Category Archives: Risen savior
Fear of cancer has been the monster in the closet of my life for most of my life. In August 1979, my mother died due after losing a battle with an aggressive breast cancer that was diagnosed in July of 1974. I’d also lost a beloved grandfather to pancreatic cancer years before mother’s cancer was discovered. I knew what the disease could do, and I knew what treatment of the disease can do. So all of my life I’ve had a larger -than-the-average-person fear of cancer.
In October 2016, my fears became reality. I discovered a very large lump in my right breast. I’d recently taken a fall on a bicycle and the handlebars had caught me on my right breast. When the bruise wouldn’t go away, I started getting worried and realized that there was a large lump in the breast. I know that it must have been there a long time, without being noticed, but I did self exams on a regular basis, and it hadn’t been noticeable just a week earlier. So I made an appointment with a doctor, hoping that he would just tell me I was paranoid and send me home. Instead, on October 10, 2016, the doctor said he was concerned, and sent me for tests to be run the very next day.
October 11, 2016 – The Mammogram and Sonogram Results Are already In.
It is never good to be told “it looks like you might have a cancer, but we won’t know until the biopsy”. It is even worse to hear, at 4:15 PM, the day after you learn you have a suspicious lump, “The radiologist is really worried, it looks like a large tumor, it looks like it is in a lymph node, and we need to get you scheduled for surgery now! Go back to the radiologist, get him to give you a disc of his results, and take it to this address, that’s the surgeon who will take it out Monday. He’ll meet with you Friday to discuss it.”
Conflicting Medical Reports and Plans:
My doctor said the plan was for the surgeon to remove the lump, biopsy the lump, and then decide if they needed to take the whole breast. This would all take place on Monday, the 17th.
I was told it was 2 cm, based on the mammogram and sonogram.
I was told it wasn’t touching the chest wall.
I was told it wasn’t in the left breast.
I was told there was a “slightly” swollen lymph, but only one node.
I let my family and my employer know the plan for Monday. This was just a consult, so I told them not to take off work.
I requested prayers from friends and family.
My fear of cancer combines with my love of research. If anything about a cancer diagnosis is good, this was all actually good news. One lymph and a 2 cm tumor in this day and age is very, very beatable. It is low on the cancer rating scales.
I walked into the surgeon’s office confident it would all be fine.
Plan 1 was that this would be a surgical consultation to schedule surgery. It was a consult with a surgeon, but he had a better plan.
The surgeon looked at the reports, and did his own exam.
It is not 2 cm. It is 2 cm by 4 cm.
It might not be in the left breast also, but the original exams didn’t really explore those areas well enough to know.
It could be attached to the chest wall.
The lymph itself was 2 cm.
The only thing all the doctors agreed on was that it looked like a cancer, and that while no one can confirm cancer until they biopsy it, it met all the other criteria indicative of cancer: rough edges, mass not fluid, swollen lymph.
Given the new size report, and the possibility it had spread and they hadn’t picked that up, I was mildly worried. Okay, I was terrified. So I asked, “Are you thinking stage 4?” My wonderful surgeon said, “No, not 4. Possibly 3. Definitely at least 2, maybe a 3, but not 4. However, as certain as I am that it is cancer, until we get the biopsy, I cannot tell you if it really is cancer or not. I can only say it looks enough like cancer that I expect the biopsy will confirm what I already know.”
I admire his honesty, and I admire his optimism, and his insistence on waiting on official clinical news.
The surgeon wanted an MRI to confirm it hadn’t moved to the left breast or lung, and to perform a needle biopsy. Not exactly a calming suggestion, but he did tell me he didn’t expect to find that it had, he just didn’t want to miss something because it was not on the radar.
I notified family and friends, and set up an appointment.
Pothole in the Road – Can I actually have an MRI?
A few years ago I was diagnosed with eye problems and the eye-doctor had put shunts in to delay sight-loss caused by glaucoma. Those shunts came with a warning of, “if anyone starts talking MRI, hand them this card.” The office doing the MRI wasn’t sure if their equipment was safe for me or not, and had to do some research.
