There are seasons when life’s circumstances seem to collide, several significant things happening all at once. That time period whether it be a week, a month, or even a year becomes pivotal in our life experience and gets burned in our memory, for good or bad or sometimes, for both. That’s what the last two months have been for me.
As a woman who suffered severe breast cancer, a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation in 2012, I entered 2013 knowing it was to be a year of rebuilding. In this year I will have a total of five procedures to recreate my chest so it might resemble more closely what God intended for a woman’s chest to look like. Two months ago I had surgery number three. It’s called a “tram flap procedure” where an incision is made from hip bone to hip bone in order that the surgeon might harvest skin, fat and muscle and create a mound that has become my new right breast. Rebuilding is a good thing, but the surgery was a big one and it’s going to take a lot of time to recover.
In the same two months, as a woman minister, I have watched my congregation have to sadly leave their historic 70-year old worship building and replant in a temporary worship space. Like more and more Christian congregations, we now meet in a school auditorium which we rent for our three worship services. We set up on Saturday night for church on Sunday, then tear down that set-up and return the space to the school’s specifications after our final service. Replanting the church is a good thing, but the loss of our beloved traditional worship space was a big one and it’s going to take a lot of time to recover.
In these two months, significant things have happened all at once and I know this time will be one that is burned in my memory – for good, for bad, and yes, for both. As a Christian woman, I strive to see all things through the eyes of faith. Sometimes, that’s just not as easy as it sounds. It requires, even demands something from me that doesn’t come naturally. Faith, the writer of the biblical book of Hebrews says, can be defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Yet as a flesh and blood woman, my innate tendency is to see things from my natural sight and judge life based on those things my human eyes see.
If I look at my body with my natural sight, I see many large incisions, cuts, wounds. Yet God calls me to look for that which is hoped for and that which I cannot yet see with my natural sight – a body that is healed of cancer and rebuilt and restored to wholeness. If I look at my congregation with my natural sight, I see the people I love sitting in blue plastic folding chairs instead of padded pews and kneeling on green garden cushions purchased at Home Depot. Yet God calls me to look for so much more – a faithful Christian congregation who trusts God wherever He leads us and who loves Jesus and His Gospel and is willing to do whatever it takes to share that love with others.
In both cases and in the same time period, God has asked that I view my world less with my human eyes and instead, choose to see with eyes of faith. In his book “The Journey” (Thomas Nelson © 2006), evangelist Billy Graham says that Christian faith in Jesus can come in one moment, but living by Christian faith is the “work of a lifetime.” It is a daily choice, indeed a daily challenge, to live by faith. I’ve made that choice and taken that challenge to live by faith. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
Bless you as you choose to live by faith and to view all things through the eyes of faith!
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.