Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. — James 4:14
Nineteen years ago today, I walked into Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne to have my left testicle removed in a procedure known as an inguinal orchiectomy. (Click here for the guest editorial I wrote in 1997, including the warning signs for testicular cancer.) It may sound very strange to hear this, but that was the best day of my life.
At 23 years old, I was a nominal Christian. I had graduated from a Christian high school, and I had attended church through elementary school, but from junior high onward I had little interest in going to church. Outside of mandatory academic work, I never read or studied the Bible. But in the days before Spring Break and the week of the break, I came face-to-face with my own mortality. I was at the beginning of my adult life and finally getting active in politics, which had been my dream for a while. Now in the prime of my life I had to deal with something that could kill me.
But while facing my own mortality was enough to call me back to God, I was still not serious about following Him. I am convinced that the additional suffering I endured over the next decade (especially a great deal of physical suffering) was a gift of God to call me to faith. Facing death and physical suffering is a reminder that our time is borrowed from God, and can be taken from us at any moment. I have no idea what my life would be like today if I never had cancer, but I am sure it would not be nearly as good as it is.
I still have a long way to go and it is often frustrating to see how peers my age have progressed spiritually when I spent so many years stagnant – a Believer, but not growing and falling back into sin. I will always struggle with sin and my old nature. All Christians do. But I thank God for Christian friends and a church that won’t let me go back to what I was twenty years ago. I also thank God for the heavy responsibility He has placed on me in being a father.
My advice to young Christian men is this: Get married and have children. There is nothing more sanctifying than taking care of a little one who depends on you for everything. You have not really lived until you have stumbled into work bleary-eyed and half awake on three total hours of often-interrupted sleep because your baby will not sleep unless he is being held. But the Bible is true when it says children are a blessing from the Lord, while our culture is built on lies.