My blog has been relatively quiet lately, but I intend to pick up the pace a bit because I have a new edge.
Up till now I’ve had a few reliable reasons to write. When I was a lecturer training pastors, there were frequent stimulating questions and conversations; as I moved back into church leadership there has been the interesting interface between theory and reality; I have always enjoyed reading and reviewing books; and, above all, there is the wonderful treasure of knowing God through his Word, and helping others to know him too.
But this year, life took a different turn, and it’s going to give the blog a slightly different flavour for a while.
Almost exactly a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. It was serious, but operable, and there was laid out for me the prospect of a brutal year of treatment, but with a strong likelihood of the problem being sorted at the end of it. There was no other route to health available.
It was a huge jolt. I’m married to a wonderful woman, with great teenage boys, and was not yet a year into a new ministry in a church which I enjoyed (and I still do!). 2015 was going to be a big year for me, with a major (hah!) book coming out, and I had been building up a head of steam on my blog which I had hoped was going to carry it through to some solid sales. (In Christian publishing, ‘solid sales’ is a phrase that is code for ‘double figures.’) The church leadership were pulling together on a five-year plan, I had settled into my new role and was starting to lose my new-boy shine. All of that collapsed when I was told I had to pull out of preaching at one of our biggest Carol services.
I haven’t spent the last year processing every hospital visit and chemo dose in public. Frankly, going through it with the church felt quite public enough, and I’m old school enough to think that, for all the great advantages of social media, some things are best left in private.
But as I’ve laid in a hospital bed, or sped through London in an ambulance, or let people down with speaking engagements, or felt so weak I could not stand, and it took an hour to wash and shave, I have been learning lessons I could not have learnt in any other way.
Not that I have learnt those lessons, of course. But I thought that if I began to process them out loud, here, it might help me to clarify them, and might help others who are facing the year I have just had, and worse.
I’m not going be medically specific at all, so relax. I have been quite reticent about the kind of cancer I’ve had – not because it is embarrassing, but because when you Google it, it’s very alarming. It’s the kind of cancer which grows, unnoticed and without symptoms, until it has spread and it’s too late – it has a low survival rate. God was very kind to me, because mine was picked up on a routine monitoring of a related problem, long before we knew there was an issue. I intend to maintain that reticence, and keep the actual operations and treatment out of sight.
You also need to know that, as far as we can tell, everything has gone really well.
But, as I prepare to preach at the Carol services this year, I’m leading and preaching from another place. Not different, because my Christian faith has not been rocked at all by the last year. A Christian faith which is disturbed by a brush with mortality probably needed a reality check. No, not different, but somehow a little bit deeper, and with some firmer convictions, and some fresh insights.
I hope you enjoy the journey.