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Facing Fear

September 18, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post here. The last week has been an eventful one, which meant that blogging went to the end of the priority list. I’ll try to give a brief update of the last few months, which lead up to the events of this week.

I’ve been super busy the past 6 months. I was on the pastoral staff at a small Mennonite Church, which in February entered a time of transition following the departure of our Lead Pastor. We participated in a congregational assessment process, and hired an Intentional Interim pastor to help with the assessment and to facilitate the pastoral transition. It’s a good process, and one that I recommend any church to participate in (in some form) more often than we do.

One of the things our Interim Pastor wanted to do was a sermon series on “Fears” that individuals and congregations face. So we came up with a list of fears, and split the preaching duties between us, while encouraging members of the congregation to present testimonies of how they have dealt with the various fears (we tried to have one for each week). Some of the fears listed were “fear of evil”, “threats to children”, “congregational fears”, and “fear of change”. But we also had topics like “fear of aging and sickness”, which isn’t as easy to talk about. So of course that was one of the one’s that I drew and would have to preach on! I have always had a major fear of sickness and of having to get medical treatment. It’s an anxiety thing; there’s no reason for it, I just get very anxious and fearful when I go for treatment. This sermon was an opportunity for me to face up to a real fear that I have, and consider what scripture says about our fears in life. I don’t know if it came across to the congregation how much I struggled with speaking about this, but it was hard. But in hindsight, I think God was working on me with this issue.

To make a long story short, a little over a month ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was shocked, and frankly, scared out of my mind, as was my wife. Just like many others, I have lost loved one’s to forms of this disease, so there’s always been this fearful connection in my mind with cancer and nothing prepares you for hearing that you have it. When I first learned about the diagnosis I was pretty depressed; it’s a lot to wrap your mind around. But the prognosis given by my Endocrinologist was very positive, and these sentiments were echoed by the surgeon he sent me to. We felt a lot better after hearing from my doctors, and were able to schedule the surgery for a short time later.

Yesterday I came home from the hospital after surgery to remove my thyroid and the tumor. I am very thankful for my doctor, for my wife and family and friends (who gave me so much support-many, many thanks!), and for God keeping me from being too anxious and helping me to trust more. As far as follow up, I will have to go back for a radioactive iodine treatment, and I have meds I have to take every day for the rest of my life now. So there’s going to be some changes to my rhythm of life, but I think we’ll adjust to that. I will also probably rewrite that sermon sometime; it will be a much more personal reflection the next time. This experience was a reminder that fear can have a strong influence on our spirit, but releasing fear and trusting God in a new way is amazingly powerful.

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