Simon is constantly teaching us lessons. What recent lesson sticks out the most?
Trying to nail this down to one lesson is really hard. I have my eyes opened to new realities every day. Simon’s life is such a precious gift and I'm overjoyed to be his dad. But his unknown future causes suffering and pain. What comes to mind right now is the lesson to embrace the emotion of the moment.
Most men have a natural desire to fight, fix or run in the face of an impending threat or preeminent pain. I can’t fix or fight Simon’s diagnosis, so what I’m left with is a decision between facing/embracing the pain, or completely avoiding it. I’ve certainly responded both ways over the course of the last couple of months since we’ve been on this journey. I know what the right course of action is though, because the Spirit pulls me that way. The right thing to do is be present, face it, and work through the emotion and sorrow as it comes. This means I sometimes end up showing tears, anger and confusion in front of other people. More importantly it means I take the tears, anger and confusion to God and seek to process it all with Him.
Oddly, the same “fight or flight” struggle also shows up when we have the opportunity to show love to someone else. Several times, I’ve found myself in an internal debate over whether or not to engage in a nice gesture for someone.
One summer evening, I was cleaning up my lawnmower and other yard equipment after I had finished mowing our grass. I was about to put everything away and walk into the house to shower and relax for the rest of the evening. I looked across the street and saw the young son of our neighbor struggling to get his mower started. Clearly he went to the same lawnmower mechanic school I went to, because he pulled the old “kick-it-and-cuss” move to attempt to get it going. As I witnessed him shoving a screwdriver into the mower blade, I thought, “Not only is this kid mechanically challenged, he’s about to be an amputee.” Then, like a bee sting, I got nailed by the uncomfortable thought of helping this kid. A glass of ice water, a warm shower, and my leather recliner were all in the house urging me, “Come on in, Champ! Your work is done, so don’t worry about that kid!” Reluctantly, I pulled my clean mower out of the shed and pushed it across the street toward my neighbor’s house. I told my young neighbor to go ahead and use it, because obviously his mower had bitten the dust. He was grateful. I turned my back and walked across the street, still annoyed at myself for this act of benevolence, when I flinched to the sound of a loud metal “BANG” as my neighbor jacked a large rock or stick with my lawn mower blades.
As I ponder this interaction now, I understand that I was being obedient to a Spirit-led urge to “love my neighbor.” This doesn’t make me good, and I’m not boasting about how “giving” or “neighborly” I am. If anything, I look back and wonder why that was such an internal wrestling match for me to engage someone in kindness. Why couldn’t I freely give my material possession with no worry about it being damaged?
During our journey, we often see people who know Simon's story fight different urges right in front of us. People battle urges to ask us how we are doing, or even simply, to say anything at all (likely, fearing they'll say the wrong the thing). I would encourage people who are around someone whom you know is going through intense pain to not avoid asking how they are doing. Even feel free to ask more specific questions about what they are going through. Don’t fear the emotion you might encounter in front of the sufferer. It actually helps lighten the load for the sufferer when they find out that someone else is carrying some pain on their behalf. Your compassion will provide comfort to a lonely, weary traveler.
Just as lending a lawnmower might ease someone's burden, lending a tear or an encouraging word does the same. We have been incredibly blessed to have so many people carry this load with us, and we are forever grateful for that.
I guess the specific lesson Simon has taught me, if I were to sum it up, would be to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals truths about Jesus and leads us toward sanctification. If we are obedient to our present emotions, and even to the call to love others, we nourish ourselves and others with holy fruit. Through this obedient action, we also hit a pressure release valve that ultimately allows our souls to experience deeper rest and deeper peace. It also frees us to focus on loving others, rather than being overly self-involved in our grief.