Today I listened to a program on Weekend America about an African American poet who has suffered lifelong scarring from chicken pocks. Facing the effects of that scarring has given her a stronger, happier, and deeper view of what life is all about. It’s a theme that runs through my own life too.
Lately I’ve been watching other folks battle life-threatening illnesses. One, a father whose family has already struggled through a spouse’s mental illness and an only child’s lifelong handicap, has survived a first bout with lung cancer. He’s the only bread-winner in the family, and took a couple of months off from work to recover from the lung surgery, radiation, and chemo. He’s back to work now, but the impact of his illness has left him a little more sensitive, a little less irritating, and a lot more reflective.
Another, after losing his wife last year, has had a stroke and kidney failure. He spent some time in ICU but he’s back home and driving again. There’s a new openness in him, a willingness to acknowledge his vulnerability, and he’s friendlier. There’s a new level of understanding between us.
There’s something about living through serious life issues that changes our perspective, reshaping our priorities and giving us new attitudes about what is important.
Some of my own heroines are women from my faith community who have aggressively taken on terminal illnesses, (one for over 10 years!), praying, declaring, fighting, crying, and believing that Jesus’ redemptive healing is for now! And they’ve become stronger disciples through their sufferings, becoming solid role models for Gospel discipleship–ministering, healing, restoring, and delivering other folks with the healing fruit of all their own battles. They have used their time in the school of suffering to deepen their understanding of what it means to be a *real* disciple…
In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. But even though he was God’s Son, he learned through his sufferings to be obedient. When he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him, (Hebrews 5:7-9)