“Don’t go where I can’t follow you!” Sam Gamgee to Frodo
I have been trying to keep up for so long, running alongside, hunting for the words of encouragement, squinting into the darkness for the right path to take, anticipating your needs, trying to stop you slipping or falling over obstacles. Suddenly you put on a spurt and disappear into the gloom. As I try to catch up I find myself at the edge of a cliff, wobbling for a moment trying to balance, then falling backwards onto the hard ground. Mocking voices fill the wind and the chill air swirls around me in a cloud. I am alone and you are gone – over the edge where I cannot follow. Both fear and prudence hold me back: I am left empty and powerless, paralysed and abandoned. You have chosen a path I cannot walk: I have reached my limit.
Oooh dear, that all sounds a bit melodramatic, doesn’t it? But I don’t know how else to describe the tearing as I am forced to let go. I have been brought quite close to the edge in the past, but have always found the grace to keep walking alongside – not always holding hands, but near enough to prompt and advise. Suddenly I have found myself completely at a loss, unable to agree, unwilling to compromise, at a boundary that cannot be moved, non-negotiable.
Sam wants to try ‘everything’ – and no-one can blame him. Conventional medicine has nothing more to offer him, since the radiotherapy, than some rather nasty chemo that would make him miserable and achieve little. In his search for a way out of the path to certain death he has already caused his father agonies using the kind of alternative and dietary ‘treatments’ that Martin has seen used to no avail in his cancer patients. They are sold by private ‘clinics’ and ‘therapists’ on the internet, with promises of cure for the incurable and ‘testimonies’ to back them up – so how can one point out that the lack of scientific testing probably means that paying hundreds of dollars for herbs, vitamins and diet sheets may not actually be of much help against a nasty cancerous growth? Hope comes in many forms: smile and nod.
We, his parents, put our trust in God: though we do not understand why these things happen, we believe the Lord is completely good and He is with and for us. He promises to turn all our pain for good in the end. Our theology of suffering is being formed by our journey as we refuse to deny what the gospels say, the balance of Scripture, and the evidence around us in the world. Despite disappointment with the way healing prayer has often been conducted in the past, we are praying for healing… after all, Jesus told us to ask, seek and knock. I can’t claim to understand it all, nor would I ever dare to judge whether some one who did not get healed just ‘didn’t have enough faith’… all I know is that our lives are in the hands of a loving Father. Physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to someone – ha! it happens to everyone! – and Jesus told us to lose our lives in order to find them. That’s what He did.
A few weeks ago Sam experienced supernatural power as he was prayed for by a Christian minister: “Jesus Christ makes you whole” (Acts 9v34) – he felt intense heat in his tumour area and fell down backwards on the floor: “I had to lie down for 3 minutes”. Afterwards his testimony was that he didn’t know if he was healed, but one thing he does now know is that the supernatural is REAL! Experience is the best teacher…
Soon after that he had a few sleepless nights because of tremors and jerks in his arms and legs that kept waking him up: he was miserable. Sleeping tablets have overcome that problem, but of course this sign of symptoms, however minor, was a ripple in our pool, a reminder that this tumour is still there. After a few days of misery he sprung back onto the offensive. Doing something to counteract the threat at least gives a sense of control and direction… we can’t blame him for that. So we learnt how to send a moneygram off to get more hemp oil. And then he told me he was starting a special 30 day detox diet of carrot juice, salads and tinctures: “here Mum look at this book and you will see what I am doing.” It seems that a parcel that had arrived for him by Fed Ex contained the volume ‘There are no Incurable Diseases’. Here we go again…
Is it denial? No! These people claim to have evidence that their programs work (and I use the American spelling deliberately). Apparently the scientific community is the one at fault for refusing to countenance such charlatans… Apparently 3 degrees Martin trained by the ‘establishment’ is the one at fault. Yes I am angry: have these guys heard of a millstone being put round their necks and being cast into the sea for causing little ones to stumble?! I am all for ‘experimental treatments’ and glad of those who survive against the odds – but where is the limit? Is cost the limit? Is there a moral boundary? Is it even possible to look at all these approaches objectively? That is what science claims to do, yet Sam is already biased against the conventional methods (because of the nasty side-effects) and is more than willing to believe things that we are not… Looking back at the un-edited version of In his own words you can’t miss his politicised approach to drug companies and government, as if the powers that be don’t really want to see cancer cured!
The big issue for me is always ‘doing the right thing’. I am not sure that is particularly Christian: yes, God’s righteousness is really important ‘we must fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3v15) – but it is more to do with my personality type. I like to feel in control and have had a moral code in place from childhood to measure myself and everyone else by. One day I might blog on the Enneagram: I am a One 😉 Graham Cooke used to call it ‘your ruling passion’. Clearly it is best when the ‘right thing’ is God’s right thing, but we all know that Christians disagree about that a lot: thats why Paul told us to be careful around ‘brothers of weaker conscience’ (1 Corinthians 10v28-33). I usually manage OK if I can find a place of peace about what is happening – and love is the great over-rider… so I have adapted to the Budwig diet and Sam’s chosen sedentary lifestyle, for his sake, not mine.
But now he is going a step further: he also wants to pay a lot of money to visit an ‘energy healer’ who is visiting London in February. What to do when you look into the barrel of grace and it is empty? I cannot go with that. I say, “Why can’t you wait until we go to Bethel in California next year for the real thing?” He says “This IS the real thing!” I say there is a third of the spiritual world that is not under Jesus’ Lordship and it is not wise or safe to dabble with that – but for him if it might work he doesn’t care: the end justifies the means.
There is nothing I can do. We have known the grace of God for each step of this journey and I don’t doubt that is still there… but for me it is not in this direction. I feel like the father releasing the prodigal son to his own choices and then just waiting for him to return; I cannot control or demand – he is a man. I am sad, gutted – but still trusting that God is bigger and His love will prevail. I have to stay within my boundaries… I have to let go.
He may not even be thinking straight, after all… he does have a brain tumour.