Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Cyclops Syndrome

I’m dying. Don’t be alarmed; you are too. The mortality rate is now 100%. None of us will get out of this life alive. It is the infallible evidence of the Fall; it is as sure as the fact that taxes only go one way – up; it is the final enemy God must defeat in order to establish without argument His ultimate sovereignty.

Most of us live with this fearful fact precisely because we don’t know when we’ll die. Therefore, our mortality usually remains banished to the margins of our minds, most days never surfacing at all. And that’s indeed a happy banishment in that if we knew when we’d die that knowledge would, no doubt, dominate the landscape of our lives.

Enter the Cyclops. Most people only know the Cyclops as the ancient Greek one-eyed monster of the Odysseus legend. But that was not the significance of the Cyclops’ one eye. Whereas most creatures had bi-focal vision enabling them to see here and now clearly and fully, the Cyclops had uni-focal vision, not just sight but insight. He was able to peer into the future with his one eye, and what he saw out there made him melancholy and morose; namely, his own death. He not only knew that he would die, he knew when he would die. And that knowledge changes everything.

I experienced that this summer. Back in August I awakened with some disturbing and frightening symptoms. I’ll not go into the details, but suffice it to say that at least some of my symptoms were indicative of a terrible neuromuscular disease that is rapidly progressing and always fatal. For 10 weeks I lived with the fear that I was dying. Then, after a visit last week to a neurologist, I was given both good news and bad. The bad news: “I don’t know what you have,” he said. The good news is that my immune system seems to be “figuring it out,” and my symptoms are slooowly improving, for which I am grateful to God, literally. I have taken no medicine; I have had no treatments of any kind. What healing I have received God has given me, and I pray that in time He will heal me fully.

But meanwhile, I have been given a strange gift in all this – The Cyclops Syndrome. Knowing when you’ll die (or at least believing you do) suddenly changes everything. Things that mattered to me just a few short months ago suddenly don’t matter anymore – career, money, position, power, influence, reputation; they’re just so much flotsam. I could leave them behind in a heartbeat. But what broke my heart was the thought of having to leave Cheryl, my wife and best friend for the past 38 years. I know that someday, more than likely, one or the other of us will have to do just that. But when you’ve literally found “your other half,” you go on with a hole in your heart, your life, your world. It’s also one of the major reasons why I believe in the resurrection. There are just some aspects of “me” that I cannot believe are merely material, ephemeral, mortal.

And so, God has given me a great gift. I’m not “out of the woods yet” by any means, and I will die, but, apparently, not as soon as I feared. And so I plan to use the time I have remaining to “major on the majors.” I will never again let a day go by without telling those I love that I love them. I will never again waste what precious time God has left for me worrying about things that won’t matter a minute after I’m gone. And I won’t spend another moment running around doing things other people think matter but which in the Great Scheme of Things are mere flotsam.

I know this. Everything looks different when you’re looking at it with one eye.


Unknown said...

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." Thank you for sharing. I'll be praying for you.

Unknown said...

I am so sorry to learn that you had such an experience and I'm glad to hear you're on the mend. The most frightening thing in my life right now is my CPAP equipment. I often have night terrors when I sleep with it (I could swear it blew a bull ant into my airway the other night but, upon waking, it was just some condensed water droplets). Since I live alone, I often wonder who would be the first to find me if something terrible actually happened. Probably Rose, as she comes over and bangs on the window when I don't answer my phone. I'm no James Dean - I want to "live gracefully, die old of natural causes and leave a peaceful-looking corpse."

Anonymous said...

I just popped in as I had not checked your blog in abit. I have tried to sign up to get notice when you have posted something new, not sure if you have that feature.
anyway, I am glad to know that you are doing better and on the road to recovery for now :)
I am blessed by your blogs.
Debbie stevenson