"I would have despaired if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. " - Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

This passage was written by the psalmist thousands of years ago and was sent to me by a friend just this morning. I thought it a very appropriate way to begin this email.

After my seizure on Friday, June 4th I was taken to UNC hospital where I was diagnosed with a 5-cm brain tumor. Surgery was scheduled for Monday, June 7th based on the urgency of the case. From the CT scan and MRI, Christina had hoped that the tumor was benign (such as a meningioma). When he opened up my skull, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Germanwala, found dramatic brain swelling consistent with a more aggressive tumor type. What was scheduled to be a five hour surgery lasted almost seven hours. Christina and the rest of the family shed many tears when they found out the initial results right after the surgery. Based on the brain swelling, the bloodiness of the tumor, the fact that it seemed to be growing through the tentorium, and the initial biopsy results, the expected diagonsis was that of a medullobalstoma or a glioblastoma, malignant tumors of the brain cells which affect appproximately 500,000 people per year. I'm writing to tell you what God, in his glory, has done instead.

Today, we were told by our surgeon that based on the pathology results from St. Louis (they had sent a sample of the tumor to some specialists at Washington University), the mass is a solitary fibrous tumor (SFT). It is not a cancer of the brain tissue itself, but of the dural matter that lines the brain. It is usually a benign tumor. There are about 70-80 cases of this type of tumor reported worldwide each year. Again, I am not a trained statitstician, but I know enough about Bayes' Theorem to know that this is a miracle. Based on all the data we had in our possession, this tumor ought to have been aggressive and malignant. It is not. God has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. It has nothing to do with my inherent goodness or niceness or religiosity or piety. He has done this because this is who He is. He is a friend to the unrighteous, the godless, and the sinners.

I know that all of you will rejoice along with me. I cannot sing and shout and tell enough about the great thing that God has done, how He ordained from all eternity that we should go through this, how He has sat up with me through the nights comforting me, how I have felt His love and His presence throughout this ordeal, how He has assured me of His forgiveness in Christ, how He has strengthened my trust in Him. But I pray and pray that none of us will lose sight of the essential lesson for me and for all of us in this trial: God is all that matters. God has given me a glorious and joyful and wonderful reprieve, but it is only a reprieve. I will still face death one day, as will all of us. What God has shown me so clearly during these last few weeks is that the only thing that really matters is my eternal relationship with Him. Either He has forgiven me through Jesus or He has not. Either Jesus' suffering and death and resurrection were sufficient to pay the debt of my sin and completely reconcile me to Himself or they were not. This difference matters. It is all that matters. As you rejoice with me during this time, please consider these questions. I am so glad that you will hug your children, care for the poor, live with love and justice and kindness and compassion. I celebrate with tears that my experience has made you realize that people are more important than things, that life is short, that love is supreme. But the final and ultimate and essential question is: am I reconciled to God? Has He forgiven me? Am I a sinner in need of radical forgiveness that only Jesus can offer? In the midst of your joy, please don't forget these questions. I am a miserable sinner who has found grace and loove through the cross of Christ. I pray that you will too.

Sincerely,

Neil


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