by the Night Writer
He took his vorpal sword in hand,
long-time the manxome foe he sought –
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
Most people who know me would likely say that I’m a pretty positive guy, strong in my faith. I’ve experienced many miracles in my life, including healing, and I’ve learned to wield the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). I’ve been blessed to have been used to pray and heal others, including a couple of dramatic cases, one of which was a true matter of life and death. In fact, thinking back on it now, I can say that there are two people alive today because God used me to pray; once to open a barren womb and once to stop the effects of a massive stroke. Those are stories for another time, because I also have to say that despite these experiences, I found myself feeling low and more than a little alone after the Jabberwock announced, “Game on.”
The lowest point actually came between the time I had the biopsy done and when I got the results. It was a Friday night and I made the mistake of entertaining the jubjubs and bandersnatches late at night before going to bed. One of the factoids I came across was that if left untreated, prostate cancer metastasizes easily into the lymph nodes and into the bones, especially in the lower back and hips, and once into the bones is often fatal. My father ultimately died of lymphoma, detected via a bone biopsy, and the very reason I had gone in for a physical in the first place was because I’d had chronic pain in my lower back and hips for a year that just never seemed to go completely away.
When I read that, well past my bedtime, I suddenly pictured cancer having got into my bones and lymphatic system because I had ignored the pain for so long. It was a fitful night, to say the least and I was not a jolly and well-rested fellow on Saturday morning. As I prayed scriptures of peace and healing that morning something strange happened. It was as if I dozed off for a few minutes where I was seated, which wouldn’t have been unusual given the lack of sleep and my stress level. The thing is, when I “came to” I was at once at peace. I had the definite sense that I had been somewhere else for a few minutes, but I had no recollection of where or what had been said, only that my attitude was completely changed. And as I went about my morning I started to think of reasons — some pretty obvious unless you’re trying to think clearly after midnight — why the pain in my legs and hips couldn’t have been bone related. As the day went on, my outlook continued to brighten, perhaps because I was such a clever fellow.
Then Sunday morning came around and during the praise and worship part of our service I suddenly had a picture in my mind of two trees in the Garden of Eden. One was the tree of life and the other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At that moment I realized that I had been spending all my time swinging from the branches of the wrong tree. I had turned to the knowledge that I had from my work in healthcare, to what I had found on-line and from other resources, and been bounced around pretty good. Not that it was all evil — it is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil after all — but there isn’t any peace in that knowledge, even when I had thought I’d “figured out” the fear that had disquieted me the day before.
I also realized that I while I had had knowledge of the Tree of Life, I had not been drawing on my understanding. That is, while I had been embracing God’s word, I had not been dwelling on His character and on the things He has done in my life. I had talked earlier in the morning with my pastor about what I had gone through and what I thought I had realized. He was standing near me after I had this revelation so I walked over to him while the music was still playing and with a smile said, “You know, there were two trees in the garden.” He must have understood what I meant because when we moved into a different part of the service he asked me to come up front and handed me a New Living Translation and asked me to read Psalm 139, verses 1 through 18 to the congregation.
O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
“That is the Tree of Life, John,” he said when I finished and returned to my seat. From that morning on I no longer had any fear about what was going to happen, even when I received word the following week that the biopsy was positive. I pursued the options that were before me with peace, supported by my wife who said she would agree on any course of action I chose that brought me peace. I smiled when I came across John 16:15, remembering the Tree of Life: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”