Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Stranger

Three nights ago, I'd just finished my weight workout and was about to go swimming at my fitness club when I stopped at the water fountain to fill my bottle. A gentleman I didn't know was filling a thermos at the adjacent ice machine. I was surprised when the stranger asked, "Have you made your trip to Asia yet?" It took several seconds to recognize him; he didn't look the same. I blurted out the first thing that came to my brain.
"Sorry- I haven't seen you since you got your hair cut short." His reddish hair had been replaced by a gray stubble.
He said, "Well, it's the result of four months of chemotherapy."
I felt bad; I could tell he didn't want me to. He'd changed in the months since I'd seen him, back in the late fall, I'd guess. A college professor, he was an avid tennis player and worked out in the weight room as well; we exchanged pleasantries weekly. Now, he looked ten years older and his hands shook as he filled his container with ice. But he told me he's determined to get back on the court and the best news is he is cancer free! I told him I would be praying on his behalf. I saw him again this afternoon and he said he'd been hitting tennis balls, hoping to actually play tomorrow! I hope so, too.

Maybe it's just because of the communication age we live in but the number of people with cancer is staggering. Yesterday, I saw on Facebook that two sisters I taught, two of my favorites, have both been diagnosed with breast cancer. Many are praying for the sisters and their families. A number in my family have fought the cancer battle, including Dad who was a survivor. In terms of trauma, I would guess Dad had it relatively easy, if that's possible, as he was treated with radiation instead of chemo. And like anything he did, he attacked it with gusto. I'm sure the attitude with which one faces cancer is a huge factor in the outcome. And we know some don't make it, despite meeting it head on. We also know our God is the God of all comfort and He loves us so much, He sent His son to live and die for us, as sinful as we are. Still, my human brain in its weakness struggles to get a handle on it all.

We throw the term courage around quite a bit, like we do the word love. An athlete who isn't afraid to take the last shot in a close game is deemed courageous. As a coach, I'd say the applicable term there might be confident. Mike Tune, who is in charge of the program I'm with in Vietnam, sent me an e-mail today saying he's sending me a Blackberry Smartphone (some of you are already laughing!) to use during my four week mission in July. My response was that I would try to get the courage to implement its use. Courage? Maybe resolve or determination would have been accurate but surely not courage. The Bible makes use of the word. Three times in Joshua chapter 1, the new leader of Israel is told to be strong and courageous, twice by the Lord and once by the nation he about to command. I haven't faced the kind of trials in my life which would call for great courage. I think it's interesting that courageous is paired with the word strong by God. In Psalm 28:7, David gives the source of our strength:
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.
David also references trust and joy and praise along with strength, words so much easier to recite than exhibit. When I was a kid, I read John Gunther's haunting work, Death Be Not Proud, which was the story of his son, Johnny, and his succumbing to a brain tumor at age seventeen. I was struck back then by the profound sadness of a boy who died so young and yet now, I see it all the time. To face any life threatening illness like cancer with courage is such an advantage. To a believer, there is also comfort in the ever lasting arms of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and power in prayer. So, to all who are struggling, let me simply quote what was spoken to Joshua: 'be strong and courageous.' And please say a prayer for my friend at the water fountain, too. His tennis partners need him back on the court.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Cancer is a rebellion-a gangster outbreak of misplaced cells."
John Gunther (from Death Be Not Proud)

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

No comments: