With the one year anniversary of my brain surgery for an undetected Grade 2 cancerous brain tumor approaching on June 20, sleep has been fleeting for me, to say the least. As much as I want to be strong, confident and faith-filled about Jesus’ healing in my life–it’s when the sun sets each day that my anxiety subconsciously climbs.
Of all the wonders of my rapid recovery from surgery this past year, that’s really the only thing I can physiologically note as being different–I have a much harder time sleeping now than I ever have–waking up much more often in the night, lying on my pillow, tossing and turning...chasing sleep. In the past, when my head hit the pillow at the end of the day, I was gone for the night. With our kids getting older now, it’s pretty uncommon for Karyn and I to be unexpectedly woken up for a nighttime crisis for them. They’re all pretty good sleepers most of the time–which is pretty amazing considering the amount of anxiety I’ve caused them as their Dad in the past year.
The other day Anna was crying pretty hard about feeling sick–much harder than I thought a few weird spots in her mouth merited–but then it dawned on me, “Could she be crying like this about sickness because of me?” That the reality of mortality has reared is ugly head in my family too soon–through the tears of my kids? My tumor has harshly taught my children that the life they live today is only temporary–as Peter once wrote,All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (I Pet. 1:24-25 ESV)
This is the good news? Yes, it is. Despite my health crisis having intruded on my kids’ collective childhood–as a family, we are certainly much more aware of the wonder of a God who is mindful of us as fading flowers, dressing us even more majestically than all of Solomon’s finery, watching over us like the birds of the field, knowing that they need to eat to survive. While I chase sleep at night caught up in a cycle of despair and fear, my Father takes care of me and quiets me with his love–he even sings over me (Zeph. 3:17)–just wish I would let Him sing me to sleep more often these days…
I definitely understand this kind of Father love so much more intimately since my cancer diagnosis, I just wish I rested in this reality more regularly every day. But I can’t see underneath the new scar on the right side of my forehead, can’t look through my skull to tell if the cancer’s back or not. So instead of being content and quiet in God’s real compassion for me, I embody my discontent by tossing and turning through the night.
I expect good news when my latest MRI gets read by my doctor on June 22 at the University of Chicago, I really do. And even if it’s not, I’ll be okay–just a reminder of not getting too invested in this temporary life, tempting though it may be to believe like so many that this life is so much more important than that life, the eternal, amazing one coming someday (perhaps sooner than I wished…)
So, on the start of this good day, after a good night’s sleep as I get ready to go on a field trip with my daughter Anna to the Shedd Aquarium downtown, I’m grateful and excited about today. I’m reminded of Solomon’s words in Psalm 127–words which Karyn prayed over me earlier this week when sleep was fleeting…for even sleep is a gift from my Father.
Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.