Buford, better known as “Lucky”, was in his mid 60’s when referred to Hospice for terminal cancer. He was an avid outdoorsman and thoroughly enjoyed teaching many young men to hunt. He was a pipe fitter by trade and not a man of extensive formal education. But he was a man of practical experience and he possessed that rare and valuable commodity, “the heart of a student”. He was not satisfied with other men’s interpretations. He was skilled at observation and knew its importance and power. He was not a perfect man but a searching man. He loved reading, studying, reflecting and challenging others. He shared some of his insights and questions with me, for which I am privileged and will always be thankful.
Lucky and I came to refer to his terminal illness as his “journey”. One day I asked, “Lucky, where are you on the road today?” The wheels of his mind turned as he pondered. Finally he replied, “You know, I’ve been thinking about that word acceptance a lot lately. That’s an awfully big word. I’ve been thinking that if I can accept all these things that are happening to me as just a part of it (the cancer), then I can go on and do what I can and need to do. But if I tell myself that it’s not supposed to be this way, then I’ll be miserable and make everyone around me miserable. I’ve found that I have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into.”
Lucky, of course, experienced the normal emotional seasons of anger, frustration and depression that frequently accompany illness and loss. He didn’t deny or suppress his feelings but embraced them as a “part of it”. He was, therefore, able to let go of what used to be and take the road ahead. His personal experiences testify of the wisdom and power of the “Serenity Prayer”: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Every now and then, when I’m frustrated and telling myself, “It’s not fair…It’s not supposed to be this way”, the words of my friend and fellow pilgrim find their way back to my mind. I’m again reminded that “I have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into. I have to remind myself that problems, frustrations, loss and suffering are “just a part of it.” (Life). Then, I to, am able to go on and do what I can and need to do.
God’s word confirms the power of our self-talk, “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). It also advises and exhorts us, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds…casting down imaginations and speculations…leading every thought captive unto the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10: 3-5).
I’m sure that somewhere along your journey you will again find yourself stuck in the mud of grief and loss, frustration and self pity. I hope and pray that during these times, Lucky’s words will find their way to your heart and mind; that you’ll be careful of what line of thinking you allow yourself to fall into; that you’ll lead every thought captive. The stages and situations of life are always challenging us with the question, “What else can I do?” And it’s only when we determine to search for the answers, instead sighing about our situations, that we are able to let go of what used to be and take the road ahead.