Friday

To be cancer

 Linking this old post to Emily's imperfect prose...


The sun was shining everywhere that day.  Waking in the morning, dressing for church, packing up the children, the sun was brightening our day.  After weeks of rainy weather, what a longed for treat to rise and go with the world lit up.  Birds were actually chirping.  This Sunday was beginning as perfect and peaceful as I could imagine.

Church was followed by accepting an invitation to lunch at brother-in-law's house.  His family had just returned home from their church, and they would barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs, this beautiful sunny day.


We arrived, husband and myself, six hungry children in tow.  Greetings were made, children disappear into their various imaginations and play lands, and conversation begins.

Brother-in-law passionately begins a narration of what his pastor had spoken about in church that morning.  I listen intently, always hungering for some bread from God's Word. 

He starts telling us about cancer, the way cancer feeds off of the other parts of the body, contributing nothing from itself but pain and destruction.  He then explains that his pastor compared those in the church who come in on Sunday, sit down and do nothing except for feed off of what others do, to cancer.  The cancer of the church.

My heart sank.

Then came the end... brother-in-law left church concluding that he and his wife were cancers.  They joked about it on the way home but were truly convicted, he shares.  They could at least pass out bulletins, be ushers or something.

I feel tears welling up and I leave the room, heading for the bathroom, somewhere to breath.

Why?  Why has this ungodly burden been put on God's children by man?

It is good, it is right to live for the Lord, FOR THE LORD.  Not for a building.  When are we going to stop telling God's children that if they are not serving in a specific way, a specific place they are not doing anything for God...in fact THEY ARE CANCER on the body of CHRIST?

I have been known to speak passionately against things that I feel wrong, destructive and divisive.  Yet my passion becomes rudeness in the face of those it is directed towards.  I could not leave that bathroom until my emotions were under control.

I closed my eyes tightly, I told myself not to be so upset, that the underlying message WAS GOOD.  But, I argued with myself, the received message was WRONG.  It overlooked people's callings and ministries if they were not part of their local church building.

The daddy who woke up at 4 am everyday to work in a warehouse and provide for his family, who went to church to be refreshed from his hard work, who worked such long hours so his wife could stay home and raise and teach their kiddos, who made sure to pray with the kids every night before bed, was told he was cancer.

The elderly lady who had spent her entire life running from God, who had denied Him and hid from Him, who had finally put her trust in Him and believed Him, who barely made it to church on Sunday because of her physical ailments but did make it, beaming, so joyful to be amongst her new family, she learned she was cancer.

The businessman who had no time to do anything on Sunday but attend church, who ran his business with honest principles and taught his employees to be respectful, virtuous and trustworthy, who explained to them that he ran his business to please God when they asked him why, this Sunday he learned he was cancer.

I prayed.  I asked for a humble heart, for help to not be self-righteous in "knowing" the fault in the sermon.  I left the bathroom, walking slowly, taking deep breaths.  Entering the kitchen, I took a seat at the table in the chair which my husband had left empty and pulled out, waiting for me.  Silent, I listened to the conversation going on around me.  As soon as I perceived the end of the talk, I looked up.

"YOU ARE NOT CANCER."

Brother-in-law turns his gaze upon me.  I repeat, "You are not cancer."

"In our service to the church, we are to serve God's children.  That doesn't just mean people in our local church.  That includes literal children.  Which means YOUR children.  They are in the body of Christ.  Your children, your wife.  Serving them is serving the church."

I see his look of understanding, of considering something which he hadn't before.  I continue,

"When you work and provide for your family, you are serving the body of Christ.  Your wife taking care of your boys, teaching them, keeping you fed is her ministry.  There may be a season in life for passing out church bulletins, but the love and care of your family is forever and just as, if not more, important.

If your only service, your only ministry, is what you do for your family, I believe at the end of your life God will say to you, 'WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL STEWARD.' "

Emotions beginning to show, I whispered one last time, "You are not cancer," and sat back.

"You're right," brother-in-law responded. "Thanks."

