By Erick Erickson
In fact, I have spent more time in the hospital this year than all the rest of my life combined. My lungs were filling with clots and I could barely breath. By the time I got admitted, my blood-oxygen level was below 90%. While I was there, doctors found a tumor in my wife’s right lung. In June, she had it removed and on the day of surgery the doctors found a new growth on her left lung. The one was removed on a Tuesday and the other that Friday. My wife, it turns out, has a very uncommon form of lung cancer that only affects non-smoking women.
This has been a year. It started with angry Trump supporters showing up at our home and at my office. It continued with angry people harassing my advertisers and station. And while the professional toll has been something to behold, it is nothing compared to the personal struggles my wife and I have had to deal with this year and will now continue to deal with.
For the first time we have had to actually dwell on the possibility that we could leave our children in the world without us long before any parent should have to depart. Between the weight of this political season and the struggles of health, I have spent a lot of time thinking. If my wife and I were to die, what would we want our children to know. What would we leave them with? And honestly, it is hard to separate the struggles of this year from each other. It envelops my thinking.
First, of course, I hope my children know I love them and want to keep them safe. More than once in the past few months my seven year old has asked why people hate us and hate me. The conversations at school turn to what parents talk about and I know I am not popular with more than one parent at my kids’ school. The other night, after the fall out from the latest Trump scandal, he came downstairs in the middle of the night worried that the Trump supporters were going to come back. He and his sister have already been yelled at in the store for my opposition to Trump.
I want them to know how much their mother and I love them. I want them to know that we stand in their room, in the shadows at night, just to watch them sleep. We steal glances and store them in the battle against time and age. We remember those things they will never have memory of about their lives.
Second, I want my children to know that God is real and should something happen to their mother and me that they should not blame him. We are not allowed reprieve from this world. I don’t have an answer for why God created the world as he did. If he knew everything, why did he let the devil enter the world? Why did he put Adam and Eve in the Garden with that tree when they could not eat it? I don’t have the answer, but then if I did have the answer to everything in faith, I know it would be a shallow faith and probably one I would have created. No person would create a faith with so many unknowns. But what I do know is that there must be some special role for us in the universe of eternity for God to go through this much trouble. And I also know that in creating this system he knew that the second person in the trinity would have to die on a cross.
So while I do not have all the answers and sometimes it is overwhelming and sometimes we want to blame God, Jesus has been there all along. God created a system in which he knew the ultimate outcome would be the death of his son and that by that death and resurrection we would be spared separation. So while I may be separated from my children and they may be angry if it happened, that separation would only be temporary and the joy eternal if they stay faithful to their God.
I want them to love Jesus more than me.
Third, I want them to be bolder than me. I have gotten lots of praise this year for being so strongly against Trump, but the truth is that I should have done it sooner. But I was worried. My wife’s health is an issue. I knew I was leaving RedState and headed to a new site. I didn’t want to give up being behind the golden EIB microphone. I worked for a company that had a business relationship with Trump. It was far easier to say I could support Trump as the nominee when I thought he never really would be. Others were willing to stake out that territory. I tried to have my cake and eat it too. It was only when it was clear that he really was viable that I felt the need to speak out.
At the time, at least, on that train from New York to Washington on a book tour for a book that perfectly catered to his fans, I never even thought about the consequences. It was just the right thing to do and I did it. Only after I did it did the worry start. What about my ratings? What about book sales? What about losing my job and what about my family and home? All those things came crashing down on my shoulders. The collective freakout of those around me and the loss of friends weighed heavily. The inability to go to church without questions, the passive aggressive nature of people I’d encounter who I went to church with or associated with around town, and the worry others had that I had scuttled my career in radio were overwhelming.
But I should have done it all sooner. I should have trusted the Lord and done what was right instead of dawdling hoping events would change that could spare me a difficult decision. Thankfully, though there has been fall out with advertisers and fall out with listeners and more books could have been sold, my ratings have held and I sleep well at night knowing I’m still saying and believing and advocating for those things I was saying, believing, and advocating a year ago, three years ago, and five years ago. I have not changed.
That all means I hope my children know that winning isn’t everything. Not losing yourself to the world is vastly more important. Pressure will be brought to bear and it can be unpleasant. But integrity has to matter. Doing what’s right is always more important than doing what’s liked.
While I could write a book on what I would want my children to know if their mother and I died before they woke up tomorrow, there is one point more worth writing here.
When Christ draws near, the systems of man and nature collapse. When faith grows strong, it conflicts more and more with politics and polite society. In Matthew 27, the very people who had cheered on Jesus as a king on Palm Sunday were suddenly yelling “crucify him.” He told them what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear and how quickly the crowd turn on him. The crowd always turns quickly.
Then before Pontius Pilate, Jesus is before the Roman legal system. That system is a system much of the Western world is still modeled on. But it collapsed as Christ drew near. The innocent man was handed over to death by a governor who knew he was innocent, but washed his hands of it. Even Pilate’s wife’s dreams collapsed into nightmare as Christ drew near and into mind.
Into the hands of the greatest, most disciplined military force the Christ was delivered only to see that discipline break down. They mocked him and tortured him. They ridiculed him. They divided up his clothes.
On the cross, the religious order broke down. The priests and rabbis mocked him. They showed no sympathy for a dying man. Then nature itself collapsed. The sun went dark. The ground tore apart. The graves came open and the dead walked out. The innocent man on the cross became the greatest sinner to have ever lived. The sins of the world, past, present, and future were piled on him so much so that the sun itself could not shine upon him and God himself turned his back. But Christ conquered death and set us free.
When Christ draws near, the systems we put in place collapse because they are the systems of sinners exposed by perfection. I want my children to know this. I want them to remember it. Because as they go through this fallen world there will be so much pressure on them, as there is on their parents, to conform to the world. And they must not be afraid to stand for the collapse of all things so that the one thing that truly matters stands tall.
My faith and politics are more and more irreconcilable. What matters more to me now is to do what I think is right, not to do what is popular. It is not to lead others, but to speak for those who cannot speak and do for others what they cannot do. I am no leader. I am just blessed with a platform where I say what I think is right and true and make sure those who agree know they are not alone.
The world wants believers to be alone and if my wife and I die before my children wake, they will feel alone and helpless in the world. So they must know Truth on the cross. That truth can guide them when I cannot and sustain them when I cannot and comfort them when I cannot.
I have never before worried about leaving my children alone in the world. But here I sit mindful of my health and their mother’s health. I see a fallen world and a nation turning in against itself. I want them to know neither they nor I nor their mother get reprieve from this world and its decay. But once through it we get eternity where there will be no tears, no sickness, no cancer, and no death. I just want to see them to the other side.
If I die before they wake, I want them to know these things.