The Blog of Pastor Mike Wilkins
"The long run" referred to in the title of this blog is, in the first place, the many years Mike Wilkins served as West London's solo pastor, and then its Senior Pastor, since he and his wife Deb moved to London (and this church) in 1984.
In these past few years (beginning November 2011,) Mike's various health challenges, particularly a serious and ongoing case of cancer, has added another layer to the "long run" metaphor, and lots to blog about. Mike is currently on an extended Sick Leave, but generally worships with the church family on Sunday mornings.
With the publication of a book he wrote in 2016 entitled "Glory in the Face" (now available electronically and in paperback from Amazon.ca, and other online venders), Mike has just launched a new website, which will serve as a sort of scrapbook for readers of the book, with relevant background photos, for example, of That Last Final Solo Canoe Trip in May, 2011, as well as additional information about the book, and--coming soon--a new set of blog posts, mostly about the peace of God and the joy of the Lord and the face of Christ and the strength to face anything. You'll find the new website now at www.gloryintheface.com.
Oct14WedOctober 14, 2015
Last Tuesday, Deb and I met with my oncologist to have him read me my most recent CT-Scan, as a fortune teller might read the lines on the palms of my hands. This time the news was not good, but no one can say that we didn’t know that bad news was coming. For six months now, it’s always been just a matter of time until I would again be returning to chemotherapy. This time will be my third, and for a number of reasons, I believe that this time it’s going to be a bear.
Last Sunday, when Deb and I arrived at church for the Thanksgiving Service (with all three of our grown children with us for the first such time in ten years!), I learned that this Sunday’s service had a title: “Thankful for Mike Day.” Throughout the Service, all manner of kind things were said about me and to me and I was overwhelmed with great floods of joy and delight and gratification, and with lots of love and respect for the people doing the talking: people I have been some sort of pastor to over the years.
When it was Graham Buchanan’s turn, he made amusing mention of the Annual Youth Group Canoe Trips that he and I led for seven consecutive summers, back when he was our Youth Pastor and I was up to it. His words reminded me of my favourite Youth Group Trip: “Trip #4, August 2008”, when I took that year’s group on the “Lorrain Lake Loop,” one of my Temagami favourites. A part of that route I have always enjoyed is “the Three Bears”: three small lakes, connected by portages, not much more than large ponds, named Upper Bear, Middle Bear and Lower Bear. The Youth Group did the route counter-clockwise, so they paddled the Lower Bear first, but I have done it a number of times, almost as often beginning with Upper Bear. I have enjoyed travelling the Bears in both directions, but there is a philosophical question here: Which bear should a person choose to encounter first? The Lower or the Upper? The Uppity Bear or the Humble Bear? Baby Bear or Papa Bear? In other words, is one of the two sequences preferable?
For a week now, I’ve been thinking about once again becoming a Chemotherapy Guy. This third time, the deadly chemicals appointed for me will be the same ones I received the second time, almost exactly two years ago now. The difference will be the intended outcome. This third time, our hope is only that the nasty stuff will have some success in temporarily slowing down the growth of the tumours, which now do seem to be getting themselves organized. This third time, the strategy will not call for a definite number of biweekly injections but rather will continue for as long as the poison is doing some real good, that is, doing the cancer enough harm to justify the collateral damage being done to the rest of my body and its functions. In some ways then, this third experience will be the Bear of Lower Expectations, with the Upper and the Middle Bears now behind me. Looking at it in other ways, this Third Bear is likely to be the grizzliest of them all. I did not choose to experience the Three in this order, but I did agree to it.
In all of this, I am at peace and with joy as I remain confident that for every man who has entrusted his soul to Jesus Christ, things are not ever only as they seem, or as the Apostle Paul wrote, only as they are seen. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV). That’s what Paul’s words make clear to me: that I should not lose heart because there is a great big difference between the transient things that I can see are "wasting away", and the eternal, invisible things that are not. With this in mind, I am to see that the various afflictions I may be about to endure will always be relatively "light" and "momentary", and that they will be preparing me for “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
So here I go, seeing quite clearly that despite the Third Bear’s best efforts, this cancer will eventually, almost certainly, take my “outer self” lower and lower, while all the while, God will be preparing my “inner self” to be taken quite in the other direction.
So I will show up at the Cancer Clinic on October 23 and take my seat in the Chemo Lounge, just as I have done before. And then, guarded by the peace of God and strengthened by the joy of the Lord, I will say to the appropriate person: “Pass the poison, please.”