Friday, August 8, 2008

Going Into Battle Alone

I've often wondered and commented at the amazing support we've received over the past year-- from family, friends, complete strangers. The most astonishing support-- what surprised me the most, which we did not expect to carry us as strongly as it has-- is that of the Church... Not just our little congregation, but The Body of believers. This greater Community.

Indeed, there've been moments where we've physically felt the prayers of "brothers and sisters" going before God, interceding on our behalf. It's a strange feeling-- when the cold of emptiness and hopelessness suddenly, and for no other apparent reason, melts and warms into hope and strength. I know that there is NO WAY Leslie could have fought with the "Will and Peace" that she had to the end-- and no way I'd be here as I am today-- if not for the prayers and support of our "family"-- this beautiful (though often broken) community.

And I could write chapters on all the gestures, gifts, meals, notes, "good deeds", etc... that got us through so many tough times during the battle.

Simply put, this has been a battle that one person or even one core family is not able or otherwise supposed to fight alone. It takes an army to defeat the enemy.

And the battle wages on, in these new chapters... Herein lies my humbling struggle.

I have a very dear friend whose own journey in many ways puts my own to shame, in terms of the depth and span of suffering a single human being is able to endure over time, and still look to God and give Him glory. So when he has a word of encouragement or a "pearl of wisdom" for me, I'm all ears, with an open heart and open mind. He pulled me aside, last October, and had a very important conversation with me. Leslie's tumor had just been diagnosed as cancer, and we were preparing ourselves "for battle", as we say. This friend and is wife (and their own 3-year-old) took us out to dinner. He pulled me aside and-- not being extremely experienced with "the gift of prophecy"-- very carefully and compassionately (and confidently) unloaded this nugget onto me:

He had this dream-- this vision, maybe... that seemed to be recurring. In it, I was standing at the top of a hill, armed and ready for battle. All the gear-- the shield, the sword. Something out of Braveheart, or something like that. I was just staring down into the hoards of the enemy armies that awaited me at the bottom of the hill. I prayed for strength. My nostrils flared, my heart rate and adrenaline got pumping... and with a scream I rushed down the hill, flashing my sword, to do my battle with the enemy.

If only I'd waited just a few more minutes... Coming up the back side of the hill behind me was God's army-- of which my friend who was sharing this was a member. They were coming to my aid... to be led by me, support me in my battle. They got to the top of the hill where I had been standing just in time to see the ugliness and brutality of my demise. A slaughter. Sure, I did more than my share of damage-- I'd like to proudly suggest I had the strength and ferocity of 10 men. 100 men. But the enemy's numbers were in the thousands. It was truly no match. A slaughter. And the army that was sent to be my support could only stand back at the top of the hill and watch. I didn't let them share in the battle with me. And the damage it did was not only my own, but also theirs-- having to watch me be overcome by the enemy.

This was poignant, at the time. And certainly, the imagery and my friend's words echoed through my mind DAILY, throughout the months that have brought us to now. God knows me, and knows I'm just thick-headed and strong-willed enough, (indeed, both Leslie and I had that in common, going into this), that I needed some extra encouragement to simply ALLOW those around me to LOVE me. To support us. To help. It is with this image in my head that, every time someone makes a generous offer or gesture, I humbly accept. First, it is good for the heart of the giver... But also, I've learned, I DO need it.

And as I started to mention earlier... I'm going to need the support even more in these coming chapters... and it will be even more of a struggle to learn to accept it.

When a family is fighting cancer, everyone knows it can't go on forever. You live day-to-day life kind of in "crisis mode". You're doing what you need to do in order to survive the day. It's easier accepting help, sympathy, support, and prayers of others when there is the mutual understanding that the need is not indefinite. There IS a foreseeable end to the fight in the near future-- as scary as it is. However, in these months and years that lie before TJ and me, I will need to learn to allow this beautiful Community "IN" to my LIFE... not just my crisis. I simply cannot be the father I want to be, the employee I want to be, the manager I want to be, the contributing member to church and society, the child of God, yada-yada-yada... I can't do these things without Leslie. I can't do these things without help. I so want to. But my ego (praise God) has been beaten down to size over the year, and now I recognize that I need the support of the "Hands" of God (His Body, His Church, His Community) to just get me and TJ through day-to-day. Maybe that means I need to let someone else mow my lawn when I'm away. (NO! NOT MY LAWN!!) (--sorry, that's been one of my "outlets" and "projects" since we moved into our new house, exactly 1 month before Leslie was first diagnosed). Maybe I need to keep accepting a meal from a friend when it's offered. Maybe I have to let somebody other than Leslie or me "parent" TJ. Maybe I kindly accept the spiritual and emotional support and comfort of a friend, when my masculinity (or Western understanding thereof) urges me to make a joke and pretend everything's alright.

