People promise to change every day for so many reasons.
I’ll work less…
I’ll pay attention more…
I’ll eat less…
I’ll exercise more…
But how do you know someone has actually changed. Is it in the words they say? Maybe…sometimes. But really…truly…
You know by their actions.
Eleven months ago Travis changed. Overnight. He got hit with the worse news one could get hit with…
And it’s terminal.
And…just like that…Travis changed…
The words poured out. The promises flowed. But along with the words and promises came action.
Travis turned to Jesus.
Turning to God in the face of death is not exactly unheard of. In fact, people turn to God in the face of bad circumstances all the time.
“If You just help me get my mortgage paid this month I promise….”
“If You just help me finish this presentation on time I promise…”
“If You make that police officer just give me a warning this time I promise…”
But often times our promises are empty and true change never comes.
But that’s not the case with Travis.
Having known Travis for many years and having had many theological, political, and moral debates with him over the years, I admit, I was skeptical in the beginning. In fact, I was so taken aback by his sudden and dramatic change I remember asking him, in those beginning weeks, if he thought it would “stick”. I wondered if once he got back into a bit of a routine and around his friends if the promises would…fade.
Words can fade…actions leave an imprint.
You can fake words. You can’t fake actions. Ok. Maybe you can fake some actions. You can certainly clean up your language. Head to church every week. Even sit down to have the occasional quiet time.
But that’s not the kind of actions I am speaking of.
I know Travis has changed because of his actions.
Travis and Carrie got hit with more bad news last week. The chemo stopped working…already. One blip of hope in six months and…just like that…it’s gone. They immediately sent him in for a CT scan and he is now up to fifteen tumors in his liver…
This all started with eight tumors just eleven short months ago.
The CT scan also showed that his large tumor went from 4.1 cm to 5.5 cm…in just three weeks.
This disease is out of control.
As you can imagine, sadness has taken over the Roberts family in these past few days. A sadness most of us could never relate to. One the Roberts hope you never have to relate to. A sadness so deep and raw that sobs can burst forth out of nowhere one minute and crying seems impossible the next because of the numbness.
What’s left? Not much. In the pharmacist’s words…”at this point it’s just moving chairs on the Titanic”.
But there is one more glimmer of hope as far as modern medicine is concerned. Another trial. This trial uses Travis’ own immune system to fight his cancer. It involves a trip to Washington D.C., for one month, away from his family, friends and support system. It involves a pretty risky surgery removing part of his tumor to basically create white blood cells that will, in turn, fight his cancer. It involves the mother of all chemo treatments…sickness so bad it will be done inpatient. And…once the white blood cells are created they will inject them back into his body to fight the cancer.
There are a lot of hurdles to overcome for Travis to make it into the trial. First…he has to be accepted into the trial. His records are being reviewed this week or next to determine acceptance. Second…he has to be off chemo for one month before they can do the trial. Somehow, despite the recent rapid growth, the cancer cannot go rampant in his body, taking over his liver or other organs, in order to remain eligible for the trial. And, third, despite having 15 tumors in his liver, Travis’ liver counts are all well within the healthy range. They have to stay there until he gets his surgery…assuming he is accepted…assuming the cancer does not take over.
That’s a tall order.
But not too tall for our God.
How do I know Travis has changed?
Because of his actions…
Because despite this news a few days ago. Despite having a rash so painful from the chemo that doesn’t even work that narcotic painkillers won’t touch it. And despite having a sadness so deep and raw…Travis showed up at church Sunday with nine visitors. Happy to be there.
Because he loves deeper than he ever has before. A love so deep it can actually bring about sadness. A sadness that comes with facing the possibility of leaving your wife and babies.
And because he has done what so many of us can’t do for even the pettiest of reasons. He has extended forgiveness. Even for…the unforgivable.
And finally, because just a few weeks ago, he took the boldest action a Christian can take.
Travis was baptized. An outward action of his inward change.
And, what’s sweeter, two of his friends were baptized right after him. Two friends he would have never met, let alone befriended, had he not had to walk this nasty road called Cholangiocarcinoma. A year ago, it was unlikely you would have found Travis at a church…let alone inviting others to come, or being baptized for that matter, had he not had to walk this nasty road called Cholangiocarcinoma.
Sunday, at church, a song came on that either I have not heard before or I just haven’t paid much attention to. The words hit me. Hard. Tears streamed down my cheeks and chills ran down my spine as I listened to the words and thought of my friends.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I text Carrie as soon as I could. I had to tell her about this song and its lyrics. I could hear her smile through the phone as she said, “Keeks…that’s my song…I go to bed every night listening to that song….”
Travis and Carrie would never have chosen this path. Their feet would have never wandered this path. But I can tell you this. Because of it…
Their trust is without borders. Their faith is stronger. In the presence of their Savior.
How do I know?
I know it by their actions.