If we’re Facebook friends then you may have seen my post about Pastor Elwin Ahu and his battle with leukemia. Pastor Elwin was one of the pastors of my church when we lived here nine years ago, but a year ago, he left to plant a new church in the city. On December 7th of last year, he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Thankfully, when caught early, as his was, this form is 95% curable. But the journey to the cure is long. And hard. And full of setbacks. Because of chemotherapy treatments, Pastor Elwin had started to lose his hair, so he decided to shave his head during yesterday’s church service and take a collection for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research grants.
I couldn’t help but think of the post I published Friday as I listened to Pastor Elwin bare his heart before his church ‘ohana about his struggles. His honesty reaffirmed my belief that people truly hear our hearts when we are not afraid to be vulnerable and real.
Pastor Elwin talked about a conversation he had with a family member who wanted to know if he’d figured out why God had allowed this to happen. Did he think he was being punished? Was God causing him to suffer in order to be blessed? Finally, he said he’d come to the conclusion that maybe he was in this difficult time just because life is hard.
I wonder how many people sitting in that room with their own unanswered questions breathed a deep sigh of relief when they heard their pastor say that. I know so many who have have no energy left to fight because they’re exhausted from trying to figure out the reason they are hurting. Maybe some who heard Pastor Elwin were able to let go of the “whys” and move on to the “hows.”
Sometimes we think being brave means never letting anyone know we’re afraid. We think in order to be brave we must soldier through with our shoulders back and our heads held high. But the bravest people I’ve ever known are the ones who honestly said in their darkest days, when they could barely even lift their heads, “This is hard. I can not do this. Only God can.”
One of the greatest gifts my dad gave me was the opportunity to watch him deal with life when it wasn’t fair. I saw him struggle. I saw him cry. I saw the fear in his eyes. I also saw him dig deep. It’s one thing to tell your kids to trust in God when life gets hard. It’s something very different to live that faith out before them when God is the only hope you have left. It’s one thing for a pastor to tell his church how to weather the storms of life. It’s something very different to have him live out that lesson in their presence.
I saw Pastor Elwin after the “Shaving Party” and he reminded me of my dad after he shaved off what was left of his hair. They both looked freer somehow. Maybe deciding to shave their heads gave them back just a little bit of the control that it felt like cancer had taken away from them. I think also there’s a freedom in sharing openly from the depths of the heart.
Bald and bare are truly brave and beautiful. I saw it firsthand today. But what I think was most brave was not what happened at the end of the service, but what happened in the heart of the message that Pastor Elwin spoke. Please pray for Pastor Elwin and for New Hope Metro. If you have a chance, set your DVR to tape The 700 Club today. They will be airing an interview with Pastor Elwin. He has also been blogging about his journey on New Hope Metro’s website if you want to hear more from him. Praying we all will continue to dare to be bare!
*MGO stands for My Grief Observed. These are posts I write about dealing the fact that my dad lives in Heaven and I live here.