I was sent home with notes that I was definitely having a biopsy on Friday, but it was an Ultra/Sound Guided needle biopsy. If we could do the MRI they would scheduled it before Friday.
Sink Hole in the Road – MRI’s and Biopsies Cost Money
Many insurance companies try not to pay for diagnostic MRI’s related to cancer. They will only pay if a physician confirms the diagnosis officially, something they cannot confirm without a biopsy. The Affordable Care Act has caused some companies to pay for them in cases like mine, but the coding has to be done correctly. Ergo, whether I owed the full price of the MRI myself, or just the co-insurance of $100 plus 20% was the first of a long line of financial worries.
I have good insurance through my employer, but even good insurance has its pitfalls. At this point in time, I’ve already spent $100 in primary care physician and specialist co-payments. Even at just $40 each they add up fast when you see your own doctor several times, a radiologist, and a surgeon.
People hear that and think, “pfft, it is just $100.” However, on my budget, $100 is a lot of money. I’m single and have no outside source of income, but the $100 didn’t bother me as much as the fear of what was to come. On my insurance I would owe $100 plus 20% of the MRI, and then $100 plus 20% of the biopsy. I was still paying off eye surgery and dental surgery from the last 2 years.
So I asked what kind of money I was expected to have up front. This seems like a simple question. I shop all the time and when I ask the price, I get a number. ONE number. That is not how the medical profession works, apparently. I was told, “If your insurance will cover it, you only need your copay, and we bill $3,300, but if your insurance doesn’t cover it, we only charge $1,000, but you have to pay $500 up front.” So apparently it would be either $100 + 20% of $3,300, ($660) or it would “only” be $500.
Five calls back and forth between the facility doing the MRI and my insurance company, and some negotiating and I managed to come up with a figure of $279.00 due on Tuesday with the balance of the $660 to be paid out later.
What about Friday?
Friday, was the biopsy date. A this point in time I didn’t know if it would just be a biopsy or if the MRI results would lead them to do surgery on the tumor immediately. (That fear was based on my mother’s experience, and is unrealistic for modern cancer treatment, but was very real to me).
I wouldn’t have a plan until the results of the MRI being done on Tuesday, but I knew that at the minimum the biopsy would cost $100 plus 20% of whatever they decided to do on Friday.
It was all adding up, expense wise, very quickly, and my paycheck was not getting any bigger. I had no idea what it would all add up to, and no way of finding out until we had an official post MRI plan. There was no way of planning for the expense.
Panic set in. The doctor had already told me, flat out, I would do chemo. Whether it was before or after surgery had not been discussed, but chemo was absolutely in the future. Chemo medication averages anywhere from $1,000 to $6,500 a month per most of the information I could find.
So I made more phone calls to the insurance company. The news there was good. I had met most of my pharmaceutical deductible for the year. Insurance estimated I would only pay about $38 the first month of chemo, and then $10 a month until January. Insurance was drastically wrong, but I’m glad they were this time. That news eased my mind. If I had known the reality I don’t know how I would have taken it.
Conclusions at this point:
We need to advocate for simple, straight forward answers to simple straight forward questions.
And most of all, God’s got this.
It was between 11 PM and midnight, and the store was almost empty. Walking past the produce section we passed a small group of people, frowning, looking with disgust at a woman who was frantically gathering blueberries off the floor while trying to stop her daughter from throwing more on the ground. The little girl appeared to be around the age of 7 or 8. She was well dressed, clean and smiling, but she was also not making eye contact with anyone, apparently oblivious to her mother’s frantic attempts to stop her from waving her hands wildly in the air, and gazing off in a way that I had seen often on children with special needs.
As I pondered whether it would be more or less embarrassing for the mother if I stopped to help her pick up the blueberries and offered to pay for them, the whispers of disgust from the women who were watching them grew louder, and they began to shake their heads in disapproval as they leaned in to talk to one another like football players in a huddle, their eyes cutting to the mother and daughter from time to time.
That was when Matthew 7:2 sprang into my mind:
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
I wondered if they were asked, would they want God to use the rotted, rusted cup of wrath they were using when He judged them? Would they want him to see a child temporarily out of control and blueberries on the floor and blame them? Or would they want him to judge them with the shimmering crystal of a mother’s love. A mother whose love lead her to stay with her special child, despite the difficulties that come with special children?
