Retrospective on Normal vs. Transformed Life

April 29, 2014

Alene was my senior year roommate at Stanford, and our friendship has been renewed by visits in the last few years, most recently last summer in Bomet, Kenya, where she and Steve are missionaries. Alene & Steve BurgertThankful for the blessing of Internet contact, Facebook, and my Caring Bridge site chronicling medical adventures since my diagnosis, Alene and Steve have been keeping up with Naegeli news from afar.

Yesterday I received in the mail a hand-made card from Alene. It touched me very deeply and suggested the entry point for my next series of blogs. On the cover is a rather fanciful elephant—known, by the way, for its leisurely and silent tread across Africa’s plains and forests—and the caption:

“Hurry, hurry has no blessing. –African Proverb.”

Alene’s handwritten note reflects on this proverb, and its blessing should have a wider readership:

Dear Andy and Mary,
     Prayers continue for you both as you go forward on your healing journey. It must seem slow on some days, but the Lord takes us slowly so we don’t miss any of His blessings. He is not interested in “things getting back to normal,” but [on] how this stage of the journey can bring us closer to conforming to the image of his Son –> too fast and we forget or miss the lessons. May the Lord continue His perfect and “perfecting” work in you both, even as we are being shaped by His hand in Kenya.
     Our gratitude . . . In his love and fellowship, Alene and Steve

First of all, Alene and Dallas Willard are sympatico. Dallas was fond of insisting, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.”  This is one place where God had already been doing a thorough reformation within my soul.

Secondly, Alene fully appreciates the slow-motion existence of the healing journey, in waiting rooms, chemo chairs, family room recliner, and ICU (where time would fly much faster if they’d just let you sleep). Not to mention the monotonous routines for self-maintenance and pulmonary rehabilitation following surgery, which require slow, deep breathing and balance between getting sufficient air and exercise intensity.

My blogging since November 1 has expressed in slow-motion the unfolding story of God’s love for me through lung cancer, enriched friendships, unknowns, then knowns, victories and discouragements, the death of my mother. These topics have all been recorded here and allowed me to process what God was/is saying and doing within.

But now I have a milestone behind me, and it is time for a retrospective look at the broader picture. Yesterday was my last chemo treatment, done as a precaution after a very successful lung surgery eight weeks ago. From here on out, I am building up strength and stamina and setting what I hope will be a fairly uninterrupted trajectory toward new and renewed life goals. [More on those later—I’m going to keep you in suspense!]

It seems proper to look at what life held for me in the BC (before cancer) days in mid-August 2013[1] and see how life’s river has tumbled over rocks and logjams into the pool of New Life I now enjoy. I am still making choices between forks in the river, but doing so without hurry in order not to miss God’s blessing, Jesus’ voice, and the Holy Spirit’s power for the moment and for the future.

So thank you, Alene, for such a lovely note that got my mind and heart working in the same direction toward a future God would have for me. Thank you for the reminder that our goal is not “normal life” but “transformed life.” So the operating question for me is going to be What is the new normal for which God is doing a major re-routing and re-shaping within my soul and body?

Stay tuned! I will write this week as I can, while disturbed by a chemo-induced non- sleep pattern and the mundane challenges of physical recovery.

[1] I choose this time frame even though I am now pretty sure the lung tumor was forming as early as spring 2013—irrelevant for present purposes but interesting to note.



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