“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” (1 Peter 5:2)
As a pastor for 18 years, I wanted desperately to be a faithful shepherd of God’s flock. I studied hard to teach and preach. I visited members and prospects. My goal was to be available for every funeral, wedding, or baptism. When necessary, I skipped days off and rearranged vacations. For the average pastor, none of those pursuits is particularly noble. They simply come with the territory for those who are privileged to hear and answer God’s call.
Yet, I feel the need to apologize. I need to apologize to every cancer patient to whom I ever ministered. I had no idea of the roller coaster of emotions, the difficulty of waiting for test results or the next treatment plan. I made my visits, held your hand, tried to speak words of encouragement, and prayed for you. But I didn’t have a clue. I couldn’t comprehend the uncertainty that almost always surrounded you. I somehow missed the unique impact of the journey through the valley of cancer. Please forgive me.
Even now, I can’t claim to really understand. My wife has cancer, not me. But, according to Ephesians 5, the two are one. While that truth is more spiritual than physical, I do feel her diagnosis more than I felt the diagnoses of those who called me “Pastor.” Yet, for the most part, I’m still clueless.
Michelle and I thought a clean report on her lymph nodes would mean our journey in the world of pink ribbons would be short lived. We were wrong. A flip of the coin summarizes the situation. A fast growing, large tumor, though surgically removed and seemingly contained, is just as likely as not to result in an incurable cancer in the bones, brain, or lungs. “An aggressive cancer necessitates aggressive treatment,” we were told by one doctor. Others agreed. So here we go.
As Michelle braces for five months of intensive chemotherapy, I am asking God to sustain her (Psalm 3:5). I am praying I can be the pastor in our home she needs and the husband at her side she deserves. Neither of us feels ready for this. But those who have gone before us are an encouragement. All who pray for us are a blessing. Above everything, God’s promises are dearer to us than ever before.
“Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.” (Psalm 66:8-9)