A few weeks ago, I participated in a special part of our morning church service called “Cardboard Testimonies.” You might have seen other church’s similar efforts on YouTube. It involved people walking out on the stage one at a time with a piece of cardboard. Written on one side was a struggle or sin that person had experienced. On the other side was what Jesus had done in the midst of that struggle.
Some of the people in my church who participated had cardboard signs that talked about abortion, addiction, or adultery on one side. On the other, God’s forgiveness, restoration and healing. Other signs indicated the death of loved ones or personal illnesses. The flip side, God’s faithfulness and love. My sign said, “Cancer, Scared” on one side, and on the back, “Jesus, His love transformed fear into freedom.”
As we sat around earlier that week making our signs out of old boxes and magic markers, it struck me as odd that 35 people would be in a room making posters about the worst thing that ever happened to us. Even crazier was that we would walk out on a stage in front of 2,700 people and show them the signs.But that’s the miracle of having Jesus in our lives: He can take even the worst thing and make something beautiful out of it.
A few weeks ago, I was heading to a Labor Day cookout. Knowing that there would be several people there I didn’t know, I was secretly plotting to NOT mention anything about cancer. How refreshing to be just a normal person for the day, I thought. At some point during the day, however, all of the adults were in one room just about to eat dessert and the host went around the room mentioning each person’s deep needs at the moment.
Besides my cancer, there was a man concerned about his aging parents, a woman supporting the family with her business, a couple planning their wedding, a young widow raising two young sons, a man whose brother was dying of HIV/AIDS, a couple whose son was straying far from his faith, a man and a woman who made the decision to marry after five years of living together and raising their daughter.
How ironic, I thought, on the one day I decide NOT to be the woman with cancer it is pointed out so dramatically. But how different the discussion became when everyone realized we were all hurting, needy people. We were able to speak words of truth and encouragement to each other. We made commitments to pray for each other. And we felt connected far beyond any Labor Day barbecue I had ever been to. The worst part of our lives connected us.
At this point, I don’t know if cancer will be the biggest struggle of my life or if I will live long enough to see it as just one of many struggles. But no matter how much I may wish to put it behind me or to erase it completely from my life, it’s part of my story and part of the story of God’s redemption. And if it can help others see Jesus more clearly, I’m just going to keep on telling it.
One thing I wish I would have changed on my cardboard testimony sign was the tense of the verb “transformed.” I realized too late that the sign made it seem as if fear was all in the past as related to my cancer. As evidenced by this past week, the present tense of “transforms” would have been more accurate.
Last Saturday I began a new nutrition program to help me be as healthy as possible. Part of the plan involves eating a serving of “cruciferous” vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower) every day. My philosophy heading into the week was that if a little is good then a lot must be better, so the first four days I consumed around 3-4 servings per day of these types of veggies.
On Wednesday, I was having some pain and discomfort in my abdomen that felt a little too similar to the cancer to be overlooked. It persisted into Thursday, and I started to worry. By Thursday afternoon, however, it dawned on me that cruciferous vegetables are not only known for their health benefit, but also their high insoluable fiber content.
Though a simple stomach ache caused a great amount of fear and worry, it wasn’t being caused by cancer. Just an excess of gas! Jesus certainly has a sense of humor in helping me to overcome my fears.