There is a saying amongst the Jews that “A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be part of a great meaning.”
I teach the alphabet. That’s what we do in Kindergarten. We open up a whole world of possibilities with letters and words and rules. We teach the children to love their letters and everyone has a favourite. Usually a child’s favourite letter is the one that ‘starts their name.’ Human beings are like that, we like it to be all about us. Even from the youngest age we cry to our parents, “Look at me, look at me.” We want to be noticed, observed, praised, congratulated, encouraged and valued. We are wired that way by God. He values us. If only we really understood just how much He truly does value each individual life.
My heart has broken a thousand times this year as I’ve listened behind the curtain to the very loud doctors tell the patient on the other side what their diagnosis is. I’ve overheard a thousand conversations between loved ones wondering what the doctor will come and say. I’ve heard the man and his wife pondering together; “What will we tell the children?” and they sigh and say “It’s a very terrible, terrible state of affairs.” I feel like peeling back the curtain to prepare them as to what the diagnosis may be. I know now that 12D is the blood cancer ward of RNSH. I didn’t know that 6 months ago when we were admitted there. I know that the patient on the other side has cancer, it’s probably in their blood (because otherwise they would be in 12B, Oncology) and its probably Leukemia or Lymphoma or a Myeloma but whatever it is, its big and they won’t be going home any time soon.
I want to go and sit with them and ask them if they are a part of a company of people who will help them fight because life is about to become almost unmanageable. I want to tell them to gather everyone they know, get them to pray, get them to cook, get them to visit your house and clean it. I want to tell them that they will need all the practical help they can get because the journey they are about to embark on is absolutely overwhelming. I know this because even surrounded in a company of people I have had days when I’m overwhelmed. Okay, so I lie, I have had days on end when I have been overwhelmed.
When Sam first got diagnosed, some friends who’d been through a similar journey told us, “People will say, ‘Call me if there is anything I can do to help.’ They were being facetious and they laughed. “Very few people will actually help you,” they said, “it’s not because they don’t want to but it’s because they don’t know how.” And it made me think of the thousands of times I have cried out to God in response to Isaiah 6″8 I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” I see the state of the nations, the cry of the poor and the hungry, the state of the economy and now the epidemic of cancer and I am paralyzed to do anything. I don’t know how to help either.
Yet God calls us to rise. He calls us to be like the woman in Proverbs 31 completely prepared for what each day presents us. Life is full of challenges, mountains to conquer, and sicknesses to heal but in it all Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” John 16:33
If we stand alone as a single letter we can do nothing but if we gather we can do exploits. I love the story of Deborah who was Judge of the nations. She did not fear the battle, nor was she overwhelmed by the mighty men. She appointed others and inspired the seemingly insignificant people around her to take their part in conquering the enemy.
In so many ways I find myself on the front line. I am an advocate for Sam. In the hospital I am her voice. She is the only cancer patient in 12D this year under the age of 40. Everyday we sit with people at least twice her age. It makes no sense to see my stunning daughter in this place. I fight for her life. The staff are excellent but overworked. They too, are tired with the system.
Last week Sam’s haemoglobin was low and I begged for blood. It’s not their fault but they said “No, we don’t have enough staff, there’s no blood in the blood bank and you’ll have to come back tomorrow.” I looked at my Sam and I knew that if she didn’t get blood that day we would be back in Emergency that night. So I rang my friend who sometimes works in the blood bank and she was there. She became my advocate. She found the ‘cross match’ results for Sam, she made the calls necessary to order the blood and she messaged me to say it was ready. So I asked again but the nurse looking after Sam had another patient and she asked us to leave.
I felt helpless and annoyed especially knowing there was blood so I asked my friend, Suzanne in blood bank to call and request that the nurse reconsider. It was a big thing to ask my friend, it may have even jeopardized her job but she took courage with me and partnered in the battle. I guess together we formed two letters but not enough to create a word. The nurse would not change her mind. So I took Sam to the other treatment room and I asked all the nurses, “Is there anyone who is willing to give my daughter blood today?” and one of the nurses who I’ve struggled with all year looked at Sam and agreed she needed blood. She said she would make time but that she would have to get permission to take Sam as her patient that day. The sister in charge was not happy. She told the nurse that I was crossing a line and that I had to take Sam and leave.