I wondered, is she a single parent? Is she married, with a spouse who works round the clock to pay for medical bills and therapists so that her precious daughter can have better opportunities in life? Is she shopping late at night because that is the only time she is free to shop, or because she knows it will be less crowded? Did she want blueberries today? Or will she feel obligated to buy something she didn’t want to buy, because her daughter knocked it off the shelf.
I wondered what kind of parent I would be if I faced whatever struggles her daily life gave her. Then I wondered about the women who were judging this poor woman. People often respond to the suggestion that they be kinder to others with the statement, “everyone has problems,” and I suppose that is somewhat true, but some people definitely have bigger problems than others. All parents occasionally deal with a child who is misbehaving, but not all parents deal with a child who is locked in their own universe, incapable of even knowing that what they are doing is annoying others. All parents have to shop for food at some time or another, but not all of them are alone in the world, trying to carry the burden of day to day parenting responsibilities alone.
This was on my heart when a friend of mine posted a video on Facebook that showed a child who was clearly out of control on a bus. I don’t know the age of the child in the video, but I’d guess between 3 and 5. He was loud. He was rude. He was smart mouthing the woman he was with. He was kicking and grabbing and hitting at her. The thread exploded with comments about lack of discipline. I am not a big supporter of spanking, but even i thought that was what the boy needed.
The venom of those in the thread toward the woman shocked me though. Everyone assumed she was responsible for the boy’s actions. Everyone assumed she had not tried to teach him better. I suggested that might not be the case. Perhaps she was a foster parent, dealing with behavior taught to the child by someone else, and forbidden by law to spank a child. I pointed out that on that bus there were few ways the mother could discipline the child, short of a spanking. There were no toys to take away, no room to send him to, no “time out corner.”
I have no idea if the child was out of control because that woman never taught him to respect elders or because she married a father whose first wife had not taught the child respect, or she was fostering a child removed from a neglectful or abusive situation. I don’t know if she was abused as a child, and therefore swore never to raise a hand against a child. I don’t know. I just know that judging her was not helping her. Judging her was not going to teach the boy to behave. Judging her was not going to change her actions on the bus that day. I also know that my savior said, “judge not.” I don’t remember a clause that said, “Unless it really bothers you,” or “unless you or someone you know could do it better.”
Maybe this woman on the bus deserves a medal for loving a child who appears to be difficult to love. Maybe this woman on the bus deserves a hug and a handshake for not losing control and reacting in rage. Maybe this woman on the bus, who everyone assumes is a bad parent, is really a remarkable parent whose love is going to change a child’s life.
Maybe we should all stop pouring from the cup of wrath, and start using the crystal measures of love and mercy. A prayer would have helped either of these women. A hug or a kind word might have helped them.
Whispers and public condemnation will not help them.
Love can change the world. Christ proved that.
This October will mark the 49th anniversary of when I became a Christian. In the years that have passed since I accepted Christ’s offer of grace I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and I’ve prayed my way through all of them. Most of the time, God tells me yes. Sometimes He tells me no. Always, eventually, He has allowed me to understand and see why He told me no, but sometimes I have to wait a few years. Because I know prayer works, because I know God is a loving heavenly father, I pray for big things like a miraculous healing from cancer, and I pray for little things like lost car keys.
Myth 1 – God doesn’t hear prayers if there is sin in your life.
This is the biggest myth about prayer, and probably also the most repeated myth. If you do a web search for “when God says no,” you will often find, “Sin in your life,” on that list of reasons why God said no. The writer will then make some claim that God doesn’t hear the prayers of sinners. It is not only wrong, it is totally, and completely wrong, and more importantly, it directly contradicts God’s word.
