When I was younger, in my teens, I did a lot of concert work. Lights, sound, video… anything I could convince the people in charge I was able to do. It usually ended up being lights, in particular the moving variety as they were a new technology at the time and not many people in my town knew how to use them effectively. I talked it up a lot but I delivered impressive results….. a facet of my personality that hasn’t really changed to this day.
One night in particular is still clear in my memory. It was at a church (now named Riverview) in my home town of Perth, Western Australia and a singer named Chris Falson was there doing his thing. I’ll always remember the Vox AC-30 amp he played through that night… it was a hippie nightmare, all colourful and flowery. A custom paint job that would have looked more at home on a Kombi van from the 1960’s than a vintage guitar amp. It was one of many shows we did around that time but it was the night the penny dropped for me and I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. For the first time ever I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears the very same sights and sounds that played out in my heart, night after night in my dreams. There was a very tangible presence of God in the room, that warm blanket I know so well, but what struck me most was the strength, the force of the delivery. Chris and the band absolutely hammered their instruments that night and showed me that you didn’t have to play delicately or softly just because you were in church.
Looking back I see a lot of that night in my own guitar playing and even in my overall attitude towards what I do in general. At a time when a lot of people were still saying rock music didn’t belong in church, Chris and his contemporaries cut their own path. When people would criticise or castigate they would simply turn it up to eleven, set their gaze towards heaven, and keep on playing… knowing all the while that’s what they were born to do.
18 years on from that night I find one of Chris’s song floating through my head as I lay in bed trying to sleep, night after night. In the stillness that envelopes my world between 2 and 4 am, with the sound of the waves crashing a few hundred meters down the road at South Curl Curl beach, the words and melody of the chorus play out, over and over…Can you go the distance, make it across that line? Or are you growing weary with all the people watching you? Can you go the distance…. make it to the end? And write your name in glory.
After ten rounds, five months, of Cytotoxic infusions I have to tell you, I’m getting pretty weary. My body is coping remarkably well under the circumstances. I’m strong. Stronger than I ever thought I could be, but the side effects I’m experiencing, though minimal, are uncomfortable. My chemotherapy is like a carpet bombing. Indiscriminate and totally destructive. Everything gets killed, even the good stuff. The term ‘collateral damage’ has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
And I’m tired. Just… really tired.
I wonder how long this season will last.
How long is the road ahead?
I know there’s an end to it all somewhere but between here and there are mountains and valleys and winding roads and corners that I can’t see around. Not only do I walk the road but my wife and children walk it too. Mentally I am always aware of their own struggles in all of this and I try to protect them from as much as I can. In guarding my own mind against fear and doubt I’m also protecting them. I’m the head of our house… the gatekeeper. If something comes in and attacks my family it is only because I have failed to keep it out.
I think more than the physical aspect of my treatment, it’s the mental side that is the most tiring. Mentally I’m always on edge. I constantly think about my blood results, my CEA markers, the calender, what day it is (I struggle to remember), when is my next infusion, how long have I been hooked up, how long do I have left before disconnect. It’s chaos.
And always in the back of my mind is the thought “what if…?”
What if I don’t make it?
What if I croak and let everybody down?
Some might say that’s not having faith, that I shouldn’t think that kind of thing. I don’t know… I’m a human being and my mortality is something that I have become acutely aware of. Ignoring the medical point of view as presented by my Oncologist is not exercising faith, it’s being irresponsible. Exercising faith would be trusting God’s promises even when the statistics lean in the cancer’s favour. I tend to believe that faith is not psyching yourself up or the power of positive suggestion. I tend to see it as something far deeper and far less tangible, something not of the mind but of the soul. That place inside you that you know exists but you can’t quite put your finger on. I feel like faith comes from my belly, not my head. It’s something planted deep within me and it has deep roots. So when my humanity kicks in and I worry that maybe I won’t be able to go the distance, my faith is there to reassure me that not only will I go the distance but I will do it well. I won’t limp over the finish line…. I will finish strong. And since my diagnosis my faith has ruled over my humanity. A gift I sorely needed and gratefully receive.
I’m not going anywhere. Cancer has been issued an eviction notice. Sure, it might protest, drag things out, appeal the ruling…. but ultimately it comes down to one thing…. I am not my own, I have been bought with a price. It was a heavy price but it secured my redemption, my salvation, my life….. and my health. When the soldiers drove the nails into the hands of my Saviour on a hill in Jerusalem all those years ago, they weren’t just hammering iron into wood, through flesh. They were nailing my cancer to that piece of wood too. That’s why Jesus did it.
Isaiah 53 (The Message) says:
“He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
7-9He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
10Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.”
So when this cancer stands before Heaven and screams that it has a right to be here, Jesus stands up and bears witness to the fact that the cancer is mistaken and that, in fact, He took the cancer onto Himself when he died and rose again, thus defeating sickness once and for all. The deal was done over 2,000 years ago and it can’t be undone.
Revelation 1:17-18 (The Message) says:Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates.
And so it is… cancer is finished, locked up, jailed.
That is faith.
When the doctors say it’s spread from the bowel to the liver, when they say an operation is not possible yet, when my scans still show tumours present after 5 months of brutal treatment…. I can still lift my head and say: ‘Yes, I see the realities of my illness. You’re the mechanics but I know the manufacturer.”
Psalm 91:14-16 says:
14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
I have cancer in my body but I have promises in my heart.
You will see me go the distance and you will see me write my name in glory. You just watch.
Not by my hand, but by His.