Leslie won her battle. But as I mentioned... this is a "war" of many battles. And I'm realizing that mine is just beginning. And as much as I hate to admit it, as much as our culture preaches individuality and doing it "my own way"... I can't do it alone. That's what this blog is about, really. Sharing it. Not just "venting", but allowing this community to participate.

(Have I thanked you all for your shields, swords, and strength lately? Hmmm... well... I will.)

12 comments:

Harmony Beck said...

We'll be here...prepared to fight right next to you...fully knowing we ALL on God's side.

Love & Prayers,

~Shawn & Harmony

Kim said...

I'm sure I speak for many of us that we are proud to be part of your army. And I always wonder about those out there that are struggling that don't have that army - or the faith that one exisits to help them through it.

Carrie S said...

Tyson,
Your faith that is continually growing and learning from others is so inspiring.
What you have typed reminded me of the Steven Curtis Chapman family interview last night on Larry King. They were continuously asked if they lost faith, do they blame God, and etc. And they said no and also thanked the so many who have supported them, that they too, do not even know, in the most heartbreaking moment of their lives; losing their 5 year old daughter in a tragic accident. It was a wonderful testimonial they gave, as you are as well. The greatest God part of their story, their daughter drawing a flower with six petals (they have 6 kids) and one petal being colored in, and on that same paper writing for the first time a word she had never written which was SEE. The colored in petal was her, and she was saying see I am whole now and ok. She drew this the morning of the day she passed. How awesome is God for that.
I continue to pray and ask God to give you strength in all the newness of your life here on earth without your precious Leslie.
Carrie

trena said...

Tyson,

Always remember that God never intended us to "go at it alone". Not even in our greatest triumphs did he ever intend that. Please know that you have a million warriors standing beside you during your times of need and beyond. Blessing to you and TJ as you continue on this journey.

Anonymous said...

Your story is a true testament about faith, love and courage. Your strength and determination to move forward with love and courage for yourself and TJ are examples of God's loving hands holding you up to the love that surrounds you. It is very inspiring that you continue to touch so many hearts along your journey. I hope you continue to find comfort from all of us that pray for you and TJ. It proves you don't have to know someone personally to care and pray for them. May God continue to bless you both as you continue your journey together.

Anonymous said...

Tyson,
Just want to share with you the passage the Lord keeps putting on my heart and that I keep praying for you.
I have summoned you by name; you are mine Tyson. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the fire, you will not be burned. And when Tyson emerges from these trials, LORD let Tyson know that YOU are the LORD, that YOU are his God, that YOU are the Holy One of Israel, and that YOU are his Savior. Is. 43:1-3

Seeking HIM First,
Psalm 1:3

Brittany said...

Tyson - Thank for continuing to share. We will continue to pray. You are not alone, though I can only imagine how it feels that way often.

Jenni said...

tyson,

we are praying for you and thinking of you and TJ many times throughout the day. Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts with your online "family" and prayer warriors. You have touched many hearts and glorified God in the process.

TJ is SO blessed to have had a mother and a father who love Jesus SO much. I can only imagine that one day, when he is a little bit older, he will sit down and read Leslie's journey-- your journey-- and grow closer to Jesus through it.

Auntie Gayle said...

Hi, Ty, thanks for who YOU are! We love you and we are here for you----all the time---praying and available to help in any way! Auntie Gayle

MJLRosebrook said...

Hey Tyson,
I hope you are enjoying your time away! I'm glad you know you are never alone! You, Tj, and Leslie will always have a place in my heart! We think of you so much and pray for you often. I'm sure this next chapter of your life will not be without struggle but it's comforting to see how you and Tj are finding your way. As I have seen first hand you have an amazing family that is going to help see you through this. We look forward to seeing you in Archbold in a few weeks. Take care.
Jess

Anne said...

A song we sang at church this morning comes to mind as I read your blog tonight.
"Hear me, O Lord, hear me when I cry
Lord, do not hide your face from me
You have been my help, you have been my shield
And you will lift me up."
One of the ways He lifts us up is through His Body on earth.
"But Moses' hands became heavy so....Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side; and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun." Exodus 17:12
Bless you Tyson,
Anne (a friend of Auntie Gayle)

Anonymous said...

Tyson,
Thank you so much for continuing the blog. Leslie's struggle, your struggle, your grappling with faith and hope and acceptance of God's will... all of this has given countless people a broader context for their own lives... a vision of the hope of eternity that is at once real and immediate, and mysterious and beyond the bounds of our temporal world. Leslie understands all this now in a way that we can't. But we can each open the eyes and ears of our hearts to catch that occasional flash of color, that strain of music, that draw us forward with hints of what we hope for but cannot yet see. Your blog has been a little window that opens onto eternity, letting through some wisps of the unknowable, tantalizing and pure. It is only by the hand of an all powerful and loving God that what we can only see as a tragic loss from this side of eternity could move mightily in the hardened hearts of men. Softer hearts now, a little less blind. May God bless you and TJ tenderly each day.