I boarded a plane on a stormy August morning two weeks ago yesterday. Peering out the window from seat 13A, the rain droplets formed artistic patterns dripping down the fiberglass. The girl on the other side of me dripped too. Daylight just peeked up over the horizon as we ascended to 36,000 feet. After some turbulence through dense cloud formations, the rising sun kissed the new morning, a reminder of that day’s fresh mercies.
The plane landed and for the next 60 hours, Lynda and I, we celebrated together the beauty of friendship, the gift of life and the privilege of serving one another. It was 16 years ago this very week, our lives intersected and I can’t even imagine who I would be or where I would be now had my life not melded with hers.
She phoned me in July. “I have a brain tumor”. Those were her words. I felt like somebody punched me in the gut as she calmly explained her medical condition and proposed treatment. Since then, her life, her plans and her future, they’ve all been rearranged.
So, I went to Dallas because I needed to hug her and tell her I love her face to face. And as a bonus, we got a few more conversations, another chicken caesar salad at LaMadeleine and one more Wednesday night together at PCPC to add to our memory bank. That sacred space has spiritually anchored each of our lives uniquely. It’s the music- the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs– that’s what I heard even in its sanctuary’s holy hush. And so did my girl. Lynda, she’s mentored my daughters in worship and me in life. And now, she is teaching each of us new and deep realities about physical suffering.
I’m back home, processing our visit in retrospect. And here is my take away, a variant of Job’s own declaration:
Cancer gives, and cancer takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Cancer’s earned a bad reputation because of its long list of undesirables, but nothing touched by the curse is beyond God’s redemptive signature. And for those who can recognize his fingerprint, they see His goodness in it too. My friend, she does.
What can cancer give?
-Uninhibited generosity of affection and words of love
-A re-ordering of priorities
-Perspective on the brevity of life
-Greater intentionality with family
-Expansion of kingdom influence to new people in new places
-An invitation to reminisce
-A free expression of laughter and tears
-Training in trust
-Dependence on God
What can cancer take away?
-Clarity and connection between thoughts and their vocal expression
-Rapid recall of words
-Mobility and independence
What’s it like to bless the name of the Lord with a terminal diagnosis?
For my friend, it’s a posture of kneeling gratefully, bowing humbly and resting peacefully. And it sounds like this:
“My life has been wonderful.”
“God has taken such good care of me.”
And, “Jesus is enough. He’s always enough.”
These phrases, they roll off her tongue as naturally as an anthem would. Proof positive that if you sing God’s word long enough, it soaks into your soul more organically than any diagnosis and fights the enemy, who attacks the body, with surgical precision.
Doctors know statistics and administer treatment plans but only God sovereignly ordains the twists and turns in every individual life and how He reveals Himself through suffering, waiting, healing, and even dying, it’s pure mystery.
The paradox of our humanity is that birth and death are double sided coins with broken and beautiful both at each end of the spectrum. As image bearers of the divine, even the curse can’t dismantle the holiness in either experience.
And for everything in-between, we petition God:
“Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalm 90:12)
And this new morning, I revisit God’s invitation to live intentionally and invest for eternity because of the faithful mentoring of my friend.
That is today’s fresh mercy.
And it’s enough.