The bible very matter of factly states, in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If God did not hear the prayer of sinners, God would not hear the prayer we pray for forgiveness of sins. He would not hear the prayers we pray accepting the grace he offers. He would not hear the prayers of anyone, because all of us sin. In John 9:2-3, you find the story of the blind man who who prompted the disciples to ask “who sinned, this man or his parents,” and you read that Christ replied, “It was not that this man sinned; or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Most people stop there, but the real beauty of this chapter is further down. Look at verses 31-34. In verse 31 the formerly blind man repeats the myth taught by ancient Jews, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and his will, God listens to him.” In verses 32-33 the blind man responds with, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” In verse 34 the Pharisees tell him, “You were born in utter sin, and you would teach us?” They were right, the man was born in “utter sin”. We all were. Never in the story do you hear that the man did not sin. Never do you hear Christ tell him, “repent and I’ll cure you.” Never do you hear or see anything other than the grace of God in action. That is what prayer is, an extension of the grace of God.
One reason this myth is so often repeated is because of non-believers. There is a bit of a catch-22 in there. If you don’t believe that Christ is Christ, how will you be able to pray a mountain-moving prayer with the required faith. Faith, lack of faith and sin are three different things. Sin does not block prayer. Lack of faith blocks prayer.
Myth 2: Don’t pray for the impossible.
I think many people fall into the trap of myth 2 without even knowing they have fallen into a trap. Either they simply don’t pray the prayer because they consider the thing impossible, or when they pray it, they pray it without the mountain-moving faith that is required for prayer. They want to believe that “all things are possible for God,” but there is a that little nagging doubt. As an example, consider the following scenario. A friend asks you to pray for a healing from a deadly cancer. You’ve known many people who prayed for cancer cures and received a no, but you don’t want to let your friend down, so you say ‘yes, I’ll pray,” but your prayer in your heart is more a, “Dear Jesus, I know you’re probably going to say no to this, but Jim really needs a healing miracle right now. So could you please heal Jim, or help Jim accept that you won’t.” You’ve already decided that healing Jim is impossible. You’re ripped the rug of faith out from under your own feet.
God still does the impossible. God has never made a huge show of doing miracles all the time, but God has done them since he created the heavens and the earth, and despite what people might like you to believe, he hasn’t totally stopped doing them. So don’t stop asking for them.
I was a new bride when they told me that I had a terrible cancer that would eat away my face, and that was moving toward my eyes and brain. They (several different doctors and surgeons) said there was no hope for a cure, but they could possibly give me 5 years if I let them do surgery to remove most of the tumor. I wasn’t even going to seek treatment, but I prayed, and friends prayed, and my husband asked me to do the surgery, and his grandparents asked me to do the surgery, so I did the surgery. At 7 am the surgeon ran some pre-surgical tests and confirmed there was a nasty tumor with tendrils that had eaten through bone in my face. It was not a cyst. It had grown since the initial discovery. Everything that had lead to the terrible prognosis by every doctor who had seen me confirmed the terrible prognosis.
When I woke up from what should have been a surgery that removed my jaw, part of my eye, my nose and part of my frontal lobe, I was whole, except for some holes in the bones of my face. The surgeon asked me if I believed in God, and when I said i did, he said, “That’s good, because he apparently believes in you.” The doctor said when they opened up my face, just 30 minutes after having looked at the tumor, it was gone, but the evidence of its existence earlier was still there. He said it looked like another surgeon had beaten him to it. There was a hole in my bone, there were tendrils in my bones, there was no tumor. He, and the entire board of directors of the surgical unit of that hospital called it a miracle. I do too. Someone who prayed for me had prayed with mountain-moving faith.
So, why do so many cancer patients still get a no? They can’t ALL have weak prayers.
I think there are many possible reasons, with the main one being God has better plans for us than we can imagine, and sometimes those plans are not on this earth.
When my mother had cancer, I prayed, firmly believing that she would be cured. Then one day she came to me and said, “Please stop praying that. I am really tired of this world. Not just the illness, but a world with bills, and troubles, and worries. I want to rest with my parents and brother. I want to go home.” I think that God heard my prayers, and told me no because he loved my mother enough to tell me no. Mother had earned a right to the rest in his arms that I couldn’t understand.
Also, there were things in my life that happened as a direct result of being orphaned just as I was setting out as a young adult, that would surely have been changed if I had stayed on the path of “a mother’s daughter.” Things that blessed my life overall. Things like meeting my husband. He fathered my children, had I not met him, I would not have my children. I might have other children, but not the precious, wonderful two have.
