Prescott Valley, Arizona
It was September of 2004. I had just been given notice that my job of almost 15 years had just been shutdown and along with 300 other personal, I was out of a job. It was only four more months and then I would retire. And I found myself sitting next to my wife in an Oncologist’s office in Castro Valley, California. The term, oncology was no stranger to my thoughts, however it was not a term that I was used to using for describing my health problems…the doctor came in and sat down and began by stating, ”I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news: you’ve got Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). The good news, it is the slow growing kind and you probably have 5-7 years before you’ll have to take action.” (Eight months later, I would find out that I was in the fourth and last stage of CLL.)
As the news sunk in, I buried my head in my hands, with my eyes closed, and I mentally saw two white clothed arms reach down and with two large hands grasp an hourglass and turn it over for – what seemed to me – to be the last time. I whispered a short prayer asking the Lord: In the time left, what can I do of significance for you? In this exchange with my Lord, I was, and still am, amazed at the calmness that I experienced when I received the news.
This new reality had me reflecting on my life experiences. I was taken from my birth family at the age of 2 ½ years, shortly after my mother had passed away giving birth to her eleventh child. The ensuing years would be filled with verbal and physical abuse. I longed for my birth mother, often crying myself to sleep as sounds of arguing filtered through my bedroom door. Often, there was public embarrassment by my adoptive father and overt criticism of my lack of capacity for achieving good grades in school. I would hear phrases such as, “You dumb bunny, why can’t you be smart like your friends, you will never amount to anything or; I’m embarrassed for you”. These phrases burned deep in my mind. I tried hard to please my parents but each time I was met with, “You can do better than that!” I never heard a “great job” or “we are so proud of you” or for that matter, “we love you”.
This was the past that I struggled with. How do I understand what love and acceptance is? I understood that God was a loving Father, yet I had no earthly example of that love.
It was during the last days of my chemo treatments when I met a facilitator with a group called Healing the Wounded Person (HWP). In this group, the facilitator encouraged me to address the issues relating to my adoptive father. I was encouraged to write my father a letter-even though he was dead as a result of suicide. I struggled for several days. As I was finishing up the letter, a realization struck me; my adoptive parents had stolen the joy of my Salvation and Christian living.
At the end of the HWP I was given a book titled TrueFaced. I found enough energy while still in last days of chemo, to open the book and read. There was so much to absorb that I had to put the book down and work through what I had read. When I read about trusting God instead of pleasing God, tears rolled down my face. I knew that I had masks, created by the past, and I was tired and desperately wanted to be free of trying to please God and everyone else. A burden was lifted from my shoulders that day. The room of grace is now my new abiding place and oh what joy it is to be there.