My friend, Rachael, was fighting breast cancer. In November, she
had an “all-clear” mammogram. In December, she felt a lump the size of
a pea in her breast. By January, she knew it was malignant; by February,
that there were lumps in both breasts; by March, she was recovering from
a double mastectomy. As we sat one quiet April morning, her chest ached
with the reconstructive work being done a bit at a time.
“When the doctor first explained this process, I asked him why we
should go to all this effort, discomfort and expense. He simply told me it
was all about what I wanted to wear to graduation. ‘What?’ I asked him.
‘Well, ’ he continued , ‘ in a few years when your boys graduate, what
will you want to wear to their graduations?’ ”
Three days later, in my quiet time, I recalled that conversation
between Rachael and her doctor. “It’s all about what you want to wear at
graduation….” Why did such a simple statement bring tears to my eyes?
Like a rough jewel, I carried it to my heart and began to polish it. I thought of
the news of her cancer, the surgery, the chemotherapy which had to
follow. . . how it swept Rachael and all of us nearly off our feet. After all, like us,
she was a woman in full stride: kids to carpool, dinner to fix, bulbs to
plant. Being bald, removing drains and aching like an old woman weren’t
part of the plan. Even worse, in secret moments, she recalled, we
recalled, ones we loved who didn’t make it. Tears rose. Life seemed
fragile, precious, fleeting.
In the midst of unexpected turbulence, the doctor says, “It’s all
about what you want to wear to graduation….”
It made me scramble for my Bible to look up one of my favorite
back-against-the-wall stories in 2 Chronicles 20. The Jews have gone “to
possess” the Promised Land when other tribes band together and return
to take it back. In my imagination, daily more and more warriors are
gathering, preparing to move out against the Jews. No doubt, sizeable
quaking begins among them. I love the scripture, “For we have no power
to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but
our eyes are on You.”
Then, this part where God speaks to Jehoshaphat,
“Listen, do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.
For the battle is not yours, but God’s….Take up your positions;
stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. Do not be
afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the
Lord will be with you.”
This scripture and this situation make me consider the power of
encouragement. So subtle, often just a sentence, just a word or gesture.
Still, it empowers us far beyond what we might expect. As the vast army
seemed arrayed against her, Rachael received a “scout” who’d been
through the battles, and beyond, many times. The simple good news from the
other side: “It’s all about what you want to wear to graduation.”
Traveling encoded, the message was, “there is life beyond this battle.”
“For the battle is not yours, but God’s…. Take up your positions;
stand firm and see the deliverance….the Lord will be with you.”