God has far-sight. We have almost no sight.God has also has a paternal wisdom that the children of god don’t have. Just as your human child thinks the most terrible, cruel thing in the world that you can do is tell them no to that one thing they are pleading for, while you know it is, in fact, one of the greatest displays of love you’ve ever made, God knows we ask for things that are not best because we don’t know what is best.
Some of you are thinking, but we’re talking about DEATH! How can a loving God ever say no to preventing death? Death is a transition, and for a Christian, it is a transition forward. Think of a fetus for a moment. As a fetus, there is darkness, there are terrible limits, but the womb is all the fetus knows. For a baby to be born, for a human to grow, the “fetus stage” has to end. All that the fetus has known is left behind, but the world that they move into is a better place than that womb. Death, on God’s timing, for a Christian is leaving behind the limits of this world to transition to a better existence.
You cannot “rush” a fetus’ through that transition. You cannot rush a christian either. Taking your own life is not the answer, and it is not wrong to do what you can do to continue to grow in this life. See your doctors, take care of your health. When the time comes though, and God says, “You have to move forward now, there is nothing left for you here,” it is not a terrible thing for the one who is moving on. It is only a terrible thing for those of us who cannot move on with them, yet. So if God says no to a prayer for a miracle healing, don’t think your prayer was unheard, or that God couldn’t do the impossible. Know that God wanted better than a world of strive, bills and sickness for the person you love. Know that he has given them more than you dreamed for them.
Myth 3: You shouldn’t pray for material things or small things.
I once asked a friend to pray about a car that was giving me mechanical trouble when I needed the car and didn’t have money for major repairs. The friend replied, “Oh, I would never pray for something like that! I don’t bother god with trivial things.”
My first reaction was, honestly, anger. It wasn’t a trivial thing to me. My second reaction was, why wouldn’t you ask god for everything you want, large or small? Human parents don’t tell their children, “Don’t ask me for anything unless it is a life or death situation.” Why do you think God would be less loving, less spoiling, less indulging to his children? He may say no, just a human parent might say no. I suspect his reasons for a no will be similar to a human parent’s reasons for saying no. If you pray for wealth and don’t get it maybe it is because God knows you will be happier and better off, if you develop a work ethic. If you pray that a potential romantic connection will call, and they don’t, maybe God saw that the potential romantic partner was a total loser, and that you were just too infatuated with puppy-love to see the truth. Or maybe, despite how you feel, someone else in the world need them more than you did. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask.
One of the most spirit lifting healing moments of my life was when I asked God to help me find my car-keys. Yes, my lost car keys. It had been a horrible, horrible year. I was a single parent barely surviving from paycheck to paycheck with two children to care for, and the boss I’d worked well with for years had retired. His replacement was a woman who hated me, and who made no secret of the fact that she was looking for a reason to fire me, and I couldn’t find my car keys. If I was late for work, she had her reason. I was terrified, I was in tears. I was wondering all those things you wonder about in moments of darkness. Had I made God angry? Was all of this a punishment? A test? I tore the house apart, I dumped my purse, I cleared off the coffee table. No keys. Then I prayed, and I turned around and there they were. Right on the coffee table I’d just cleared off. Right where I’d looked at least a dozen times. I just broke down and sobbed. Those car keys were proof he was still listening. Those car keys were a “hug” from God. That little, simple answer to a “silly” prayer gave me the spiritual strength to get through all of it, and to keep going until I came out of that tunnel. To me, that “miracle” discovery of the keys was bigger than the medical miracle I had received years before. Were the keys all along? I don’t know, I don’t care. I do know, and I do care that I didn’t find them until I begged God to tell me why he hated me, and he answered with, “I don’t hate you, here are your car keys.”
Myth 4: If someone asks you to pray for something you don’t agree with you should tell them no.
God doesn’t need you to screen his calls.
When a person asks you to pray for them or with them, don’t play the role of God by refusing to talk to God about it. Don’t lecture them on how wrong you think their prayer request is. Don’t remind them of all the reasons God might say no. Just love the person who made the request, take their hand and say, “You lead,” because, usually, what they really need is someone who loves them enough to do that.
