2018 was a life-threatening year. My wife had had her third back operation and a five-level fusion that bled inside and developed a raging infection. For months we stumbled from one course of antibiotics to the next, through blood tests, MRI scans, specialists and much pain.
In July 2017 I had to have a complete removal of a cobalt and chrome hip prosthesis after we realised that I was being poisoned by the metals. In October 2018, a pocket of cobalt was released in my body from the tissues where it was stored and I developed life threatening cobalt toxicity and a cytokine storm (the same as people with COVID). We both were in the valley of the shadow of death at the same time. This was probably the most difficult year of our lives.
We both survived through the grace of God and the miracle of modern medicine which by the way, is the grace of God. On the 1st of December, I was still reeling from the beating we took and I sat down in my usual chair to meditate and pray. It was my dad’s birthday and I was intensely aware of another very painful experience we had had when he died of liver cancer eight weeks after he was diagnosed. I was empty and very ready to hear the Holy Spirit; actually, desperate to hear something that would bring healing.
This is what I experienced - I wrote it down afterwards as well as I could remember and share it now for the first time. I then called it the "Philippians 2 Pathway walked in the light of Psalm 23".
I see a narrow pathway winding down the rocky side of the mountain of achievement, dogma, superiority and contempt into a valley of brokenness, failure and insecurity where nothing is absolute, where questions do not cause fear and my sense of entitlement seems ludicrous.
The otherness of the valley is overwhelmingly fierce as I descend but I know the presence of him who walked this path before me. His otherness fits in perfectly with the valley and his sense of contentment and purpose settles my fears. He walks before me and is at the same time behind me and I feel surrounded by a presence that I have never experienced.
On the floor of the valley, a massive oak stretches its leafless branches over a table laden with a feast that takes my breath away. I am joined by many others who are also on this journey and the table becomes a table of fellowship where we discover the common beauty that joins us together with each other and with Him.
We let go of distinctions and prejudices and join in the merriment of togetherness. We eat and drink love and our differences seem to fade away effortlessly.
The landscape around us is barren and hostile but the feast on the table makes us settle down and we discover that the valley has a gift. In the barrenness we find sweet fellowship and camaraderie that opens our eyes to the Source of the feast. We are eating and drinking from the life of Jesus and we transcend our discontent and sense of entitlement to find a love that we never knew existed.
We are joined together by a common oil of joy that changes our appearance and wipes out the scars we carried down from the mountain. Together we become lightheaded on the wine of love that keeps overflowing from the cup before us. Love does something to our eyes and we notice the beauty hidden in the barren tree over the table, the glory of the rocky outcrops on the floor of the valley, and the small patches of green grass along the pathway that leads from the table.
We find ourselves in the midst of brokenness and imperfection and we find contentment in our hearts. The season of green pastures and still waters is gone. We are entering a season of feasting and Presence. The oil of joy touches our hearts and we leap with joy into our new life of sacrifice and love. Giddy with love we join hands with many we have judged before and together we fill the valley with laughter and possibility while we walk away from the table and continue on our journey into nothingness.
With new eyes of love, we can see the truth and we receive the mercy that has brought us so far. Covered in mercy and truth we have the courage to continue on our journey. The valley has been transformed by love. It has become the place where God is.
Through the downward spiralling path and the feast of love we have found our home in brokenness, insignificance and humble other-centeredness and we will live here forever