They said I would die within five years. But today, January 28, seven years to the day after I came out of transplant surgery, I am not dead.
I had a malignant tumor in my liver that had been developing for years--during backpacks, graduate work, ... who knows how long? But six months before that diagnosis of hepatocellular cancer, when my wife Calder took the picture of me, our four legged daughters, and the playa lake in front of our house, I had no idea. I didn't know then that, if ever I were going to do so, it was time to live fully.
Of course we don't usually know that today is the day to live, to listen to our lives as Fred Buechner says, to love with all our hearts, to grow up into Christ. We usually think that's something we can get around to tomorrow.
But, thanks to a diagnosis of cancer, I began to hear a Word: "This is the day that the Lord has made" (Ps 118:24). God began--by His grace through that August 13, 2010 diagnostic word of foreboding--God began to teach me so to number my days that I might begin to get at least a smidgen of the wisdom to wake up and listen, learn, live, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, to love myself, to love life, to love the wonderful family and friends and strangers that surround me every rich and wonderful day. And so it was that...
Then I rose.
Then I began to rise up in Christ and things started to get a bit of the freshness and delicate beauty of the first light of day. Old things were passed away; things started to become new (cf. 2 Cor 5:17)..
And they still are becoming new. I am beginning to see the gift of this brief life. Like when my sister died last year, when my brother in law died a few years ago, when our beloved German Shepherd Laurel died a while back. Or when richly blessed by the adoption of our frisky little Charlie, when God created a once in a lifetime friendship, when my book was published, when I saw...really saw my wife in all her beauty, when I was given an opportunity to serve the uniquely wonderful New Home United Methodist Church. These losses and gains say it again and again: "This is the day that the Lord has made" (Ps. 118:24).
And today I hope to rise up again to live in Christ. I hope today that, in spite of all my sin that lurks so ready to pull me back to complacent belief that life can wait, I hope that I shall this day live fully the gift I am given. We are all given.
I often sit alone in the quiet before bed and wonder. Would I have begun to come alive, would I have journeyed toward rising to newness of life and love in Christ had I not been so near death? Probably not.
And so I share the story, in this most personal of my blogs, to offer a simple invitation to all of us, to myself as well as to you: let's come alive in Christ, with our body and soul, with our dogs and cats, with our work and play, with our church and solitude, with our family and friends, with our food and drink, with our lives in all their fullness and poverty, let's come alive in Christ. Let's come alive to the gift of each new day. If we do, if we accept the invitation to live this day as an immeasurably beautiful gift, if in spite of whatever deprivation or sin or conflicts or fightings within and wars without that assail our days and nights, if in spite of all the pain we often know, if even in all that we can commit to living this day as a gift then we can say, then we all can say of this morning,
"Then I rose."