I have been told no to requests for prayer for a lot more things that God said yes to, than to things God said no to. Each time someone refused to pray for something because they thought it was too big for God to handle, or to little for God to bother with, or just “not the right thing to ask for,” it was a slap in the face that left me feeling more alone than you can imagine, and it distanced me from them. There were a few who said, “I honestly think you are wrong to ask this, but we can ask God and let God,” and I loved them for that. Ask with them, be there for them, and let God be God. He doesn’t need you to edit his correspondence for him.
Myth 5: You didn’t have enough faith when you asked.
Sometimes that is true, but in your heart, you know that when it happens.
Sometimes it is not though. A lot of people with very real mountain moving faith are told no to requests they make to God, and being reminded of this myth leaves them feeling guilty, and a bit angry at God. It serves not purpose to tell them they didn’t have faith. Don’t do that to people.
If you go to someone you love, get on your knees, positive they’ll help you through anything, positive you know the right answer, positive they’ll agree with you, and you beg them to help you do it your way and they say no, you’re shocked. You’re a bit angry that they said no, and you’re really angry if someone says, “Oh, you just didn’t ask the right way,” or “you could have talked him into it if you had really tried.”So don’t do that to your fellow Christians.
A simple, honest, “I don’t understand why God said no, but I love you, and he loves you, and eventually we’ll understand why,” is so much nicer and more accurate than, “this is your fault, you didn’t have enough faith when you prayed.”
The bottom line is, ask God. Try to accept his answer. If you have a lot of trouble accepting his answer, ask him to please help you understand why he gave the answer he gave.God loves you. He will respond to you in love. Sometimes that is yes, sometimes that is no, sometimes that is, “You can’t possibly understand right now, but when you’re older, you will see I was right.’
Love Him. Trust Him. Love him enough to be unafraid of asking him. Trust him enough to know that if he says know, he said no out of love. Trust him enough to ask for miracles, because he can do them. Trust him enough to ask for silly things because he loves you. Trust him enough to keep loving him, even if you don’t like the answer he gives.
Like many children, I grew up singing, “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all taught me that Christ loves everyone, and that He loves sinners so much that He died for us. They did this with actions far more than with words. Love was the rule in my family. It was not unusual for my parents or for my grandparents to take in strangers, offer them food, give them something out of their closets. If someone was different or a misfit in this world I was taught to love them more because they needed it more. I was taught this was what Christ would want from us all.
My mother was a registered nurse, and a angelic hero in my eyes. My father was a good man with many friends, a generous and loving heart, and a problem with alcohol that he fought regularly. He was my knight in shining armor, and I was far too young to understand the issues of alcoholism. I knew Daddy acted silly when he drank too much and that it made mother sad, but I also knew Daddy loved Jesus because Daddy talked about Christ with that same special glow and love that he had when he talked about anyone he really loved. I knew he taught a special Sunday School class sometimes, I didn’t know it was actually a class for alcoholics.
I was five when we began attending a large church located halfway between our home and my grandparents’ home. At first I loved it. I would sing and skip on the walk to church, and when church was over I couldn’t wait to get to tell my grandmother the bible stories I had learned, and sing the little songs we had learned with her. So when we were told our children’s group would sing on the televised noon service I was excited!
The morning of the televised service they marched us into the sanctuary and lined us up, and I was put on the front row. A few minutes later another teacher moved me to the back. The first moved me forward again. The second moved me back. This went on until the front-row advocate demanded the back-row advocate explain. That is when these two women forgot that children have ears.
In front of me, and a choir-loft full of children, the back-row advocate said that my dress looked tacky and homemade. Front- row advocate said she thought it was cute. Back-row advocate hissed, “It’s obviously homemade,” as if that was a terrible thing, then added, “You know, her father is a drunk. He teaches that class for drunks.” The second gasped, and the gossip fest began.
I don’t know how long I listened, nor do I know if they ever noticed I had disappeared. I remember the pain more than anything. The horror of finding out that these people who were supposed to love everyone didn’t love my Daddy. I snuck out a back door of the choir loft and hid and cried. To this day I wonder if they ever noticed I was gone. Did they look for me?
