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“Happy is the husband of a good wife; the number of his days will be doubled.”  Sirach 26:1

Dear family and friends,

The good news is that there is no bad news.  Friday’s scan showed no progression of the disease, but also no shrinkage in the size of the tumors.  The oncologist said he’s not surprised, and that it’s probably going to take more time to know if the drugs are working.  Did I mention that I’m at peace with waiting?  I really am. 

The introductory quote from Sirach came to mind today after I told Kendra the “results.”  She responded with a forceful and motherly, “QUIT HAVING CANCER.”  You know that tone mom uses when she’s trying not to lose her temper but that is actually scarier than when she truly loses her temper?  …Anyway, try as I might, I still haven’t quite learned to listen after almost 17 years of marriage.  Nunc coepi.  I will try to do better these next two months.  By the way, that Sirach quote is one of the reasons I asked Kendra to marry me, having blindly pointed to any place on any page in the bible to seek some guidance and – true story – having pointed to Sir 26:1.

Because I need to go back to the drawing board for this latest honey-do list item which I have not yet checked off, plus many other reasons, I’m back to a topic I cut short in the last post.  Last time I made reference to having benefited from seeking regular spiritual direction.  And I’m keenly aware of that now, as I reflect daily on the need to pray for abandonment (and to be more obedient to my wife on the the whole quitting cancer thing).  I prayed just as much for abandonment during v1.0, but I’ve got 11 more years of spiritual direction under my belt now, and I know I’m more calm about the situation because of it.  I see spiritual direction as the precursor of executive coaching, and it has a several thousand year head start.

Through spiritual direction I work to build upon strengths, attack weaknesses, assess where I’ve fallen down the last few weeks, and come up with a specific plan for what to do about it.  We’ve had a number of big family decisions and turning points during this last 11 years, and I’ve worked repeatedly on abandonment through those ups and downs.  And in fact, there’s an act of abandonment in simply committing to spiritual direction.

There’s a great military analogy for spiritual direction that really resonates with me:  the landing signal officer.  The LSO is a Naval aviator stationed on an aircraft carrier, whose job is to talk pilots through their landing on the ship, pitch and yaw as it might, at night, in terrible weather, perhaps with damage to the aircraft, no matter what.  The pilot is still in charge of the aircraft and has to make all the decisions.  But the pilot gets to stay alive by abandoning some of that free will into the hands of the LSO.  I don’t think any fighter pilot coming in for an arrested landing would prefer to do it without the LSO.  I’m trying to land safely, too.  I want an expert talking me in.

At various times I’ve had regular spiritual direction appointments with priests, a chemistry professor, an accountant, a lawyer, an engineer, and a high school teacher.  All those different perspectives have helped a lot.  I’ve been matched or overmatched or undermatched in level of education, level of progress in the interior life (usually overmatched), level of culture, wit, hair loss, sarcasm, etc.  I’ve always gotten deep insights out of it, and I believe it has gotten me to where I am with regard to abandonment.  And it has helped me with myriad other struggles in family, professional, and spiritual life.  Big fan. 

And so back to v2.0, I’ve had many at-bats where someone who cares about me has helped guide me in seeing the hand of God in just about everything, especially the challenges.  If I had been once and done 11 years ago, it might be easier to figure that was a coincidence.  It’s clear to me now, though, that I’ve been picked for this team.  And even so, I still think it will be a happy ending.  I beg God every day for an outcome that will make him glorious in the eyes of all these little kids we’ve got around here.  And since I don’t know quite why he picked me for Team Cancer, I know I’ve got to hand the game plan over to him.  When I start to forget that, I’ve got a friend I trust to help me through.  And should I start to feel sorry for myself, Kendra’s there to remind me to get crackin’.

With fortitude and prayers for you,