When Pearl Harbor was bombed. When JFK was shot. When we landed on the moon. When the space shuttle exploded. When the Twin Towers fell. If you were alive for these events, you remember vividly where you were. You remember the setting. The emotions of that moment haunt you, and you connect to others who experienced that event simply because that precise moment in history changed your perspective on the world instantly. Not everyone had the same reaction, but you couldn’t not react–it affected everyone to one degree or another.
Three years ago, I was at a nursery with my girls and my aunt, filling little garden wagons with plants and enjoying a beautiful spring morning when my world changed. I got a phone call informing me that the doctor wanted to do some follow-up tests because he was concerned about my mammogram. It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten a phone call like that; three years prior, my first mammogram had to be repeated because dense breast tissue made it difficult to read. But this phone call … It was different. This time they had found a specific spot that needed to be explored. Even though it was another week before I had a definitive diagnosis, my life changed that day. I became one of the many to have my perspective changed by one word: cancer.
Our stories vary drastically after that phone call. Some of us will have chemotherapy, some will have radiation, some will have surgery. Some will be cured, some will only have a few precious years, months, or weeks before their body succumbs to the disease. But it all starts with that phone call that turns the world upside down.
My battle wasn’t nearly as difficult as the vast majority; mine, even though the tumor was very large, never invaded the surrounding tissues, so it was easily removed during surgery and didn’t require any other treatment. However, what I’ve learned is that there is a brotherhood/sisterhood regardless of degree or stage. We’re fiercely protective of one another, and the level at which we empathize with our fellow warriors is sometimes overwhelming, especially if we have grown particularly close to someone who is facing a fight that seems insurmountable. We’ve all been changed by this, and that’s what connects us. That phone call alters how we see life and death; it puts us in a fight for our life and opens us up to us see the value in each day.
Thankfully, the vast majority of those I’ve known personally on this battlefield have been faithful, devoted Christians. A few have been either unbelievers or “pew sitters” (those whose belief isn’t strong enough to make them truly die to self but who can put on a convincing display to fit in with church folks), and it’s honestly very easy to see the difference. You can almost see the peace and hope radiating from God’s children. They don’t fear the future. They have heaven in view, and they understand that our numbered days are not nearly as long as we expect them to be. They know that whatever time they are given here is a gift that they can choose to either squander or take full advantage of, in hopes of bringing others to the Lord. They mourn the time they won’t have, but it isn’t an all-consuming sadness, bitterness, anger, or hopelessness. The feelings are there, of course, but the “peace that passes understanding” is a steady keel that keeps the mind stable. Death is not a defeat, but rather a victory that we share because Jesus already won that battle when He walked out of the tomb.
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future and life is worth a living just because He lives.”. (song by Bill and Gloria Gaither)
This world we live in today is filled with the cancer of sin. It is ravaging individuals, families, communities, and our entire country. Division, distrust, dishonesty, and raw hatred are killing what is good, decent, and wholesome. We spend too much of our precious time fighting against one another, because we lack perspective.
We need a phone call.