Raising the Dread
It was a tree I had climbed dozens of times. It was base when we played hide and seek, our meeting place for planning the day’s play. It was, one could argue, the epicenter of my childhood. And it nearly killed me. I nimbly started up its limbs, hopping from one to the next. I stayed near to the center, but as I got higher, the limbs got thinner. Things were going so well I determined to go higher, to set a personal best. As I stepped onto that last thin branch, it sagged but held, and I felt the sudden change in barometric pressure. The temperature dropped at least five degrees in a moment, and the wind began to blow. No time to descend to a safer spot I hung on and rode the wind. The tree, at the top, less swayed and more hurtled this way and that. The moment there was a touch of a let up I began my descent. It was much harder going down than going up. I was more precise, more cautious. Eventually I jumped to terra firma, and cried in terror.
Though I was just a boy it struck me immediately how odd it was that in the tree, while I knew I was in danger, I stayed steady, calm even. But once safe on the ground I broke down, I was terrified. It was my first lesson in adrenaline. When we are in danger, when it’s all on the line, we haven’t the time, the security to fear. We must fight.
It was recently the second anniversary of that first windstorm. Two years ago we received word, the explanation for the radical drop in my wife’s white blood cell counts- she had leukemia. From that point we went to war. We strategized, consulted, and battled. We drew our swords and hacked away, fell to our knees and beseeched the King of heaven. We sent out the call for volunteers to join the battle. And all the while, over the next nine months, not as the wispy, hollow Grim Reaper, but like some malevolent, hideous, monstrous serpent, Death was swallowing my bride. We were living in a horror movie and didn’t even know it. We were too busy fighting the horror.
It is now that I fear, now that I cry. Dates, places, even weather patterns take me back. A highway we took to her clinical trial, a restaurant I frequented when she was in the hospital, even the spot by the ping pong table where I stood when she told me, all do not merely remind me of the horror, but put me back in the midst of it, but now with no adrenaline. Now in the midst of bone weary fatigue.
Circumstance and emotion are not then always concurrent. Time may be a river, but we are able to move within it, to swim with or against its current. Which is why we mourn with hope. Even now I am comforted, am at peace, indeed drink deep of a joy that is not behind but before me. For my momentary afflictions are not worthy to be compared with the eternal weight of glory (II Corinthians 4:17). Death indeed swallowed her up, but death is being swallowed in victory. Adrenaline is not my savior. Jesus is.