I grew up as if I were an only child. My parents were in their 40’s when I was born and my two siblings were nearly twenty years older than me. To show you how sharp I am, it wasn’t until I was in college that I did the math and came to the shrewd deduction that I wasn’t planned (at least not by my parents). I called my mom from the dorm payphone and said, “I figured it out; I was a mistake!”
“No, Honey,” she tenderly replied, “you were a surprise – a bonus.”
I mention my only-child status in order to make the embarrassing confession that I was absolutely spoiled rotten! I got what I wanted when I wanted it, and if I didn’t, I threw a fit to get it; and seldom were there any repercussions for my tantrums. I don’t blame my parents for this, since by the time I made my surprise arrival, life had already pretty much worn them out. They did the best they had the energy for, but I confess that I took every advantage of their fatigue. I was a fiercely self-centered kid, and still am.
When I started to follow Jesus, I learned that my orbit was not supposed to be around me, but around him. I believe that the mother of all goals is to live for the glory of God and the good of people. When I put myself first – which is most of the time – it punctures the container where joy is stored and I can feel it leaking out, to say nothing of the negative affect on my relationships with God and people.
Jesus took my position as the center of the universe, and I try everyday to not take back the job. It’s really a huge part of what motivates me as a Jesus follower. And for me, it’s the place in which I fail most often in my walk with him. C.S. Lewis was talking about me when he wrote that pride is the “Great Sin.”
If you’ve experienced a severe and long-standing medical condition, you know how much time, how much money, and how much mental determination it takes to deal with it. Especially early on in my battle, I had fistfuls of medications to take at their proper times, endless doctors appointments to keep, relentless bills to pay, and abundant limitations to my lifestyle to cope with. Well-meaning loved ones wanted to know the details of my condition so they could pray, which obliged me to talk about myself much more than I prefer. Then there were the pains, aches, and discomforts from the condition itself. These things scream at me to be noticed. They politic for my focused attention to be me-ward. Battling cancer, and all that accompanies it, can be a full time preoccupation and weaken one’s resolve to be Christ-centered instead of self-centered.
Redirecting my attention from myself onto the needs of other people helps. It gives me perspective about my difficulties when I remember that mine are not the worst known to mankind. One place you can always find people bleeding, crying, and dying more than you is the hospital. Since in the last several years I’ve frequented one hospital or another to the tune of several hundred times I’ve have had plenty of opportunities to be around bigger sufferers than me. And keep in mind that while we have terrible suffering here in our country, we also have great medical care and other resources for our sufferers. Even when we can’t fix an unfixable problem we can ease the hurting person’s agony with medications and a clean, hospitable environment. In undeveloped countries, the suffering simply goes untreated and leaves the sick to die in their agony.
I’ve never really used a prayer list. Hoping that the Spirit is leading me, I usually just pray for people as they come to mind. During the transplant, however, I thought it best to make a list and tape it to my dresser next to my bed. My sleep was interminably fitful and I figured it would be better, during some of those long nights, to put my troubles in the background by putting someone else’s in the fore. I didn’t usually get through the list by the time I dropped off to sleep again. So as not to neglect those at the bottom of the sheet, when I thought of it, I’d begin with the last ones and work up the list. I recommend it as a sleep aide, more effective than counting sheep and cheaper than pills.