversation didn’t revolve around this topic. It fell there naturally, and we transitioned to other things after, but it was during this process I kept hoping I’d, I don’t know, do it right. No, I can’t actually save anyone. But I’d read about Peter and the sermon in Acts and felt a little convicted that he could speak a paragraph and convert thousands.

This is where people remind me that Peter was the lead apostle. He was filled with the spirt. I understand my own human limitations, and I’m grateful that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The point is being raised in a life filled with false teachers, it’s hard not to wonder if my words are seen as more of the same.

I have a ways to go in this regard. I should have more trust that when I’m called, I’ll be filled with the spirt to say exactly what I need to say. Hearts can be hardened or changed only through God.

My talk with my sister ended well, and that would be the last positive phone call I’d have.

The next day, this same sister called in tears. She’s said something to one sibling, who then took that information to the rest of the family. For whatever reason, there were a lot of misunderstandings, and my sister felt a powerful degree of judgment and anger.

“There is no God!” she said. “Because if there was, he’d never do something like this to me.”

I’ll be honest. A lot of retorts came to my mind. But this was a person acting out of extreme grief, sadness, and betrayal.

Sure, Job remembered to glorify God (Job), and Christians should rejoice in their sufferings (Romans 5:3-5), but sometimes people make mistakes.

Peter, the leader of all the apostles, denied Christ three times.  “I do not know him!” (Matthew 26:74).

Rather that act defensively or argue, I focused on the fact that she was hurting.

I think a great many people, especially well meaning Christians, too often forget that our command is to love one another. Maybe they want to defend God, who, by the way, doesn’t need our protection. Maybe they want to bring people to God. Maybe they want to defend the Bible. Regardless of motivation, not once in the Bible (I know, I read the whole thing) did Jesus or any apostle ever respond to threats, persecution or even violence with anger or more violence (Ok, you may through Peter at me on the night Jesus was arrested, but please also remember that Jesus rebuked Peter for that act, therefore showing it as the wrong response). At most, you might be able to argue they used harsh words. But even those harsh words were said in love to help those see the wrong done (Acts 2:22), and those words were always balanced with mercy and the chance for forgiveness (Acts 2:38).

So I did something I’m not exactly that good at. I listened some more. I offered my condolences that things had gotten taken so out of context. I offered whatever help I could.

Then I gave what insight I felt was appropriate:

When people act out of emotion, there’s no foundation for what they do. I have my rule book (the Bible). Others might have other standards, but my point is, if one acts in accordance to what he believes is right, he should take heart in knowing he’s doing right, even if he suffers for it.

My sister was doing what she felt was right. So, I believe, was everyone in the family. I’m not equipped with the knowledge and understanding one would need to truly judge the hearts of anyone. My point here was that if one believes he’s doing what is right in accordance to his faith, then even when he’s persecuted for it, he should take comfort that he is doing what is right. People shouldn’t judge.  The shouldn’t lash out, but they do. We can’t stop people from doing these things, but we can control what we do, and how we respond.

It doesn’t in any way make suffering less painful. It doesn’t make suffering fun or easy. It just gives comfort.

This conversation molded into an opportunity to show support.

“I will never turn from you. I will always love you. I will always try, in accordance to what I believe is right, to support you. No matter who else might abandon you or hate you, I will love you.”

Isn’t that what Jesus did? Don’t misunderstand; there are those who denied (and continue to deny0 Christ. However, notice the same above, that even some of those who literally crucified Christ were saved. The repented and were baptized. Do some refuse to repent? Yes. Do some continue to deny? Yes. However, Jesus is always there for those who choose to come to him. Therefore, I will love and be there for any who seek me for love or comfort.

I’m not sure when I spoke to my father again. I’d resolved to call home more often. Rather than my usual once a week call, I just called as much as I could. At some point in that conversation, Dad made it a point to explain that my sister hadn’t been cut off or denied access to information. One of my other sisters explained that the rest of the family understood they didn’t have all the accurate information. This reconciliation would be critical for the next set of phone calls I’d receive.

 

 


Questions and Revelations

What did she do?

It doesn’t matter. She didn’t do the thing for which everyone got mad. The thing she did was done out of love and concern.

This is a failing of mine I struggle with, but I’m blessed with the revelation of that struggle that I might help others see it.

Too often, when we’re wronged, we feel defensive or angry. I’m of the opinion that one of the most common commands the Lord has given us that we ignore is to forgive because we were forgiven (Colossians 3:13).

I understand how it feels to be hurt, wronged, judged, persecuted, injured, insulted, and even abused. I can’t even say honestly I’ve forgiven all those who’ve done those things to me. My point isn’t, and has never been, to show how “right” I am. My point is to help you see I understand how it feels.

What I want people to know is to forgive someone is in itself the best way to feel better. Those whom I can’t forgive only build in me more resentment, which brings more anger, which causes me to resent those who commit smaller versions of the original transgression. This only makes me more angry and breeds only more resentment in me. Suddenly my heart is filled with that anger and resentment rather than the very love and mercy I want from God.

Pray for me. Pray that God help me find the forgiveness in my own heart that he and his son offered to the worthless sinner that I am.  Let me not focus on what others have done to me, but only on that which I can do to be better. Let me not count off the wrongs I deemed were done to me, but let them go as nothing, as the price Christ payed for my sins caused God to passover me.

While there were many hurt feelings and angry resentments, I’m grateful to God that he softened the hearts of my loved ones to strive always to seek reconciliation. I hope they see that. I smile when I think about how much they’re doing to look not at the transgressions, but to at least seek compassion if not the ultimate goal of forgiveness.

