Saturday, April 2, 2016

Not Alone

I recently became active in a Prostate Cancer support group on social media. I've made many wonderful connections there already, and I'm looking forward to more.

Yesterday, while participating in discussions there, it became clear to me that there are many men who go through this alone. No significant other, no kids, no family to speak of. I find this heartbreaking. No one should have to go through this alone.

I'm very blessed in that respect, as I've said many times before. I have a loving wife, a supportive family, and all of you. I have many close friends nearby who care about me a great deal. I have thousands praying for me, worldwide.

But I don't have kids or grandkids.  I don't have blood relatives less than a thousand miles away. In addition, before my diagnosis, my wife and I were unaware of how many friends we really had. We knew about the few couples we socialized with, some friends at church, and a few close friends who live out of state, but we often felt that our circle was pretty small.

When I was diagnosed, it was lonely at first. I didn't want to be the guy that everyone felt sorry for. I wanted to keep my disease private. But because of the faith community that we belong to, that was not possible. Word got out that I needed prayer.

There was also a major financial need attached to this. My ability to work is greatly compromised. We have friends who helped us a great deal, but I didn't feel right continuing to rely on a few friends. It occurred to me that more people might want to help us. So I went public on Facebook, started this blog, and we opened a GoFundMe campaign. From that day on, everything changed.

Expressions of love and support poured in from all over. People I didn't even know wanted to help us. Our campaign exceeded its goal. We honestly felt we had received a miracle.

But the best part has been writing this blog. Because of it, and the CaringBridge journal that preceded it, the constant flow of love and support has never stopped. In fact, it has increased.

I realize that I have advantages that many don't have. I've been prominent in a worldwide church denomination. I've done work for children's ministry around the world. I have the advantage of being somewhat well known. But still I had no idea how many people loved me, let alone how much. And I never would have known, if I hadn't gone public last November.

Of course, as a man of faith, I always knew I wasn't alone. God has pulled me closer to him than he ever has before. I finally "came to the end of myself," as you sometimes hear evangelical Christians say. That's where I found a peace I've never had before. Even if I lost everyone else, I'd still have Him. And in the end, he is all we have. At the end, we have to let go of everyone else, and run to him. That's what I'm gonna do.

But God not only showered his love on me, he motivated a whole lot of people to do the same. Now, our social calendar is full with people who want to love on us.

But it hasn't been all sweetness and light. It's been a very difficult time, in many ways, since my diagnosis. It's been a struggle, physically and emotionally. Financially, we received a devastating blow, and a miraculous reprieve, all in the same day yesterday. But as a result, we have a much harder road ahead of us than we were anticipating. We're gonna need more help.

But I know we'll get it. Because we're not alone. But I would never have known that if I hadn't gone public.

This is my appeal to my new brothers in the support group. Please consider going public. Put your disease out on social media. Be open about your process. Be open about your feelings. If it's in your personality to do so, blog about it. It's hard for a lot of men to do this. We're supposed to be strong. Everyone tells us to "stay strong." But if we don't allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we'll never receive the blessing that's waiting for us.

You may not have as many who know your name and work as I do, but I guarantee you that you are more loved than you realize. If you just give people a chance, they will support you like you won't believe.

And even if they don't, God will. You are his child. He sacrificed everything for you because he loves you so much. He stands at the door of your heart and knocks right now. (Revelation 3:20) Nobody else may be coming over for dinner tonight, but he wants to share a meal with you. If you let God, and let others love you, they will. You're not alone.

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