(Previously published June 26, 2010)
"The school of life offers some difficult courses,
but it is in the difficult class that one learns the most -
especially when your teacher is the Lord Jesus Himself."
(Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp For the Lord)
Many years ago (oh about 16 or so), as a college student at the University of Pittsburgh, I would have argued with this statement....that in the difficult class one learns the most...it was in the difficult classes that I struggled spending hours pouring over the facts and material being taught, trying so hard to make my brain grasp concepts that were foreign to me. Psychological statistics was one of those classes. It just didn't make sense to my English and Communication driven brain. Numbers and theories, patterns and probability....., but then again my teacher at the time wasn't the Lord Himself. It was a gentleman whose passion was all that mine wasn't and I had to work intensely to just get a C. I passed, but sighed a big sigh when that math requirement was long gone and a part of my past and I could gravitate toward the classes I enjoyed. Do I remember learning anything from that class....pretty much No! But I remember the feeling of desperation and frustration as I plowed through that class. Just praying the semester would be over soon and that class behind me.
But the school of life is so much different, or is it? I think so much depends on who or what you put your faith and hope into. We all have faith in something. It can be either ourselves, others or the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1-3,
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith, we understand that the whole worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible"
By faith, Abel offered God an excellent sacrifice: the firstborn of his flock. Cain, his brother, approached God on his own terms and eventually turned his back on the Lord. And if you know the story, Cain killed Abel. By faith, Noah built an ark, "moved with Godly fear," and was obedient to God, thereby saving his family and all animals from the flood. By faith, Abraham believing God's promise that through his son would come many generations, offered his son Isaac upon the altar knowing that God would either save his son, or bring him back to life. And if you read Chapter 11 the list of those who believed in God through faith and were found righteous by their faith continues. But this came through a testing of their faith, difficult classes if you will, as they looked to the reward and believed God's promises to be true, not in walking by sight and what they knew in their head. I believe this with every fiber of my being. And it is this faith in God that is the premise of my education in the school of life. The love I have for God far exceeds the love I have for anything or anyone else. He never disappoints and His plans for me are good. It is for this reason, that I can now accept the difficult classes of life instead of trying to plow through them as quickly as possible and just get to the other side.
I've tried the other routes early in life and through different trials and hardships....faith in me is futile. I don't have the strength or the wisdom to fight most battles. I went through much of my early life this way and became tired, weary and the joy was mustered and temporary and instead of learning, just questioned. And then faith in others.....Faith in others always disappointed me and motives were not always pure or trusted.
At the age of 6, I put my faith in God. I prayed to receive Him into my heart. I believed in Him, confessed my sinful heart to Him, but I didn't choose to surrender fully my will to Him alone until the age of 23.....and then my first big difficult class began at the age of 24. My faith was being tried and tested, but from the loving hand of my heavenly Father. I was pregnant with our first son, Benjamin, and early in pregnancy had complications requiring many tests and specialist visits. No one could figure out what was going on. I felt great, but all my tests showed a very sick pregnant woman. Around 29 weeks pregnant, I developed HELPP Syndrome. At 30 weeks, was admitted to the hospital, and 4 days later as my kidneys and liver began shutting down, as my blood pressure soared and my blood platelets plummeted to a point where I should have been spontaneously bleeding from my nose and under my skin, Ben was delivered by c-section 10 weeks early at 2lbs 12 oz. And my faith was being tested. Do I believe God is good? Do I believe He loves me? Do I believe He loves my son? Do I believe there is a purpose for this difficult course? And whereas I was confused, sad, tired and weak. God's grace was sufficient and I began to learn about surrendering, submitting and relying on my Heavenly Father, not in words alone, but in actions and in my heart. My schooling was well underway. Today, Ben is 13, strong, healthy and loves the Lord. His life has purpose as do God's ways.
A lot can be filled in the blanks from age 23 to the present....financial hardship, marriage discord, broken relationships, death of a child, miscarriage....The school of life is like that. Classes that come and go. Classes I received "well done" from my heavenly Father and classes that have needed to be retaught but in a different manner. Because one thing that holds true is that God loves us so much, He wants us learning, understanding and gaining wisdom from each class. His love is that deep. The more we run through our trials just trying to get to the other side, the more He says....slow down....I have so much more for you to learn. Be still. Wait for me. Don't take control. Don't worry. This trial has passed before the throne and I have approved of it. I will equip you for the trial, if you let me. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will lead you and guide you. I will teach you. I love you with an everlasting love.