Did it feel weird talking about God that way?

Yes. It’s very easy for me to see just how hypocritical and annoying I could be. Three years ago I only would talk about what a terrible Christian I was and how I should want or try to be better.  Those were the extents and short durations of my testimony.

Now I’m pretty much talking about God every day, and quite often throughout each day.

What I want to focus on, however, is why. My heart is filled! Each time I see someone hurting I think, wow, God can help with that. How do I know, because I’m hurting, and God’s helping me.  Wow, God can help ease this frustration. How do I know, because I’m frustrated, and God’s helping me.

For those who don’t see me as much as others, this probably seems like a dramatic shift. It’s actually been just about three years in total since this journey began. I got tired of being a “bad” Christian. I wanted to understand more, so I started reading the Bible. I wanted to be encouraged, so I started watching sermons online. I wanted to show God I was committed to being better, so I started attending the church that streamed those sermons.

But I’ll confess I feel the most awkward speaking to my family about my faith because I’m quite aware of how we see what some call “organized religion.” Others might call it, “what those church people do.” I’m not honestly sure how others describe it, but I remember the pastor who’d block my path to tell me how I was bound for Hell.  I remember the story of how this other church sat my mom down and directed her to “get over” my bio-dad’s molestation of her daughter.

So every time I even talk about things, I feel this “ping” of, “Here it comes.”  To be clear, my family hasn’t shown me an ounce of resentment or anger when I talk about it. Some have asked respectfully that I don’t try to preach to them, but that’s it. I’m still of the opinion that the source of all that weirdness is that group of false teachers.

How do you react when you feel weird?

This is a spot of growth for me because I’m not quite sure what to do. When I don’t know what to do, I don’t do anything.

I’ve seen a person (not in my family) talk about how they don’t believe. If they’re aggressive in their comments (acting from anger or defensiveness), I don’t say anything. If they don’t want to hear about God, no amount of me talking will make them suddenly want to hear about  God. I don’t want to make God a point of argument or debate.

If I see that someone is curious or seeking opinions, then I speak, offering what I know and being honest when I don’t know.

This is how I’ve evolved from those aggressive false teachers in my life. If one doesn’t want to hear or can’t, no amount of screaming will make them hear. This doesn’t mean I’m not honest about my thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t mean I deny or try not to talk about God.  I simply try to just be me.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 24

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 24

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.

The Fateful Appointment

Being on the other side of a country from a loved one who’s sick is no fun. I’m three hours ahead (at the time of this writing), so I have to wait before I call. I went to work knowing that. I wasn’t at my best. I was distracted. I got pretty irritated with the most minor student issues. I don’t think I was horrifically off my game, but I found myself stepping out to pray or remind myself that I shouldn’t be focused on myself; rather, I should have been focused on God.

Those thoughts got me through the day. I hoped my mom went to her appointment and was willing to take on the next treatment and move forward.

She wasn’t.

I called my sister, but didn’t get an answer (she was dealing with the fallout).  I called around and eventually got ahold of my Dad.

“I suppose you know how that went,” he said.

That meant the news was already bad. One of the things our family was dealing with was conflict among family members. As I’ve said before, people were all processing, and sometimes those emotions caused disagreements. My dad’s answer meant the appointment didn’t go well, and that emotions were high.

I explained that he was the first person I’d managed to get ahold of. I already knew the appointment didn’t go as we’d hoped, but I had no idea how poorly it went.

Mom didn’t just walk into the hospital and say, “No thanks.” She was in pain, tired, and angry. I’m of the opinion the steroids didn’t help either. She lashed out. I wasn’t there, so I can’t go into much detail, but I know that she was visibly and physically acting out.

What made me feel a little better was that the hospital wasn’t quite giving up. With the most recent issue with my mom’s throat, it was expected that she just might not be physically up to going through treatments.

The new plan (which I always love) was that we’d let mom rest, get her some care, and, hopefully, she’d be willing to restart treatment in time.

I’m pretty sure Dad was driving mom home to Yuma during that conversation. Mom was asleep, so I said I’d try to call back later.

Later that day, my sister called. She’d decided to relinquish her role in the power of attorney form. She called to tell me that. We talked a bit more. I focused on trying to be encouraging.

To be honest, things looked dark. All I could really focus on was getting a chance to call and talk to my mom, which wouldn’t happen for a few more days.

 


Questions and Revelations

I thought you said God would fix it?

God isn’t a genie. He doesn’t grant wishes, and acts aren’t the cause of our salvation. Good acts are the fruit of our salvation and sanctified life, or at least they can be. This question is one I expect, but the better question would be, how did I respond to my fear? Besides, I still hoped God would bless my mom’s health.

The answer is I prayed. I pray every night before bed, and then I read the Bible before I close my eyes. I pray to God, and I ask him things. I confess to him my heart’s desires, but, since my greatest desire is truly to glorify him, I understand that he does what is in line for his great design, which no human can rightfully fathom. “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

I worked very hard to combat my fear with scripture. I failed miserably in that I never failed to fear or wonder if my mom would make it, but I succeeded in that I always remembered to turn to God’s word and glorify him.

I didn’t do this like some person in credit fraud trying to make some form of payment to appease a bank. I did it because I know that faith in God is always the answer.

I don’t think it’s the answer to wealth or human measurements of happiness.  I think it’s the answer to a contented heart.

This work, to remind myself to trust in God and seek his word for comfort, would be critical as this trial continued.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt