Wednesday, December 7
Blessings All Mine
On June 3, 2011, my nephew's wife was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Amanda, 37 and the mother of two young children, underwent a double mastectomy on June 22, and began six rounds of chemotherapy on July 19. There is nothing quite like the blow of cancer to remind us just how vulnerable our fleshly bodies can be.
In addition to the mastectomy, Amanda's body was subjected to a port insertion for chemo that resulted in a punctured and collapsed lung, a bad cold in the midst of adjusting to the surgery, and the loss of her hair less than two weeks after her first chemo treatment. There was nausea, days following treatment when she could not taste her food, and disturbed sleep. She was tired. She experienced panic, depression, sadness, uncertainty, fear, and self-pity. Her body and her emotions took a beating.
But even as her own body was fighting to hold its own, she encountered the Body of Christ in powerful ways. God's hands and feet were there for her in the form of family and friends who entertained her children, prepared meals, encouraged her, and made her laugh. When childcare was needed, friends were ringing the doorbell before they could call for help. Cards, letters, emails, text messages, and phone calls were her constant companions. Prayers in churches all over the world were lifted on her behalf. Even a stranger hugged her when she saw a pink scarf wrapped around her head.
Scripture she learned as a child would come to her when she most needed to hear a word from the Lord. When her hair was falling out in clumps, she was reminded that God was keeping track of how many hairs she had left. Hymns filled with promises and assurances of God's faithfulness gave her "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." As I read her journal entries on CaringBridge.org, I was overwhelmed by the number of times she talked about how blessed she was in the midst of this journey with cancer. "Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside," she claims.
John, the Gospel writer, tells us that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." It's hard to grasp the reality that Jesus became real human flesh like you and me. We don't think much about his crying when he was hungry or messing in his diapers. Did he get splinters in his hands and blisters on his feet? Did the Gospel writers get it right when they depicted him as anguished and sweating drops of blood in Gethsemane? Was he in his own flesh as vulnerable as you and I? Probably so - as far as the flesh goes. But he came to be so much more as the Son of God.
Amanda says "This battle with cancer has made me think more about the suffering Jesus endured, and mine seems like nothing when compared to it. And that helps me to understand on a deeper level the love he has for us to be willing to go through all that for our sakes...WOW!"
WOW indeed! Our journey through Advent to Christmas will eventually lead to the cross and end at an empty tomb. May we love deeply the One who comes to dwell among us.
- Carolyn Hale Cubbedge