I was born in the middle of the year in the middle of the sixties, somewhere in the window between colour TV being invented and it arriving here in New Zealand. Dad had been born in Samoa, mum in America, and once the family unit was complete there were seven of us all up. As a child I was often reading, drawing, ‘having adventures’ (a few laws were flexed, one or two small ones broken, but it was mostly harmless, pre-digital fun) and so on. We had always been sent to Sunday School as kids so I grew up believing in God. It was quite a real and pervasive belief too, not at all theoretical; in the same way the average person just knows gravity is there or that chocolate rules above all other milkshake flavours, I had always just known that God was there.
My parents broke up when I was not quite a teenager; dad had been a chronic alcoholic (with all that often entails) and was sent to Kingseat hospital as a patient to overcome it. Things at home had always been tumultuous and from this point on it only got worse. I spent a couple of years as a ‘ward of the state’ in Social Welfare homes before the end of school. Near the end of my school years I was sent to church again – this time to Northcote Baptist Church. My mum had been told it would be good for me. At Northcote I became a Christian officially, though it’s hard to pinpoint an exact time, especially as I had always lived with a default belief in God. I made many friends for the first time and during this period I left school and joined the work force. After some time I followed Uwe Balzat to this church, and over the years came and went a few times, and settled back here sometime last decade.
Sometime in the very early nineties I started experiencing a few health issues which could never really be identified and these shifted and changed and intensified over the years, leaving me quite unwell in the early 00’s. I was sent from specialist to specialist and given many drugs to take, with severe depression being settled on as my main problem. Later this was changed to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and the medication kept coming.
Finally, a good doctor I had started seeing sent me to have some specific tests and it was determined that I had a brain tumor. It wasn’t the kind that is usually life threatening though mine had become that because of the size it had grown to (the surgeon estimated it could have been growing for about fifteen years or more). I was initially kind of stunned and started praying a lot. Later on a friend remarked that it was awesome that I hadn’t been bitter against God and complaining about it, but that kind of reasoning seemed odd to me. Got a brain tumor? Go to God! That was my reasoning. Putting some kind of relational barrier between myself and God when I needed him most struck me as extremely counter-intuitive.
In 2010 I underwent surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, then developed a serious complication and underwent a second emergency surgery the next day. I also developed meningitis from an unclean lumbar puncture wound. All told, what could have been only a three day stay in hospital ended up being six weeks or so! I eventually made it back home with a lot of mending to do. I will undergo an MRI scan every two or three years for the rest of my life so the remaining material at the site of the tumor can be watched for excessive re-growth.
Several years on, I am still unwell. During the removal of tumorous tissue my pituitary gland was accidentally removed and coping with a crippled endocrine system as a result has been an immense struggle. Every day I am in quite a lot of pain and discomfort and suffer from extreme lethargy and sleeplessness … the list of symptoms seems endless, and they certainly have my doctors stumped!
But through it all I rest in the knowledge that the God that has overseen my life at every point until now is still watching over me, caring for me and fulfilling his promises. Though, as yet, there seems to be no ‘cure’ for my various illnesses, ‘I know my redeemer lives’ (Job 19:12) and my hope is forever in him. If I get well, I will praise him. If not, I will praise him. He’s wiser than me and brings all to the best possible conclusion. ‘God causes ALL THINGS to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’ (Romans 8:28). Amen to that.