As I lifted my head from the arm chair, I couldn't decide what hurt worse, the crick in my neck from sleeping sideways, or the pounding in my head from the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed a few hours earlier. As I tried to recall what events preceded my awkward rest, bigger and more troubling questions started to surface. Questions like, "What I am doing with my life, where am I headed, and why am I so unhappy?" Just a few months earlier I left home to start my studies at the university, full of hope and high expectations.
I was known in my family as "Little Miss Sunshine," and my friends called me "Goodie Two Shoes" but I knew I wasn't perfect.
My family didn't go to church when I was young, but at age 5 I started going with my neighbor. I learned about God, Heaven, Jesus, and that Jesus died to forgive my sins so I could go to go to heaven when I died. I wanted to go to Heaven but I didn't understand how.
"And it's hard to say who you are these days-but you run on anyway
You keep running for another place to find that saving grace..."
Tom Petty, "Saving Grace"
Even though an American rock and roll star wrote this song in 2005, it describes me perfectly in 1982. I was in high school then in Kansas City. My life was what every teenager of the 80s desired: I had my drinking buddies, a girlfriend, and I was even captain of the track team. The gods of high school smiled upon me.
Have you ever read Jesus' advice on real estate? They say that the three rules of real estate investment are: location, loation, location. This isn't new. Jesus told a story about two men who built houses. One built on sand, probably waterfront property. The other guy built on rock, that was me.
Once again I was in darkness. My twin brother with whom I shared a room always fell asleep quickly. I enjoyed wrestling with him during the day, but I dreaded the wrestling match I faced each night. Out of the darkness imposing thoughts seized me like, "What would happen if I were to die tonight?" I didn't want to die, but it was the uncertainty of what followed death that really terrified me. In the morning after a particularly long night of struggling to fall asleep, I approached my mother in the kitchen.
The look on my husband's face confirmed our desperate plight. He was using all of his strength to steer the boat upright & to keep us alive. He cried out, "Oh Lord, SAVE US, PLEASE, SAVE US!"
My Mom was the daughter of an itinerate preacher. She saw to it that my brother and I attended church every Sunday, beginning at a very young age. However, as I grew older, I drifted away from the teachings of my youth only to make a lot of mistakes.
But God wasn't through with me yet. It was many years later as I waited for my daughter at a bus stop that a little old woman with a kind face asked me, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?"
I always seemed to have everything I wanted, BUT was never satisfied! In High School I was an officer in my sorority, on the Homecoming Queen's Court and enjoying life, but something was missing. I was heavily involved in my church yet, again, felt something lacking! I went on to Michigan State University and found myself with thousands of students from different backgrounds and religions. Which was right? During my junior year I was contacted by an acquaintance of a friend.
I grew up feeling insecure and afraid. My father was either away from home or drunk. My mother was also usually gone. She had to work long hours to make enough money to take care of four children and pay the rent. I often feared that something horrible might happen to my parents and that I would be left alone. I wanted to be sure that I was a good child so that they would not leave me. I wanted everyone to think that I was a good boy and worth loving.
After a long pause on the telephone, the nurse finally said, "I will need to have the doctor call you back in a few minutes with the biopsy results."
I knew by her response that I did have cancer and that my life would be now going in a completely different direction than I had planned. It happened in a moment.