I grew up in a good home. I never knew what it was like to go without. I grew up in church every Sunday and Wednesday, and sometimes Saturdays when there was a picnic or something. My parents both worked full time jobs that not only put food on the table, and a roof over my head, but also provided enough for our family to have quite a few luxuries. My parents didn’t drive a Bentley or anything like that, but we had many things that others I knew did not have. I spent many of my weekends either fishing on various lakes in central Florida or hunting Whitetail Deer on our property in north Florida. I always had new clothes and new shoes, a clean bed to sleep in, and air conditioning. I had health insurance and regular physicals at my pediatrician’s office. I had the best school supplies, and the coolest light-up shoes in the class. We lived on a ski-lake for the second half of my childhood where I fondly remember being given a brand new jet ski for my 12th birthday. I tell you all of this not to brag or to gloat about my upbringing, but to set the stage for the paragraphs to come. The higher you are, the farther you have to fall.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It still makes me shudder to think about the words my mother spoke to me. It is never easy to hear life-changing news, but this, by far, was one of the worst moments of my life. I felt helpless. Everything I had known to be sure and steadfast, immediately called into question. Nothing around me mattered anymore. In that split second I can remember thinking hundreds-maybe thousands of thoughts. All I had known was coming to an end. Nothing is forever, and no one is immortal, but it wasn’t supposed to happen this soon. I was supposed to be 30 before I had to deal with something like this. How can life go on? How can I deal with this? WHY do I have to deal with this? WHY ME? These are only a small fraction of the things beginning to race through my head in that moment. I’m sure you’re all wondering, “Well what the heck did she say?” But be patient. I will get to that. We’re building something here.
Looking back through my life, I have realized that a lot of my faith and peace has often come from various physical elements in my life that I never recognized were there. I never had to worry about things that others my age probably dealt with on a daily basis. I never went to bed hungry. As far as I knew, food came from the refrigerator.The light-switch made the lamp turn on. The handle made the water come out of the faucet, and the air conditioning came from the thing on the wall that I wasn’t allowed to touch.
But what do you do when you find out that none of that is actually how it really is? It was a big shock when I learned that more than just paperwork was required to buy a new car. I had always heard the phrase, “The Lord provides”. Whether it was in church, or on the local Christian network on TV. I thought, “heck yeah He does. Everything I ever needed was always there, right when I needed it (I did not realize at the time that this was because of the labor of my parents). But everyone failed to elaborate on that “The Lord taketh away” thing.
“Brandon, your dad has cancer,” she told me through the tears now streaming down her face. Right there. Right in that moment, everything stopped. Life ceased to exist. Time came to a halt. I could almost feel my heart beat slowing as I tried to grasp what I had just heard. Cancer had not been unfamiliar for me, even at 15. I had already lost at least 3 members of my family to the disease. But my dad? Not my dad. No. Not him. Not me. Not us. Not now. You’re lying. It’s a sick joke. This is a dream. Impossible. My dad is invincible. He’ll be here forever. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe you. Why would you lie to me? Why would you try to scare me like this?
I couldn’t even speak. I remember walking in the house, and making it halfway up the stairs before I collapsed into the worst ugly cry you can imagine. Guys ugly cry too. Get over it. I dealt with this transition for over 10 months. We ultimately lost my dad, and had to deal with grief the same way everyone else in the world does, but I’ll save some of that story for another time.
Over the next months and years to come, I dealt with so many problems it made my head spin. I remember several times people from the church would cook us meals during the week to help feed us when there was nothing in the pantry. I remember having to empty every change container in the house to put gas in the car for my mom to get to work or buy dinner. I remember not being able to deal with the pain. I remember not being able to even describe the feelings I had. I remember feeling lost and alone, like God had somehow forgotten where I lived. Like He had forgotten where to send the blessings to. My neighbor probably got all our packages from FedEx over that period of time or something. I felt abandoned. My mother and I were not on the best of terms by any means. In fact, we were at each other’s throats a majority of the time. Most of which was my fault. I just didn’t see how “The Lord provides” made sense anymore.
As I said before, I grew up in church. I knew Jesus from a very young age. I attended a Christian school for most of my life. I was fluent in the scripture and spoke 5 versions of Christianese by age 8. I could tell you the books of the Bible in order forwards and backwards, and recite every Sunday school Bible story including references, word-for-word, but none of that helped me now. The knowledge of all that did nothing for me. I knew God to be a healer, but He didn’t heal my dad. I knew God to be a comforter, but I didn’t feel comforted. I knew God to be perfect in all of His ways, but His ways didn’t seem perfect to me.
Steven Furtick preached a message entitled “What about the worm” highlighting Jonah and his journey to Nineveh. In his sermon, he spoke a profound statement. He said (paraphrasing), “I didn’t see the blessing until I was looking back at it.” He said this speaking of Jonah and his encounters with the great fish that swallowed him, and how the Word tells that “The lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah.” We can all assume that Jonah didn’t see the whale as “provision” when he was being eaten. Agreed? Cool. I felt the same way. Jonah didn’t even have Romans 8:28 yet to tell him “all things work together for the good…” However, when Jonah looked back to recount the story of his life, he chose to use the word provided when speaking of things that were seemingly disastrous.
I am honestly not in a place yet where I can say that, “God provided Cancer to take my father from me at the age of 15, and to cause me to deal with things that many people would never have to deal with in a lifetime as a result.” I don’t know when I’ll get there, but something I’ve learned in the short 5 years it’s been since I lost my dad, is that God always finds a way to get glory out of every situation.
This isn’t about me. My story, my life, this puny little blog post is not about me. God created me, not for me, but for Him. When I began to realize that is when I could truly start to scrape the surface of understanding things that have played out in my life. Maybe if I hadn’t lost my dad, I would have gotten involved with the wrong crowd in high school and ended up in a bad place in early adulthood. Maybe if I hadn’t lost my dad, I never would have accepted the calling into ministry that the Lord placed on my life. Who knows? God knows. That’s who. Healing came when I began to truly understand that God does indeed know all things. He knows why He does the things He does. I believe that so many things I’ve been through have prepared me for life in a way that no class or certification could. Everything that I lost has prepared me for what I am to gain in seasons ahead.
I don’t know if you’ve lost someone, or something in your life that seems irreplaceable, but maybe-just maybe, God knows what He’s doing. Maybe He took it away not to harm you, but to prepare you for something bigger He know’s you’ll have to handle at a later point. The journey is never easy. That’s a given, but what you get out of it, that’s up to you.