First of all I want to thank you for the incredible support you have given over these past 6 months. Liz and I have been overwhelmed by the number of cards, letters and emails we have received and so many have told us that they are praying regularly for us. It has made a huge difference and as I come out the other side of chemo and radiotherapy I simply want to express our gratitude.
At the time of writing I have been back to a normal working pattern for three weeks and been growing stronger each week. The excellent news is that the treatment has banished the lymphoma and I am technically in remission. I will have 3 monthly check ups over the coming year but the physicians are confident that I am cured even if they cannot say so at this point.
One of the most significant points in my journey with lymphoma came on the night of my second dose of chemotherapy. The steroids that are given alongside the chemotherapy drugs make sleep hard to come by and I found myself still wide awake gone 1am. As I lay on my bed - alone as Liz was sleeping in the spare room I entered into an engagement with God which lasted a couple of hours or so. During this time I was drawn to reflect on what happened to Lazarus and his sisters when he became seriously ill and died (see Johns gospel chapter 11). During this I sensed the Lord speaking to me in a most unexpected way: Rayfield - take off the grave clothes and come out!
Within the whole period of engagement, at times musing with God and wondering what would happen to me over the course of this illness, I realised that the Father was spurring me to make this an opportunity for witness to him and to Christ Jesus. Hearing the Lord calling me by my surname felt like an exhortation to step up and step out. Some particular ways in which I could do this followed swiftly, not by a kind of divine download but through looking back at my experience since diagnosis and starting treatment.
I realised I wanted to email Radio 5s Movie Review and to write to Cycling Plus the radio programme and the magazine had both been sources of particular blessing. Another step was to wear a white clerical shirt as a sign and symbol of what God had called me into despite the overtones of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings! Of course, all of this could be put down to a manic episode brought on by the steroids it certainly did make me hyper! But realising this possibility I received an assurance that space precludes me sharing here which made it clear God was in this.
As we move into the lead up to Easter I am wondering where others may have found themselves wrapped in grave clothes. Many of us struggle to either articulate or share our experiences of God, perhaps because of how we feel they will be received. Bishop Mike and I have found that people are much more willing to hear our stories of faith than we are to share them. Our goal of having 10,000 individuals in the Diocese share their faith story seems like a moment when all of us have opportunity to step out and not let any grave clothes stifle our voice.