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.
Dec18WedDecember 18, 2013
Having made it through a third biweekly session of my second chemotherapy experience, I am nicely approaching the First Day of Winter and the Centre Ice Line of my twelve-week-long skate in the Arena of Oncology. Happily, and with thanks to the Lord, I am able to report that I seem to be escaping the majority of side-effects.
In related news, my general commitment to focus on the liquid part of every half-filled glass of water deters me from focussing on my list of actual cancer-related losses, but in fact I do find a certain value in sometimes taking a look at the non-sunny side of things. When I do, what I see is a suggestive connection between what I have lost and what I know to be a prominent detail in the general plan of God for the life of any one who like me has "bowed the knee" and now believes that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The fact is, this suggestive connectivity predates the medical adventure I am having. If I think back to being the man I was when I moved to London, now that I am (chronologically) twice the man I used to be, I admit to my embarrassment that I was as a Thirty-year-old Man actually quite proud of a number of things, including my very blue eyes, my very thick blonde hair and my pretty-darn-fast marathon times. These were a few of my favorite things, and three of the things I have loved and lost, or for a time, thought I was losing.
And what happened to them? After running four marathons in the years of 1979 to 1982, I took the next fourteen years off and then in 1997 returned to the sport to discover that I wasn't up to running that distance with any sort of quickness any more. "Hm." Disappointing. By then, my blonde hair was thinning and my hairline was receding. Double "Hm." I was a man in my mid-40's, beginning to run out of things (secretly) to brag about. And the blue eyes? I spent the first ten months of 2011 growing an (undetected) pituitary tumour and wondering about going blind (which I was told I might be) -- and thinking about wearing permanently a pair of Stevie Wonder sunglasses, thus effectively removing my blue eyes from the equation and from my (secret) Bragging List. (Not insignificantly, my Pituitary Surgery of December 2011 was a rip-roaring success, my eyesight was saved and my Stevie Wonder-Sunglasses Strategy happily became a thing of my past. By the kindness of God, not all bad dreams come true.)
And then it was April 2013. Enter Cancer -- and I was served up a list of Six Things, six cancer treatments "all of which have to go very well." With 2 1/2 down and 3 1/2 to go, I (privately) observe that each one so far has brought to the Party a new Limitation or Impediment or Loss -- and so further shortened my personal (private) list of Bragging Rights, following the pattern by which, for example, for the eleven years (1997 to 2007) in which I returned to running marathons (increasingly unquickly), I (secretly) prided myself on my noticeably flat stomach, my decently muscular legs and my race-ready leanness, and by which, for the seven months since Cancer walked on stage, that Summer Radiation and these Winter Chemo treatments, that September Surgery and those two-week-long Hospital Stays have rendered my stomach less flat, my legs less muscular, my running barely existent and me myself twenty pounds heavier. Again I say, "Hm."
And now I connect the Dots on the timeline of my life, especially the Dot that was the "Secretly-Braggy-Young-Me-at-Thirty" to the Dot that is the Now-Limited-Now-Impeded-Now-Middle-Aged-Me-at-Fifty-Nine. What I see is that the Limitations and Impediments and Losses I have experienced these years -- and this year -- have conspired -- or I could say -- have all been used by the Great and Gracious Conspirator Himself to "work all things together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Romans 8:28,29) So all of this is a "show" that God has been staging, a show in which a braggy young self-centred man gets transformed, over the course of a lifetime, however long that lifetime will be, to resemble more-and-more the particular human being who actually was and is the God who created all things. And according to the eternal plan of this Sovereign King of the rulers of the earth, "the show must go on."
Less to brag about CAN mean and should mean less braggy. And less braggy CAN mean and should mean more Christlike, having "this mind … which is ours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God … emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8) With the details of my life as evidence, I can say that evidently God's commitment to conform his people to the image of Christ and to make us more Christlike in character is what has connected the Dots that are what I used to be and what (for better and for worse) I am now and what God intends me to become when I (at some time, soon or not-so-soon) arrive at the Day of my Death and the Day in which I stand before God.
This I find is the certain value in sometimes taking a walk down the non-sunny side of the street. By God's generally gentle, always kindly and never random handling of my sicknesses and my health, my personal losses are gains and, I see, the gains are usually pretty plainly purposeful.