This past year and a half, has been a year of preparation for my current class, as have many of the previous trails I have endured. You know how you have first "college prep" classes in high school and then your first year of college are all of your "prerequisites." Well it all gives a foundation for the higher level, more difficult classes. I think God operates much the same way. He takes us deeper into our faith and our reliance upon Him alone.
In November 2008, on Thanksgiving Day, my mother (who in 1975 had a brain aneurysm leaving her a left-sided hemipalegic) was taking a walk in late-afternoon following dinner. She was struck from behind by a car and had another traumatic brain injury and her skull quickly filled with blood. In God's unique way, the blood filled her brain cavity where her frontal lobe had been removed years previously. Without this space, she would have needed immediate surgery due to the swelling and may have died. She spent 2 months in both hospital and then rehab hospital. She was transported to the Pennsylvania area (where I live) and upon discharge, moved into our guest room in January 2009. This is where she spent the last year as we waited for her house to sell in Virginia and for our garage to be converted into a full apartment. She moved into her new apartment in early January 2010. It has been a year of leaning heavily on the Lord for strength, patience, wisdom, provision, healing. A year where He has taught me much about being a servant....His servant. A year of trusting Him with my mother's life and how it is now defined differently with new limitations. It has been a year of faithfully watching God's hand on each detail and constantly in awe of His plans and faithfulness. It has been a hard year where some of the lessons weren't immediately grasped or learned.
It has been a year of deep study of God's Word. I teach a women's Bible Study every Thursday at my church. This past year we began going verse by verse and God laid on my heart the books of James and 1 Peter. Books of the Bible on trials, God's grace, God's gift of salvation and endurance...books on Spiritual maturity in Christ and the walk of a believer. As I taught the final chapter and verses of 1 Peter on May 13th, I didn't know that I had just entered what could possibly be one of the biggest trials and school of life classes I've ever participated in.....breast cancer. The previous day, I had a needle biopsy done on two masses found in my right breast in early April. I would receive those results the next day and then would proceed through the beginnings of this class, surgical biopsy next and then waiting pathology results. On my 16th wedding anniversary, my husband I sat in my breast surgeon's office to hear the words....stage 1 invasive ductile breast cancer. Words that would be forever etched on my life, the life of my husband and 5 children and His testimony He is creating in us.
And so the new chapter begins. The breast cancer chapter. But I know this difficult class will be so much more than just breast cancer. As I ended 1 Peter 5, here are the words God imprinted on my heart....
"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. AMEN (so let it be!)....I have written exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand."
And so I stand. I stand still in this class that will test my faith, that will strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ, that will be a testimony of His faithfulness. I stand a little scared at what may be before me knowing the physical testing that will come as I undergo a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery on July 15th. I stand with my shield of faith in Christ so firmly gripped for Satan is desiring to bring fear and worry into my thought process and I won't let him play with my thoughts. I've stood in that place many times before and praise God for the victory He has given me. I am not worried. My faith is so firmly rooted in Christ and my eyes right now are steadily fixed on Him. I stand in the victory of Christ. This battle is not mine. God has already won the battle. I stand on Christ and pray that He will teach me, establish me, strengthen, and settle me. The class is underway....not sure how long it will last....but pray that when it is over....I will be changed forever to reflect the love and grace of my heavenly Father. May my physical alterations be an altar of remembrance upon which I praise Jesus Christ. Thank you to each of you who will stand arm and arm with me, as I step slowing, yet confidently in Christ through this new "school of life."
This blog will be my journal. It will be a place I can update each of you as the updating part can be a bit overwhelming on a more personal level. It will be a place I can share my thoughts, emotions, and my faith. May my life be an open book and a testimony to the glory of God.
Please join me in praying over my surgery on July 15th. During that surgery, I will also have my lymph nodes checked for cancer. May I ask that you petition our Heavenly Father for clear and cancer free lymph nodes? God tells us in Hebrews 4:16 "we can come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Thank you for praying.