One by one I've seen them fall
Some just don't show up at all
I'm just here to fight the fire
Oh a man ain't a man unless he has desire
When the walls come down
When the walls come down
When the walls come down
. . . Now there's nothing left in the way
-- Kings of Leon
Once upon a time while I was going through the worst of it, I asked my pastor if there was anything he'd like me write about here. He thought about it a few seconds and said, "Acceptance, I'd like to hear your thoughts on acceptance."
I was so far from acceptance at the time I hadn't really had any thoughts on it. It was like the promise of Christmas, but it was only February. But like much, he knew where I would be and had helped lay the stones down to get there. This was more like as seed planted in late winter that wouldn't bloom til the autumn, and I can't repay him.
I presently went back and forth through all the stages of grief and trauma, mostly anger lately. I even asked my kids if they thought I was angry all the time; my wife seemed to think so. They were honest, and they did think so, too. This was a bit of a shock to me, because I didn't really realize it, I was just busy being it. I was struggling to transition to "survivor", but like all these transitions, you can't just decide you're at the next step. It has to one day dawn on you that you're ready, and only after you're ready.
Moving into survivor-ship is a privilege, but it comes with a price and some obligations
What is "Acceptance" Anyway?
Sometimes when I think about something, I like to start by clearly defining what that thing is. Maybe this is the math geek in me, but it seems clear that in order to talk about something, you at least need to know what "it" is, especially if you want to know if you're attached to that something. I hadn't really thought about "acceptance", I figured it meant "the act of accepting" or just "taking what you get". But I looked it up nonetheless and here's what I found.
- the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered. Bzzt. Not gonna happen here. Is it?
- the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group. Maybe true, but no.
- agreement with or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation. Not applicable.
Seemed then like I was in for a long think, because while (1) is probably what we mean here, I'm not accepting of cancer or kidney failure in this sense. But no so fast. I have already been doing this, and for some time, it just didn't feel like acceptance. I still have those feelings of wanting to go back to the way things were before, but I realize this isn't going to be possible; this I've accepted. I've accepted that some like me haven't made it this far; I regret this, but I can't change it, I only hope I had a positive effect on the ones I knew.
Not long ago I happened to read a short article by another pastor. She was also a cancer survivor, and she wrote about getting down off her cross. If this seems strange to you, probably you don't have cancer or some other trauma to cause you to feel like you're being persecuted. But she realized one day she needed to move on from that. It's hard to just decide such a thing, but eventually you're ready to do it. Later on in life when she was counseling another cancer patient who had been hanging on too long to her own persecution, the author advised her to "get down off your cross".
Probably because I was somewhat still pinned to my own cross (unbeknownst to me until just then) it seemed harsh. You feel tempted to let people know you're there on the cross. You're tempted to use that cancer card if you need to. I don't blame myself or anyone else for it if they've suffered some trauma or loss. If you experience it, you'll know it, too; maybe you already do. The anger and temptation are ultimately human.
This is when I realized just how much I learned from the ultimate Teacher. And how much the acceptance of my current situation was like the acceptance of Him. I didn't just decide to just believe one day, in fact I had resisted believing for a long time. I just realized one day that I had gone over the line; after it happened.
Jesus not only faced temptation, but he was nailed to a cross, he knew he was going to be, and he could have stopped it. But he did not. He chose to hold out as that ultimate ideal of God's love, to put himself there so there was no doubt he experienced everything low a human a could, including real separation from God. He transcends death, pain, and fear by accepting God's will in such a complete fashion as to shame even the most faithful of us. He did not fail; while we always do. But it was because of him we are redeemed.
I had struggled with these questions for so long. I always thought back to Jesus in the garden with the cup:
Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.
In those early days, and for long after, I struggled with this because I didn't know if God had done this to me, or if he could (or would) undo it. Would he remove this cup? God made the world a certain way, but we make it otherwise. We live out our lives in this biological reality; God lets it run. Whether or not he intervenes I don't know; this is a matter of belief. I can't know his will, but I know ultimately it will be done. I accept this, and I'm not ready to move away from it.
I certainly couldn't have gotten to where I am without my faith, family, and friends. When I think about the number of people to whom I'm connected, either directly, or through friends and family, the number is staggering. And I'm not really that socially outgoing. This disease and diagnosis had impacted not just me, but them.
I realized recently just by hanging out with friends that finally I had re-figured myself. But importantly, so had they realized I'm just me again, only different. Yeah, I'm the guy with Multiple Myeloma and just one damaged kidney. But so what, my friends have my back. Period.
Acceptance: Oh, that
About the time I was going to give up on the dictionary, another footnote caught my eye:
willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation: a mood of resigned acceptance.
Well now we're there, aren't we. Any acceptance of my physical condition can certainly be considered to be in a mood of resigned acceptance. I need to maintain the resignation to make sure I push myself forward to get to the next Myeloma breakthrough treatment; and to a kidney transplant. I accept where I am, but I'm ready to move away from it.