My daughter needed a blood transfusion but all the doors were slamming in my face. We got in the lift to leave and I felt helpless. I guess at that moment, I knew the heart of my Father in Heaven who relies on us to reach our community for Him. We get too busy to act, too preoccupied to care. He watches them suffer though He paid a price through His only Son for their lives. Yet it is us that He called to do His work. He equipped us but we are taking tea or buying clothes or focused on our own weariness. Too busy to care; we send them away.
Then I thought I could go to the doctor’s suites on level 4 and ask a doctor to look at Sam. I pushed her there in the wheelchair I had borrowed. She had no strength, not enough haemoglobin pumping through her veins. And I walked into a doctor who knows us well and I pleaded our case. She made some calls, she warned me that we were unpopular but we headed together back to 12A and my friend, Suzanne from the blood bank arrived with the esky as the nurses talked in whispers about how pushy I am and the nurse who I used to find difficult hooked Sam up to receive her blood.
God reminded me never to judge others because I do not know who will rise up to support me. The letter I don’t really like might just be the one I need to make a word. Like in a game of ‘Scrabble’ it might have the greatest value like “Q” and just when I’m positioned I’ll pick up a “U” and score.
God doesn’t work the way I think He should sometimes. I say “make it easy,” he responds “my yoke is easy.” I say “it’s too heavy,” and he says “I will help you carry it.” He doesn’t take it away, instead he equips us. He calls us to gather, he calls us to use what he has placed in our hands. It doesn’t seem like much but together we make a whole alphabet. There’s no end to the possibilities.
As He did to Sisera in Judges 4, he will do to the devil who tries to take us out. He will use a man, He will use a woman, He will even use an ass. He will use your life if you are willing, if you give him what you have and act in faith (even as small as a mustard seed), He will cause you to conquer. It isn’t about you, or your life, or me and Sam’s life. It’s about all the believers working together in unity to accomplish His will in the earth. There are lives to be saved, people who need value, cancers to be eradicated. He will use a tent peg to defeat the enemy if that is what’s in your hand.
Yesterday I got another call from Centrelink and spent the day on the phone fighting for Sam to get the payment she is entitled to. Every time I ring they send me a new form or ask me a new question. They wanted to know what date Sam withdrew from Uni. We didn’t record it anywhere and the university would not release it and after almost despairing I remembered my friend Kate, who works at the University and so I called her and she took it out of my hands. She became my advocate and today Sam received her first payment all year.
Whatever we face in our lives it is a relief to know that “We have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father–[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action].
And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world.
And this is how we may discern [daily, by experience] that we are coming to know Him [to perceive, recognize, understand, and become better acquainted with Him]: if we keep (bear in mind, observe, practice) His teachings (precepts, commandments).” 1 John 2:1-3
I am also pleased to share that our friends who warned us that people wouldn’t help us were wrong. An army has gathered around us. People are praying, they are cooking, they are sending their cleaners, and they are rebuilding the walls of my life. I am humbled daily by the help I am receiving. Yes, I am still a little overwhelmed by the words I read in the Bone Marrow Transplant book but as my Pastor Chris Pringle ‘twittered’ me the other day “courage grows strong at the wound.”
Paul writes “You show and make obvious that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, not written with ink but with [the] Spirit of [the] living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3. So through it all we bond together, the troops are gathered, the alphabet letters mingled to form not just a letter but letters. Not just empty words on a page but lives impacted and hearts changed. Perfectly positioned by the hand of God.
NB: If you aren’t familiar with the story about Deborah it is in the book of Judges 4.
Photography by http://www.courtneyking.aminus3.com (see Blog Roll)