The day wore on, we finished eating and went home.  My mind and heart remained fixed on what I had heard that day, and my sadness for those brothers and sisters walking around thinking they are a cancer on the body grew.  How I long to show them otherwise.  They are beautiful, called into service of the King wherever they are, whatever they are doing.

Jesus, thank you for calling me into your service.  Help me to remember that when I am serving my family, I am serving You.  Thank you for every opportunity I have to show your love, kindness and gentleness to others.  Remind me to  make the most of every circumstance.

14 comments:

  1. "You are not a cancer."
    Tears forming at this because the way my husband and I have been treated...as if we are a cancer.

    Thank you for speaking truth to your brother-in-law. It is unfortunate that the body of Christ, the church believes that this is what submission and service means...church. church. church. me. me. me. Instead of it being God that calls us and forms our paths...it becomes the local church.
    Right there with you. So glad you found me...this truth speaks.
    Thank you.
    j.

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  2. Tears forming as I read this. Chuckling wryly because the first song in your play list (Pastorale/Secret Garden) actually set the tone as I listened to your heart. The restful strumming of the harp, the plaintive, pleading tones in both your message and the violin made me listen in a way I haven’t in some time.

    I repent and pray that God renew and then guard my heart. I ask that you forgive me and forgive others, especially in “leadership”, who have – in any way shape or form – fed this garbage, this MESSage to God's Flock – and we have, many times, far too many times.

    There are no excuses. We are taught of the scriptures where God’s heart lies. I went to the scriptures and was convicted, warned, and encouraged through Ezekiel 34.

    Thank you for standing watch upon the wall. Continue to cry aloud and spare not.

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  3. Yes, Yes and AMEN!

    We need to hear these words over and over again. It is so sad when the organized 'church' mistakes the neccessity of service to the organization for service and love for God and His people - wherever they may be!

    Your post was inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Oh, the damage we can cause to one another through thoughtless, careless words. How beautiful that God gave you courage and grace to speak words of healing. May the healing continue in God's church.

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  5. Wonderful, needed truth. Amen. Thank you.

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  6. such a great truth you told. praise God they heard someone speak truth to them that day.

    praise God you were that voice of truth. and it's as good for me as it was for them, i'm sure.

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  7. nice. i cant believe cancer was used as a metaphor...that is just wrong...i am glad you were there to speak truth into his life...not a big fan of guilt in teh church...

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  8. So thankful that God breathed strength into you in that very moment to say what needed to be said.

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  9. with my own mother having cancer, this struck a chord... and with my father being a pastor, i know, i've seen, the best and the worst of the church... you sent shivers and made me rise up to cry hallelujah, girl. well done!

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  10. oh how the bride does tear herself down. but then there are some who speak in gentleness and compassion, in truth and love. There are some who see the truth and necessity of us as a body building each other up, rather than tearing down. There are some who speak grace and mercy into the hearts of others. well done, good and faithful servant. you have spoken well.

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  11. oh, amy. i almost have no words. it feels as though i were sitting in that room; i just wish i'd had you to tell me otherwise--that i was not, in fact, cancer. i've been so empty, so.... EMPTY that it was everything in me to go and get a few drops to fill the bottom. and in that season i was made to feel as a leach, not giving, but i couldn't. i left, and stayed empty for a couple of years.

    it is a hard thing to (like you) sort of understand what that pastor was saying, but oh, i wish there were grace for all the other churchgoers who walked away as percieved cancers that day as well. thank you for your tears. thank you for your mighty whispers, and clinched fists.

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  12. thank you! i can't find the right words, but i needed to read that. thank you for speaking truth. i love also your exercise in self-control. my prayer is to marry speaking truth and self-control. once again, thank you!

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  13. I think Jesus better describes selfish people as wolves and I don't think it does much good to preach to them but I think the sheep should be warned about the wolves. Wolves are a bit like cancer because they cause much pain and destruction.Wolves sadly are a part of the church and maybe even in the pulpit.Wolves are scary but they are no match for Jesus. Let's stay close to Him and He will lead us into the fellowship of the saints(sheep) and He will protect us from the wolves!

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