And Life is Worth the Living

Back during the week of Thanksgiving I started a blog post about life now and never finished it.  The Monday after Thanksgiving marked two years since my doctor found the lymph nodes in my chest and neck enlarged, which was the start of answers to my health issues that were happening at the time.  That eventually led to a Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosis and treatment.  I now live because of a few things.  First, the cancer was found in an early stage, which made the treatment effective.  Second, my body reacted well to the chemotherapy and fought well against the cancer cells.  Those first two reasons are medical, but the third and final reason I am alive is the hardest one for me to swallow.  The third reason I am alive is that God wants me to be.  That’s the one that is hard to understand.

I don’t remember the first time I thought about this concept that my life had a purpose, but it was back sometime in Junior High or High School.  In those days, I was just started to comprehend what it meant to be a believer in Christ.  I remember a pastor or youth leader saying that everyone’s life has a purpose.  A specific job for you to do, that only you can do, that God has planned.  That idea really excited me, because growing up I wasn’t the best at anything.  I wasn’t athletic.  I wasn’t the smartest.  I wasn’t the most musically talented.  I honestly couldn’t put my finger on the specific skill that would make me rise above the rest.  I would be sad about this idea that there was always someone better than me at everything I tried to do.  But the message about Christ having a specific purpose for me?  Now that was an amazing thought.  Something that only Bryce could do for Him.  This fact really meant the world to me and I began seeking for that purpose through Christ as I finished high school, completed college, and started my teaching career.

I also recall how my parents used to react to bad news.  If we say had a wreck in a car or a tire blow out, they would simply say to each other, “God must be testing us.”  Then they would go about fixing the issue.  This idea came to full fruition while reading the books by John Eldridge, my favorite Christian author.  He would talk about how we as believers always ask God, “Why is this happening to me?”  Instead he pointed to a different question, “God, what are you teaching me?”  It is a slight change in question, but a completely different mindset.  Instead of prodding and complaining, the second question almost sounds excited about the trial.  What are you teaching me God?  Show me.  I want to know.  When I approached God like this in the face of anguish, the result was far less stress on me and far more room for God to grow in me.

Taking these two approaches in life have helped me immensely throughout the years.  I seek for God to show me the purpose he has for me and when I hit a speed bump or trial during that journey, I seek for Him to show me things, because I know He is at work, always preparing me for the next step.  But there are seasons where I fail to do either of these things. Recently through the month of November and December,  I have hit a slump.  I lost track of my goals and slipped into a bit of a wandering soul mentality.  All the different goals I set for this past year have not come to fruition.  Also, the world feels so much darker than it used to.  Even in this holiday season, the feelings of Christmas and Hope have been lackluster.  Much of this has been interior, you would not know that I was struggling with these feelings if you saw me.  But all that changed this past Saturday.

ReginaldI remember meeting Reginald when I was just a Junior high kid helping out at my church’s inner city ministry.  Reginald was a tall lanky kid like myself.  He had a brother who played basketball and was on our church team.  Reginald attended our ministry, His Heart, for years.  He was different than the other guys that came to the church from our neighborhood.  The biggest difference was that he played the cello.  Me being the naive, suburban kid, I didn’t know that inner city schools even had a strings program.  But Reginald became a quick friend, always kind and willing to help out in any way.  He even brought his cello and played during our services for special music.  I remember when Reginald was diagnosed with Lymphoma.  He fought against the chemo and even had to take off a good bit of school to complete his treatments.  We didn’t see Reginald or his brother often after he was sick, but we celebrated when he defeated the disease.  Then the cancer came back.  He fought again and again.  He was such a great kid, I just knew he would be fine.

I was diagnosed with the same disease in 2013.  Reginald was one of the first to reach out to me and talk about it.  I remember the first time I saw him after I was diagnosed.  He came to the church and we embraced.  Now we have a much different connection than before.  We knew the horrors of cancer, even if it was a type that had a good success rate.  I pronounced my remission in 2014 and again Reginald was one of the first to congratulate me.  He said that one day he would be able to say that too.  Reginald passed away this past Saturday from years of battle against cancer.  He died the day he was supposed to graduate from Belhaven University at the age of 24.  My mom, sister, and I went to his visitation together.  My sister was in youth group with him and we all loved him.

This is the hard part.  Reginald celebrates today completely healed with Christ by him.  It is nice to think about him playing the cello beside an angelic orchestra.  Reginald was a success story.  A kid in the rough inner city of Jackson, who loved classical music and worked so hard to get a college degree.  He did it.  This is the part where I ask the questions.  What was Reginald’s purpose that only he could fulfill for Christ?  What is God trying to teach through this?  Why am I still here?  Why are you still here?  They are tough to answer.

I have to remember a key part of my belief in God when I think on these questions.  That belief is, “If God is good….”  That’s it.  If God is good then what?  Here I have been sad about my life over the past month and God still has me here.  Life is not a depressing walk, but instead a gift.  Life is worth living fully.  You don’t know when it will end for you.  I can’t get lost in the mentality that I have been in over the past month.  Christ has a plan for me, He’s got a plan for you.  I might never understand why my friend Reginald left us, but one day I’ll ask him.  Until then I’ll leave with this hymn, which can’t leave my mind when I think about Reginald.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know, He holds the future

And life is worth the living, just because He lives

Journey Strong

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