A friend of mine recently said to me, “I know life isn’t fair and struggle is indiscriminate. but it just seems to be picking on you and your wife.” I’d be lying if I didn’t say it would be nice to get an extended Sabbath from difficulty in life. In the nearly six years of being married, we have navigated unexplained infertility, the exhausting adoption process, and now breast cancer. Even during the period when things seemed to settle after Isla, our daughter, came into our lives two years ago, was highlighted by waiting for the legal process to be completed making us her legal parents, and the unusually difficult process of getting Isla’s birth certificate and social security number. It’s been quite a ride for about five years.
More than ever before, as Emma undergoes chemotherapy to hopefully decrease the likelihood of a recurrence, I am convinced that you can not allow for your circumstances in life to define you. I’ll never forget the conversation Emma and I had years ago when we made the conscious decision to not let infertility nor being a couple that had to adopt in order to grow their family beyond two people to define us. It was something that we were going to experience and would be chapter in our lives. It was not going to be the plotline by which every other moment, relationship, experience would be filtered through and then analyzed. It would not shape our choices and relationships. That resolve has carried over into navigating cancer as she has determined from the start to not allow her diagnosis define her, for which I am so proud of her. Her focus and determination has been to get to the other side of cancer and treatment.
Life is a struggle. There’s no way around it. Even the people who experience monumental success in life, especially if defined by their success, struggle to keep and maintain it. My advice to anyone who will listen is to not let your struggles define you. Struggles in the end are temporary, and there’s always a new one waiting. Christ and God on the other hand are eternal and everlasting, and there is only one. Ironically enough the first true struggle in life I experienced was shaped by the common adolescent experience of trying to figure out who I was and where I belonged. It was a difficult struggle, possibly more difficult than any other I have faced or ever will face, because it was the only one I have navigated without my identity being firmly fixed to Christ. The rest, although more heartbreaking, unwelcomed, and many totally out of my control, by a mile, do not carry the same hopeless and lost feeling that I felt in those days when I wasn’t defined by my savior I was just “saved”.