Walking through Cancer Valley: 1. Backs to the Future

This is the text of a video on my YouTube channel entitled Walking through Cancer Valley: 1. Backs to the Future.

“Hello. This is the first of a set of five videos under the general title Walking through Cancer Valley. The title of this one is Backs to the Future.

The world has been in a time of extraordinary uncertainty since the global pandemic hit us. There is no escaping from it. It’s everywhere and we have no idea what life’s going to be like in the future, what the ‘new normal’ may be like.

Did any of us in our wildest nightmares back in 2019 imagine that such an event would happen around the world?! For our part, Val and I sent out our Friends & Family Christmas letter early in December 2019 and it began with these words: “Another year is about to slip into history and a new one is just over the horizon with all its unknowns”. We had no idea that those unknowns would include a global pandemic! And I guess that’s true for probably most of us, if not all of us.

But for Val and me and our family, we also had no idea that those unknowns would include the diagnosis of my cancer, the major surgery that followed and the complications that took me back into hospital over Christmas and New Year. Even though my mother had surgery for bowel cancer when she was eighty, I nevertheless assumed that cancer was something that happened to other people and surely not to me after more than three quarters of a century of relatively good health. I had never been in hospital for more than two or three days and then only for relatively minor conditions. (Oh by the way, my mother lived for another six happy years after her surgery.

And my hospitalisation when a side-effect of the chemotherapy hit me so hard was certainly one of those unknowns. I’d listened to the oncologist and I’d read the literature so I knew that such a development was possible but I didn’t know it was going to happen and with such severe impact.

We think of ourselves, don’t we, as facing the future? The future is something that’s in front of us and the past is behind us. Our younger son, Gareth, when he was only two or three years old, was one day searching for the word ‘yesterday’ and he couldn’t find it. And he said “the day at the back of this one”! So already he had this concept of the future as being in front and the past as being behind.

However, isn’t it the case that, in a real sense, we are all backing into the future. We can see where we have been, we can look back over the past but we can’t see where we’re going. It’s as if we are in a rowing boat and we are rowing facing back and only the Cox can see where we’re going.

I had my own plans for the unseen future, my own understanding of what I wanted to do in the remaining years of my life … to be with my family and friends for much longer … to see our grandsons move into adulthood … to organise and publish in a short online booklet the fruits of years – even decades – of research into my family history … and to continue to teach and write. I wanted to do this … I wanted to do that … but I’ve come to realise that I must commit all those plans to the Lord and submit to him for what he wants and not what I want.

There are some verses in chapter three of the Old Testament book of Proverbs which say this: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” He is the Cox in the boat and he knows what is best for us.

All my plans for the future began to matter less and less and the realisation began to dawn that, although what I may do in the future is important, how I relate here and now is what matters most – how I relate to other people, to God, and to the wonderful world in which we find ourselves. 

And that is the subject of the next video. Thank you.”