How My Sister’s Cancer Brought Greater Hope
My memories from childhood run together like a ripple in that old creek behind our home … it is impossible to distinguish the ripple from the current, but it is all being pulled in the same direction. Such is life; if you blink you might miss it, so they say.
They said I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was ten years old. It is difficult to steer through the hallways and waiting rooms of a hospital, crowded by children wearing masks, scarfs, and pain.
These are not the things I remember.
I do remember a sister who was born dying. Cancer. I remember parents who although were they hurting, did not question God or resent His plan for their dying newborn. There had to have been tears of anguish, but all I remember is a stern hope in the midst of being tangled up in a diagnosis, statistics, and medical expertise.
I remember a church that prayed and served our family day and night.
I remember the ladies who took me to the candy store and let me buy huge bags of Jelly Belly’s. It was nice to get a break from the hospital (I still buy Jelly Belly’s to this day because it reminds me of God’s goodness).
I remember singing songs into a pink tape recorder, so our baby girl would be cradled in words of hope … since she couldn’t be held.
I remember a God who is and was bigger than any statistic.
My sister was miraculously healed and the doctors who had given her a 10% chance of living were shocked when the tumor disappeared.
There had to have been tears of anguish, but all I remember is a stern hope in the midst of being tangled up in a diagnosis, statistics, and medical expertise.
I did not learn how to ride a bike, nor did I get to play summer league ball or participate in children’s theater, but more importantly, I learned about life and death. I sat in waiting rooms making yarn dolls with young girls who would die in a few months and yet, God let me live. Through my unique experience, the Lord taught me an important lesson as a young child: to “number my days” (Psalm 90:12).
1 Peter 1:24 reminds us that “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls…”
Watching my sister and others fight for their life, allowed me to see how fragile this life is because we are all born dying. Her fight stirred up a fight within my soul to make this life count!
I didn’t quite know how to make my life count. It seemed to me, that in order for my life to count, I needed to do something big! Since I loved singing and making people laugh, I thought I would pursue a life on the stage. I grew up watching musicals and they always made me feel so happy and I wanted to make others feel the happiness that Fred and Ginger gave me as they danced on their tip toes or when Frank Sinatra sang. Long story short, I never got the opportunity to sing on Broadway.
Even as an adult, I still have a drive to make my life count, but I have learned to go about it differently. Maybe, like me, you want your life to make an impact and you live in the constant frustration of not being big enough or special enough. Or in our social media saturated culture, maybe you don’t feel “liked” enough. Everyone else seems like they are doing something really big and you are just folding the laundry every day or going to work nine to five.
Here is where I got it wrong … God never told us to be big, He told us to become less that He would become more (John 3:30). We are to make much of Him in all of our coming and goings. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV).
That means we can make our life count in the shadows of obscurity. A big life can look so small. When you are preparing a meal for your family, that is a big thing when it is done in faith. When you slow down and take the time to talk to your child about a struggle they are having, that is a big thing when done in faith. When you take a child to the candy store so that she doesn’t have to spend all day in the hospital with her sister who is dying, that is a big thing when done in faith. When you make yourself available for your spouse, even though you are so stinking exhausted from a long day of wiping baby booties and you smell like spit up, that is a big thing when done in faith. When you go to the gym even though you don’t feel like it but you want to take care of your body, that is a big thing when done in faith. When you rest even though the world seems to be crashing down, that is a big thing when one in faith.
Even as an adult, I still have a drive to make my life count, but I have learned to go about it differently.
Life is full of jagged edges that remind us we are bleeding mortars. Like it or not, from the day we were born, we have been dying. Although we may not share the same scars, there is one thing we all have in common, we will live and we will die. There is a beginning and an end to this thing called life. Every ripple crescendos and crashes into the shore. We are born and then we break. Life blinks. We were not created to live for self … we were made for more. What is that more? Christ.
Our hope in this “messy middle” is not in our performance here on earth (making it count). Our hope and rest is in what Christ accomplished for us when He came to earth both fully God and fully man. He made His life count by loving those who were not worthy of His love. He obeyed the Father perfectly. He always shared His toys as a child. He never complained, not even about the weather. He always submitted to His parents. He never chose slothfulness. Then He died for all of us who have chosen to love our self and our sin more than we love God.
Here is the best news … you ready for this? He doesn’t ask us to get it together before we come to Him. He asks us to come to Him in faith. He asks that we come to Him small, weak, humble, needy and He gives us faith. He gives us more and makes our lives big!
Christians often speak of God wiping our slate clean … kind of like we got all F’s on our report card and then He erased them. Not only did God erase our F’s (our sin), He gave us straight A’s! When we place our faith in Jesus Christ’s performance on our behalf, we gain His perfect righteousness, so that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin, He sees His Son in whom He is well pleased. Umm, that is a big deal. That is the way to make our life count!
If you are struggling to feel and know your purpose today, take a moment to focus your mind on Christ, His finished work, and thank Him for giving you the opportunity to claim it all as your own. Thank Him. Then live! Live out your new identity that is anchored in the freedom that has been won for you. This will make your life big and meaningful.
You’ll also like Beginning Faith: Walking This Life With Grit, Grace and God, When First Runner Up Feels like “Reject”, What Love is This?, and You Freak Me Out, But I’m Gonna Do it Anyway