After the sorrow came rage. How dare they talk about Daddy!? How dare they not like the dress my grandmother made?! People paid her to sew! How dare they talk about mother like something was wrong with her because she worked?! She was a nurse?!
Something inside of me broke that day. Fury consumed me for days and weeks afterwards. At first my anger was only directed at those two women, but it quickly spread to everyone who had ever spoken to me about God’s love, including my family. I thought I was surrounded by liars. I kept the anger to myself, nurturing it, letting it grow. I understood that telling them what I’d learned would somehow hurt the people I loved, so I began to live a life of deception.
On Sundays I would pretend to be excited, and I would run ahead of my family into the church, pretending to go to my class, and instead hiding, then slipping out a door to the playground behind the church. I would spend the next hour swinging. If an adult came by I would hide. My parents thought I was in class. My teachers thought I was either absent or with my family. When the Sunday School let out I would slip back into the building and meet my family, pretending I’d spent my time in class. After church my grandmother always asked my sister and I what we’d learned at church that day. I would repeat the story of Zacchaeus, which I’d always loved, and sing her the little song that went with it. I did this so often that she suggested my mother and father talk to the pastor about the fact that my teacher was giving the same lesson every Sunday.
If it had been left up to man I would still be angry at God and Christians, and I would not know my savior. I have no doubt in my mind about that fact. God, however, doesn’t leave the important things like a person’s soul in the hands of mere men.
The swing was located right outside the window of the senior pastor’s study. As Dr. Prince would go in to read over his sermon notes and pray he would glance out that window. It had to have been God’s hand that made him put aside his sermon notes and come outside, personally that day, to ask the little girl in the swing if she wanted to come inside the church. He could have sent someone else. He could have just ignored me. He did neither. He, like any senior pastor of a large church, had a dozen things to do before the service, but he set them aside and came outside and asked me if I lived around the neighborhood, and if I wanted to come inside and be with other children, and learn about Jesus.
I let him have it with all the pent up rage of a betrayed child. I told him that all that stuff about Jesus and love was a lie. I told him that everyone said Jesus loved everyone and that people who loved Jesus were supposed to love everyone, but they didn’t love my Daddy and if they didn’t love my Daddy they were just stupid and liars. I told him all the cruel things I’d heard them say about Mother and Daddy and my dress. I told him all the wonderful things I loved about my family. How Daddy gave that man Daddy’s favorite shirt and introduced him to a friend to get him a job, how Daddy told me that God loves everyone, and how Mother helped the stranger who was bleeding after his car crashed. I told him that all the stuff people said and sang about love was a lie and that I wasn’t stupid and that I didn’t want to play that game.
When I was done this pastor with a PhD who lead a large Southern Baptist Church knelt, in his fine suit, in the dirt of the playground and sobbed. Then Dr. Prince hugged me, and with tears on his face he told me that my mother and my grandparents and my father had not lied to me. That God is real. That Jesus DOES love all of us. Especially my Daddy.
Dr. Prince said that people, even very good people, make mistakes, and they can be very mean and very hurtful because they want to be like Jesus, but they aren’t. He told me that Jesus loved people like my Daddy so much that Jesus came to earth just for people like Daddy. He told me that Jesus would be proud of how Daddy gave the man clothes and how Mama saved the man’s life.
Then he took my hand, and asked me to let him introduce me to other people who really knew that Jesus loves everyone. He led me to the church and Mrs. Johnson. She would, in a few years, become my third grade public school teacher. That year, he called her to the door of a Sunday School class that was designed for children older than I was and asked her to let me join her class. Mrs. Johnson looked at me and smiled, and then smiled at him and said, “I think she is a little young for my class.” I can still see the look he gave her as he said, “She needs this room.” It was the look that children see a thousand times as adults speak that secret language of the eyes. He was right. I needed her room. Mrs. Johnson is still alive in my memory as an example of how Christ would like us all to be.
The months rolled by, my sixth birthday came and went, and one day all the children were moved to the sanctuary and told we had a very special visitor that was going to talk to us about something important. I was still feeling rage at most of the church and most Christians, and was not at all interested in this special guest – until the door opened and my friend walked in. The adults in the room were nervous in that way that many congregation members used to be nervous around ministers.
