I originally wrote this in 2015. A few months later the BFF struggling with Alzheimer’s went to be with Jesus; a few months after that my angel Rod followed her. I hardly recognized the positive person who wrote what follows. Dear Father, help me find her again . . .
I John 3:1 (The Voice) Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children
Ephesians 5:2 (The Message) Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Last night, I attended a bridal shower/Pampered Chef party. There were probably a dozen ladies squeezed into the moderate-size dining and living rooms. At one point, someone brought up my battle with cancer, and I told the group I am currently cancer free. The Pampered Chef dealer, who is more friend than acquaintance, commented that had been a real trial in my life. I agreed but told her it was pretty far down on the list of life storms I’ve encountered in the current century. She seemed a bit taken aback by that. How could anything be worse than a cancer that nearly took my life more than once?
I gave the matter considerable thought during the 15-minute drive home. Why was that particular battle so far down on my list of “really bad things”?
Number one on my really-bad-things list is, of course, loved ones away from the Lord. I’ve taken Jeremiah 31:16-17 as my Rhema Word, my personal promise from God, concerning my children and step-children. Those verses say that “my eyes” will see my children return from the enemy’s land. Note it doesn’t say my spiritual eyes. Although I know my Father is well aware of these words in His Bible, I try to remind Him about them frequently.
Number two was the suicide of my father.
Number three was my divorce from the father of my children.
Number four is mental illness experienced by me and several loved ones.
Cancer is number five.
And that’s only talking about what’s happened in the past 15 years. There were some things from much farther back in my life which would go higher on the list.
How dare I treat cancer—a terrible disease with which so many have struggled, are struggling, or even have succumbed to—as a lesser evil than some of the other items listed above.
It’s the only explanation I can come up with.
Item #1 on the really-bad-things list occurs when someone rejects God’s love.
Item #2 occurs when a spouse is rejected by his/her mate. The spouse’s love is rejected by the mate. The mate’s love, for whatever reason, has died.
Item #3 occurs when a person chooses to reject the love of God and the love of everyone else in his/her life.
Item #4 occurs when a mind, either through disease or abuse, becomes incapable of rational thought and will sometimes reject the love of God and other people. Item #3 is the most serious extreme of this.
Cancer, though? Most people who are victims of this are innocent victims having done nothing to bring about the situation. They haven’t necessarily rejected love.
In my own experience with cancer, I was surrounded by love. First the love of my Heavenly Father whose mighty hands guided the human hands of my caretakers, the love of Jesus who sat one night in a rocking chair next to my hospital bed to keep me company, and the Holy Spirit whose Presence I could sense even in the lowest of lows physically.
Then there was the love of people.
My husband was so angry at the devil for bringing this upon me that many of his friends were more worried and prayed more fervently about his emotional state than my physical one. And, although he admittedly hates to read, he would often read to me out of the Bible, was quick to do so whenever I asked. He is a concrete truck driver, my illness occurred in July and August, the busiest time of year for that business, but he would always rush home from work, shower, drive another 30 minutes to get to the hospital, and spend the evening with me. His love, in part, is what drug me, sometimes kicking and screaming, back into the land of the living.
My mother. If anything, she was even more stubborn than my husband in refusing to let me loose my sometimes fragile hold on earthly life. Her love was the perfect mother’s love.
My children. My son, as a man, is not real comfortable with expressing his emotions. But he visited enough during my sickness there was no doubt that he loved me. My daughter rode in the ambulance with me en route to my second hospital stay. She worried about me. She researched everything she could find on the internet about my form of cancer and learned that at the time I had a 5-year mortality rate of 60%. Next July will be my 5-year-mark, and I have remained cancer free.
My sisters. Before my first surgery, I charged both of them with the task of assuming motherhood for my children should anything go wrong. They both tearfully but willingly accepted the assignment, promising to love and pray for my kids as though they were their own.
My best friends. One of them was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She would repeat to me over and over during this time that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Amazing. The other BFF was at my house the day after my first release from the hospital bearing a beautiful gift, a large piece of art which read, “Faith is not believing that God can answer prayer; it is knowing that He WILL.” It has a prominent position in my house on the wall above the archway between my living room and kitchen, a constant reminder of what my soul frequently forgets.
My doctors. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say any of them “loved” me, the care they felt for me was tangible. They were concerned not just with my physical health but with my emotional well being.
My pastor and his wife. Pastor Larry visited me several times throughout all three of my hospitalizations. He was there for every surgical procedure. Wendy and the children came with him once during my second hospital stay. He visited me during my homebound convalescence. He prayed with me. Those times were times when the supernatural peace of God flooded my being. No matter the aches and downright pain I was feeling in so many places on my body; no matter the fact that a stranger had taken up residence in my head; there could be no discounting that overwhelming sense of well-being and—dare I say it—joy! that permeated my soul after those prayers.
Even my husband’s boss. Dan loves Rod; there’s no doubt about that. He also loves my sister, Jessie, who manages the office of his concrete plant. He barely knew me. But one day he visited me in the hospital when no one else was there. Taking a seat in the chair next to the bed, he told me he was very worried about Jessie. He told me flat out he didn’t know if I would live or die. He was the only person ever brave enough to tell me that; he knew I didn’t fear death. Indeed, I feared more the unknown entity of the stranger in my head than going to live with Jesus. Dan reminded me I needed to consider how Jessie, and others, would handle the situation if the outcome of my illness was not the one they were praying for. Toward that end he left me a packet of short scriptures on cards and a cute little stand to place them on. I kept the same scripture right in front of me on the hospital tray throughout the remainder of that hospital stay.
So . . . love.
That’s the difference between items 1-4 and item #5. Although love was undoubtedly present in each of those situations, it was soooo hard to find. Remember that in your sharing love with God and the people He has placed in your life. Don’t be stingy with your love. It’s not like you can ever use it all up.
- What do you think it means to love extravagantly. How does such a thing feel?
- Have you ever been the recipient of this type of love?
- What will you do today to show this love to
- A family member?
- A friend?
- A stranger?