I woke at 5:50 am irritated that I could not squeeze out 10 more minutes of sleep before the alarm. So I got up and headed to my quiet place in the guest bedroom where I often have my “quiet time”. It wasn’t my usual nice time with God. This morning I began by questioning Him: “Do you really want me to do this?”
Today was my first immunotherapy treatment. Everyone tells me that these are wonder drugs with amazing results. I believe them. I just don’t want to settle into a routine that defines me by cancer. I don’t want to be a cancer patient. I-DON’T-WANT-TO-BE-A-CANCER-PATIENT!!! I don’t want to spend time in cancer clinics. I want to get on with the work I love – promoting Christ’s agenda to and through people I love in the CCHF community. I want to be in my office…or visiting someone else’s office. But I DON’T WANT TO BE IN THE CANCER CLINIC.
Then God reminded me what I wrote a couple of weeks ago about God not sending, but rather calling us. About God asking us to go where He is already. About Father taking us to work every day, instead of sending us to do stuff for Him. (I hate it when God uses my own words against me.) So I asked, “God, are you sure You are there already? Are You in the IV room? Are You at the cancer clinic? Is that where I have to meet You today?”
His answer: “Of course that is where I am.Where else would I be!”
Where else would God be. If Jesus were walking around physically in Memphis today, where would He be. Probably at a cancer clinic. Probably not in a church building. He would be where sick people are. Where hope is in short supply. Where victims of our enemies are (cancer, the devil, mental illness, sin, tragedy, trauma, oppression – all are enemies). That is exactly where Jesus would be. That is exactly where God is right now.
God’s questions always lead to bigger answers than I expect. “Where else would I be!?”
He would also be on my street positioned to encounter my neighbor who walked 2 miles this morning at 6am to buy his first 40oz of the day, just like he does every morning. He would be at the end of my block waiting to encounter the weathered women who live the worst kind of existence, doing degrading and unspeakable things so that their pimp will give them the drugs that numb the pain of their broken lives. He would be standing outside my friend’s house as he loads up his truck at 5am, and kisses his wife and kids before he heads to work, knowing that if someone bumps him at a stop light, or if he stops at the wrong place for gas, or drives down the wrong street that I.C.E. agents might pick him up and he might not see his family again. Jesus would be in places where those people would see Him, see His love and feel His welcome, and know that He knows them and acknowledges them.
I am a phony. I live in that community with those people, but I live inside my house. I have security lights and dead bolts to keep me safe from my “neighbors”. I have central air and a heated floor in my master bath to keep me comfortable. I am proud of myself for spending more time on my front porch than most of my neighbors so that I can be seen. But the broken women don’t come onto my porch. They won’t even look at me when they walk down my street. I don’t acknowledge them, and they don’t acknowledge me. My friend who keeps Anheuser Busch in business rarely stops on the sidewalk to talk. When he does it is always to ask me how I am feeling and to tell me that he and his wife are praying for me.
if I were to make an effort, if I were to leave the safety of my well-lit porch and my weedless lawn to actually be where I could encounter my broken neighbors, they wouldn’t talk to me. I don’t look like I belong to their world. I blow dry my hair. My clothes make me look more like a CEO of a Christian non-profit, or a detective (weird how we kind of dress alike). They don’t talk to people who look like me. I know that, and I still don’t change. I am a hypocrite.
Saturday afternoon I went to get ice for Vic’s birthday party. There is an outdoor ice kiosk in an abandoned parking lot next to the interstate near where I live. It used to only take cash, but now you can use your debit card. I pulled up to find a rough looking man in his 20’s rummaging through a trash can on the other side of the machine. My first thought: “Dang, Can’t I just get some ice without having to deal with this guy!” When I got out of my car he looked up, gave me the once over, and greeted me kindly. I got my ice, which takes a minute… navigate the card reader, instructions, put your cooler under the chute, and push the right button. As I was finishing, he was eager to show me what treasures he had found in the trash – 5 or 6 unopened cans of vegetables. He then told me that he was free to do any yard work or handy work that I might need if I lived close by. He didn’t have any transportation, but he was a good worker. I told him, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash.” He said, “Yea, I figured by looking at you. I don’t need cash. I would rather have the work.” He went one way with his cans of food and I went the other way with ice for my party.
“Yea, I figured by looking at you.” People who look like me look like they don’t carry cash, or if they do, they look like people who tell people like him that they don’t have any cash.
Jesus was at the ice machine. I missed Him. He is right outside my door, down the block, at the cancer clinic. He is in those spaces I most want to avoid because they make me uncomfortable.
[This is the space where I am repenting in tears….]
I went to the clinic today. I was excited and eager, not because I was getting life-saving drugs, but because I was going to meet God there. And He was there. He was in the lady I met who runs the PAP program, and who told me that she was in it for all the right reasons. He was there when Josh, the phlebotomist, came to run my IV and shared with me why he works there. (That is Josh’s story, and too personal for me to share. But God was all over it, and was hard not to recognize.) God was present in my encounter with the FNP who came to have me sign consent forms. (Another amazing story that is hers to tell. I am glad she shared it with me. I imagine that we will become good friends in the years to come.)
As I walked into the clinic a couple in their 40s were walking out. The woman was a few steps in front of her husband, and desperately trying not to have an emotional melt down, certainly not wanting her husband see that she was fighting a losing battle with tears. I know the look. It was obvious. How many times each day is that repeated at this clinic. I wanted to stop her and say, “God is here. God is here with you.” It would have outed her to her husband, for whom she wanted to appear strong. So I prayed and asked God to tell her Himself, like he did me. He will. He sees her and her husband.
I am changing the way that I dress. And I am getting off of my porch. I want to meet God in places where He is most often found.