This Saturday, Dec. 4 marks the one-year anniversary of the 7-8 hour craniotomy that removed a malignant cancerous tumor from my brain and started a year of radiation, chemo and recovery. To say that we've been doing some reflecting as a family would be an understatement. So on the one-year anniversary here are a few random thoughts I've had:
He really is enough.
For years I have taught that simple sentence to people, and I believed with everything in me that it was true. Seeing it personally has been another story, like the difference between seeing a picture of the Grand Canyon and actually seeing it. I found out on Nov. 26 that I had a mass on my frontal lobe, on Tuesday Dec. 1 that I was going to need surgery soon and that the scans "didn't look good," and on Dec. 4 had a good portion of my right frontal lobe removed. I'll be honest, that season was terrifying, and we wept. I wept with Lauren, my friends, family members, partners in ministry and by myself. Leading up to the surgery if I saw one of my children, particularly my oldest daughter Audrey, it was a fight to hold myself together. Under all of that fear and all those tears there was this quiet confidence, this firm foundation, this unshakable promise, and we never lost it. The world would sink in the days and months to come but we continually found our footing in the truth that He is in control of all things and loves me deeply (Romans 8:28-39).
The only thing that matters is I am His.
If you ask people about me, depending on who they are, they will tell you I am a husband, father, preacher, leader, son, brother, friend, etc. When we were prepping for surgery, they went over this long list of things that were "possibilities." I could lose the ability to speak, walk and lose short-term or long-term memories. The list was much longer, but I think you get the point. I am primarily known as a pastor and preacher, but here's the truth that slammed into me when I was wrestling with God over this surgery. One day I am not going to preach or pastor; one day I am not going to be Lauren's husband or my kid's father. All the things that define me here will be gone, and I will simply be His. I'm still meditating on that. That's all I really amHis. Now, while He gives me breath there are sermons to preach and people to shepherd, children to impart the glory of God to and an extremely beautiful wife to love. All these things are shadows of a greater reality. (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 2:17)
If it's not by grace alone, I'm in a lot of trouble.
Jonathan Edwards was right to resolve, "to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death." The thought of dying, though repulsive to most of us, brings an uncanny clarity to life. I was told in mid-December that what I had was fatal and that the average lifespan was 2-3 years after diagnosis. So I have at max, 2 years left (I want to quote Twain here on statistics but don't want to answer the e-mails and complaints in the comment section I would get). When you hear that kind of news, you do some real soul searching and here is something disturbing I found out about me. I don't trust all my motivations in ministry. Now don't get me wrong. I deeply, deeply love the God of the Bible. I love to proclaim Him and think about Him and talk about Him to anyone who'll listen, but I learned in college that when I do that, good things happen and by good things I mean good things for me. People want to hear me teach; they pay me money. I'm actually "famous" in some circles. What a dangerous culture we live in. In some places being used powerfully by God can get you killed and here it makes you "famous." Hear me confess this. I like it. I like that people download me, watch videos of me, want my take on things and I believe that there is a part of me (that's hopefully dying) that likes it not just because it makes much of Jesus but makes much of me. That is an embarrassing truth about me, and I have fasted and prayed that God would put it to death. So to quote Lecrae "If Heaven ain't a gift then I ain't getting in."
I suck at praying.
I didn't think I did before this. I thought it was a strength, but I was wrong. When you realize that all you are is His, you realize or at least I did, that I don't stay connected to Him as I have been commanded to. I would spend some time praying in the morning, but my life wasn't saturated in it. I lived like I put my time in and now I can handle this. So again, I confess that I went into hundreds of meetings over my first seven years as pastor of The Village without asking for direction and wisdom, without asking for power and clarity. Although I knew I wasn't wise enough, experienced enough or seasoned enough, I went and tried to be what they needed. I have grown exponentially in this area this year and I'm hoping that when I'm done with my race, I would be known not just as a faithful preacher of God's Word but a man who communed with his Father without ceasing.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
If God grants me another 100 years, I couldn't begin to thank all of you who have prayed, encouraged, sent me cards, letters, books, money, prayer blankets (BTW I sat under everyone of those blankets and received your prayers in Jesus' name), pictures, paintings and poems. Things came in from all over the world, and the entire Chandler family felt the tangible love of God made visible through His saints.If I kept going this would be too long to be considered a blog so I'll stop here for now and write some more next week — including one of the biggest, most painful lessons I've learned.
Christ's blessing to you all