When I think of God turning things in our world upside down, there is certainly no shortage of examples — a massacre in a Charleston church, terrorist attacks around the world, helpless children without food and shelter, public role models who sexually abuse children. These are certainly “upside-down” occurrences we struggle to make sense of as Christians.
But while these events trouble my soul I, at the same time, often feel a bit distant from them.
I’d like to share a more personal story of how God turned my own world upside down in order to bring about new life:
I had started college in Atlanta because my best friend lived there. Through her, I met a vast network of friends, but two in particular — Kevin and Michelle — became very close to me. We were 18 and they had just started dating. After I transferred to school in another state, I lost touch and only saw them when I visited town (and this was the early 1990s, so there were no cell phones or social connections like Facebook).
When I moved back to Atlanta after graduation, I reconnected with them, but also found new friends through work and social activities. Several of my “former” friends had gotten married, including Michelle and Kevin. They were in a different place and, over the next few years, our paths only crossed occasionally, and then seldom at all.
Looking back, I believe they would have drifted right out of my life entirely had it not been a phone call I received stating that Michelle was in the hospital for unexplained bleeding. She was 27. I dropped everything, including my fear of hospitals at the time, and rushed to be with them other friends to see how we could help. Within hours, there was a diagnosis of cervical cancer with an emergency hysterectomy scheduled within days.
When I was in my 20s, I was somewhat aware that children had cancer, but I mostly associated it with being an “older” adult disease.
For a young woman who always wanted children, this was devastating news. The days beyond were a blur. Being so young, I didn’t have any experience with illness. But what I did know was that during times of crisis, people need two things: First, they need to be with other people, so I stayed. Second, they need to keep their strength up, so I fed.
I often insisted that Kevin take a break and eat some food. I distinctly remember sitting in the McDonald’s inside the hospital trying to find the right words to ease Kevin’s pain and to help make sense of this life-altering news. I have no idea what I said that day, but whatever it was, it came from my heart, from God, and it seemed to help. Our group of friends rallied around Michelle and Kevin through the surgery, through the chemo and subsequent sickness and hair loss, through recovery and the grief of lost motherhood, and all the fear that accompanied each step.
We emerged on the other side of this terrible event stronger in our friendships — and our faith.
To this day, Kevin and Michelle remain two of my closest friends. We have helped each other through many of life’s twists and turns, and I cannot imagine my life without them. But the truth is, I almost lost them.
Thanks to God’s mysterious “upside-down” ways, those valuable friendships were saved — and brought to new life — through cancer.
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2nd Week of Advent
December 6, 2015
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius
Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother
Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—
2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”