Because it was my friend, and because it was obvious to me that even the teachers were impressed that this man was here, I sat still and listened as Dr. Prince told us that he knew that sometimes when you’re a kid it seems like no one has time to listen to you, or they don’t understand how important something is to you. He told us to think of someone we loved, who we knew loved us back, and to imagine what it was like if they were never too busy to listen, never doing something so important that they couldn’t stop and help us, someone who loved us even if we were bad. He told us that Jesus loved us more than anyone else in the whole world, even our parents or grandparents. He told us that Jesus even loved us all so much that He asked God to punish him instead of us. He quoted Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” He said we could give Jesus the key to our hearts and invite Him.
A seed was planted in my heart that day. A seed that bloomed several days later. I was at home when Dr. Prince’s words came back to me. There was a terrible thunderstorm outside, and down the hall there were angry voices as my parents argued with one another over whatever it is that adults argue over. I was scared, terrified in fact, but I couldn’t go to Mother or Daddy. Not then. Not while they were fighting. I remembered what Dr. Prince had said about Jesus never being too busy, and I began to pray, though I didn’t know it was prayer.
I told Jesus that I didn’t know I had a key to my heart, or understand that part, but that I understood that everyone I loved, loved Him. That they all said Jesus loved them back and that Dr. Prince said Jesus loved me too, and wanted to help me and I told Him that He could have my key. I told him that I understood that everybody did something that Jesus didn’t like, and that I was sorry if I made Him sad. I spoke to God about great theological issues with the understanding of a child, and it was enough. I felt like a light went on around me. I felt like loving arms wrapped around me. I felt a rush of love like I have only felt when in God’s arms. It was like a veil had been pulled away between two worlds, and now I could see into God’s world. It was emersion in love, peace, joy. Fear vanished instantly. It was as much a physical sensation as an emotional one. In that instance came understanding. Over the years many Christians have shared similar experiences with me. No non-Christian can understand it.
The very next day I ran to tell my best friend about my “new friend.” She accepted Christ as Lord and Savior on the floor of my bedroom where we were playing dolls.
Days later I made a public profession of faith, and the amen-pew of the church objected. I was too young. I couldn’t possibly understand! Best to make me wait! Dr. Prince suggested a meeting, a one on one talk, with a few deacons present, to see if I understood or not. When the meeting was over my baptism was scheduled.
That’s been almost a half century ago, and God has never let me down, though I must have made Him cry many tears over the years. When I look back on it all, I wonder when God first stepped into my life. Was it when Dr. Prince looked out that window? Or was it when that window was built in that church building? It doesn’t matter of course. What matters is that God’s love prevails even against human error.
The lessons I learned from all of that have helped me as I worked with children in the church over the years. I try never to forget that children hear the adults around them. I try to remember that no matter how tired we may be, how frustrated we may be, we have a duty to display the love of Christ, not only to fellow Christians, but especially to the non-believers. How can they believe in the unconditional love of Christ if we keep showing them hate and prejudice? How lost would we be if Christ treated us the way we often treat one another?
Almost 50 years ago a very rebellious little girl was convinced that everything people told her about Jesus Christ was a lie, but I came to know that Christ is not a lie, a fable, or a fantasy. When my relationship with Him was new there was one old hymn that meant everything to me. It was not, “Jesus loves me,” but rather, “I serve a risen Savior.” Now, more than ever, in a world that mocks His existence, this beautiful hymn holds a very special meaning to me.
I serve a risen Savior
He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say,
I see His hand of mercy;
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near
He lives. He lives. Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives. He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
It isn’t easy for someone who has never met Christ to understand the reality of Christ. It isn’t easy for a Christian to help others understand. Every Christian makes mistakes in their walk with Christ, and every Christian makes mistakes in dealing with other people, Christian or not. Every relationship with Christ is unique and special. I’ve learned a few things along the way that I hope might help others, and I offer them now, not from the stance of some saint that believes she should be imitated, but rather as a sinner who hopes you can avoid my mistakes, share my joys, and most of all, learn to trust the love of Christ.