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Cancer doesn't discriminate. It falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. There isn't anything "fair" or "unfair" about it. No one gets a free pass."

If you had asked me in the past, I would always have said that I was a Christian, but I still had "a lot of questions and a very open mind". But over the past couple of years, I've had a real spiritual awakening. And when I was diagnosed with lymphoma recently, it was clear to me that God had been preparing me for this journey the whole time.

Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you be faithful to complete it"...

I professed my faith as a little boy, maybe seven or eight years old. I remember walking down that aisle and I don't think my parents even knew I was gonna do it. I just got up and walked down there. Even at that young age, I had already had - let's call it an "experience" - that had pierced my heart with guilt and shame. It was almost more than I could bare. Walking down the aisle in that Southern Baptist church in the early 70s was the only way I could think of to rid myself of that pain. It kinda didn't work, though. Even though I was sincere, I still never felt that I was good enough, and I always felt like if people ever knew who I really was, they would want nothing to do with me. My relationship with God never really progressed much after that day. Looking back and doing some therapy on myself as well as via counseling, I believe at the root of it all was this belief that I had tried it, and I had failed.

As my youth progressed, it meant lots of changes. It was a tumultuous time in the South. Lots of new schools. Ended up moving from Alabama to Minneapolis the summer between 8th and 9th grade. I became good at pretending. Pretending I was tough. Pretending I didn't care. Pretending that I was cooler than anyone could possibly imagine. All the while riddled with anxiety and too afraid to trust God with it all.

I know now that God never stops pursuing us. Every time someone prays for you, there He is. Every time you call out to Him, there He is. And every time you turn away, there He is, grieving.

Psalm 73 (part one):

"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold"...

Coming out of college (a story for another time), I hit the ground running in Atlanta. It was a great time to be here, and I fell in love with the city as well as the world of technology. Y2K was looming, we were hosting the Olympics, the Braves were on fire, the Internet was in its infancy, and I was working with and selling to some of the brightest, most talented people in the world.

Honestly, outside of my sweet memories with my two precious kids, the years between 1993 and 2013 were pretty much a blur.

I worked really hard. I played really hard. I produced. I consumed. I entertained. I lived quarter to quarter.

A friend of mine recently posted about his journey into sobriety on LinkedIn, and he mentioned three very prevalent conditions in the world of software sales that "no one wants to talk about".

  1. Imposter Syndrome

  2. Anxiety and Depression

  3. Substance Abuse

These are all things software cowboys like me suffered from but felt we were too tough to get help for.

Why people like us were drawn into this field is another topic and one that I might dig into in the future. Suffice it to say, at least for me, it was always about being in the middle of the action (which for me meant Silicon Valley) and proving to these people that I respected so much that I could compete with the best. Much of my identity was defined by that world, whether I had a good quarter or not, whether I had a good year or not, and whether I was at the top of the rankings or not... I lived my life on the road and it was really all I'd ever known. And I loved it.

But by the end of 2013, which marked my 20th year in software sales, I ended up feeling like just another divorced, road-weary, sales guy that had been "rode hard and put away wet".

To make matters worse, for the first time as a Dad, I didn't always wake up to find my kids in the house with me when I was in town. That just killed me. My Mom also had to have brain surgery in January of that year. Seemed like she woke up from surgery 20 years older... My sister was going through a divorce as well... My dear Aunt Sue, who was like my second Mom entered the latter stages of dementia... You hear people talk about when they hit rock bottom. In my case, this was definitely one of those moments in time.

I don't pretend to know why God has allowed this into my life, and my family's life. Regardless, here I am. On my knees. Just where He wants me.

2 Corinthians 1:10 - "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Everyone has come across 2 Corinthians 1:10 at some point, and I have to admit, it never resonated with me. "Weak? Who you callin' weak? If that works for you, then great. But this verse is not for me. I'm not weak"... Hard to believe after a year like 2013 I still felt that way, but I did. I tried not to view myself as a victim. I knew I had made plenty of mistakes and bad decisions...

