Sunday, March 6, 2011

No more slaying of dragons

While driving my daughter, Allie, to the Portland airport last summer we talked intimately about vocation or, more to the point, how I wasn’t sure just what mine was meant to be in this season of my life. How do I live with cancer and yet stay alive to the possibilities that God places before me? I told Allie then that I wasn’t sure how my time should be invested and that I longed for clear direction in answering that question.

It’s now more than six months later, and this matter hasn’t been resolved. Honestly, I’m not sure it will be. A truce has been declared between my natural instinct to pursue meaning and purpose through activity and to discover them instead in more contemplative pursuits. I’m increasingly at ease with the pace of my days and the irenic thoughts and actions that typically fill them. Last year was lived to the hilt as I feared the melanoma that had metastasized through my body might quickly take its toll. I backed off various commitments and mostly spent time with the people I care most about. I traveled to special places. I cultivated my interior life. I tied up some loose ends. I drew closer to the heart of God, and found solace through the ministrations of his spirit.

Based on what I know about it, my diagnosis is no less serious today than it was then. Yet I live. Not only do I live, I thrive. I will learn in a matter of hours the results of the PET/CT scan I had on Friday, and I have surgery scheduled again in a few days to remove three subcutaneous mets. I continue to be a walking medical contradiction. More than ever, I jealously count my days and treasure each of them. But I also don’t feel compelled like I did a year ago to get a lot done. It will not be I who writes a great American novel. I won’t have an encore career like some successful middle-aged people I’ve known. An around-the-world sailing adventure is not my heart’s desire. Instead, I run, read and write—and spend rich time with family and friends. My aspirations are modest. Next Sunday I’ll join a few thousand people for the Shamrock Run around downtown Portland. It will be my best run ever. The simple act of running is all I need to make my day a success. It's time for someone else go out to slay the dragons.

So, dear Allie, I don’t really know what my vocation is these days. What I do know is that living expectantly for what God calls me to seems quite enough, whether they be things big or small. This practice calls for an entirely new way of looking at the world, which is a remarkable feat in itself. I don't think that's a conceit, but perhaps it is. Keep walking with me and see if what you observe is worthy of the trust I place in him.


Nancy said...

Peter, I will be honored to keep walking with you and will do my best to keep my mind open to the possibilities. You have already done a great deal to help me see the passage of time, and the way each of us spends it, in a much different way. A toast to your health, and have a great run.

Steve said...

Very well put, Peter. In my very limited perspective, I think you're doing things much as I would prefer to if I were in your shoes--smelling the flowers along the way and indeed making some bouquets and perhaps even tossing some pedals from a passing balloon or biplane. As 60 looms in the not-too-distant future, I find myself contemplating the limits of my mortality as well and relishing the things that are really important. Praying that your scan is clean and the surgery goes well...