What I was missing was the first part of that verse. "My grace is ENOUGH. You don't need anything else. I died for you. I saved your life. I suffered unimaginably. I washed away your guilt and shame. I am up here now preparing a place for you so we can be together forever. How is that not ENOUGH?"

It was only when I met Wendy that my heart began to heal. A large part of that was learning how to forgive myself and start over. We started dating in early 2014 and got married in late 2015. I will always credit Wendy for saving my life. I really am not sure what I would have done if it weren't for her. I'm not going to kid you though, it was tough at times with a blended family, and it just seemed like one crisis after another kept hitting us. But we just knew there had to be some kind of purpose for God putting us together, and for all that had happened to bring us to this point. This couldn't just be a sequence of random events...

Wendy knows me like no one has ever known me. She saw that I was struggling with a type of cognitive dissonance. It was like I knew the truth, but I couldn't incorporate it into my daily life. I was holding back. Something was missing, and there was a huge vacuum in my heart that had been there for a long time. I dove back into the Scriptures in an attempt to finally address all those unanswered questions I had. I kept coming upstairs and telling Wendy about what I was learning - especially about the situation the world was in, how it was all laid out for us a long time ago, and how it was now unfolding right before our eyes.

We finally ended up at First Redeemer in late 2019, and that's when our "awakening" really accelerated. I got into a men's group, led by Jay McSwain, a wonderful guy on staff as a pastor there, who also happens to be the Chaplain for the Atlanta Braves.

We started watching "The Chosen", and I can't tell you how that changed my view of Jesus - from his tone when he answered questions, to the way he carried Himself. I was riveted by the writing and acting. It really changed my life.

Wendy realized she had never really had a relationship with Jesus and decided to change that. (A four-hour coffee talk with my Mom sealed the deal for her). We joined a wonderful small group. We got healthy...

Then one morning in June, I was shaving and noticed a half-golf ball-sized lump on my neck. Went to my doctor, and we followed the protocol of waiting 4-6 weeks to see if it went down on its own. It did. Fast forward to Labor Day weekend, I had gone up to Charlotte for the Clemson-Georgia game, and when I got home I had a nagging cough that wouldn't go away. A couple of weeks later I had a very low-grade fever for a few days. After that went away, the cough remained, and I woke up on a Friday with severe pain in my side. A CT scan revealed an enlarged spleen. But spots on my spleen and those same lymph nodes in my neck on both sides caused concern enough to order a PET scan. Long story short: diagnosis Stage 4 Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) with a Double Expressor (DE). The DE part makes it resistant to treatment and is sort of a wild card in the equation. So, it looks like I am in for a long winter...

I don't pretend to know why God has allowed this into my life, and my family's life. I know God uses circumstances in our lives to bring us closer to Him, and I also know that the evil one loves to attack us, especially when we are taking steps to go deeper in our walk with God. But let's face it, we also just happen to live in a fallen world, and I am open to the idea that sometimes it just "happens".

Regardless, here I am. Helpless. On my knees. Weak. Where I should have been all along.

“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me.” - CS Lewis

Psalm 73 (part two)

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you..."

What God wants more than anything is a relationship with us where we are totally dependent upon Him. Is that egotistical? Is it controlling? Is it somehow out of jealousy or some kind of weakness? No. It's because He knows what is best for us. He knows the damage that sin can cause. He knows that the evil one wants to destroy us, and he knows that we are defenseless against him.

I don't pray to be healed. I know that my friends often do, and I appreciate it. I mean, that would be great. But CS Lewis said “I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me.”

Cancer doesn't discriminate. It falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. There isn't anything "fair" or "unfair" about it. No one gets a free pass. I believe God has a story to be told here. I just want to be strong, lean in, and be a part of it. I am tired of resisting. I am convinced His promises are true. I have been "persuaded that He is faithful". And, I know this may sound strange, but for the first time in my life, I know for sure He loves me.

And that's ENOUGH.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

1 Corinthians 13:12 - For now we see only a reflection through a dark glass; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Comment

Beautiful, Steve. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I’m thankful you know His voice. I’m grateful you’re willing to listen to what He has to say. I have a feeling it’s a lot. I love you, Brother.


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