My mom and I traveled this past weekend to Denver to visit my brother, Joe. For those of you who don’t know, a few days after Christmas my brother was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. It is an aggressive type of cancer that has attacked by brother’s central nervous system. Some of his symptoms have included double vision, severe back pain, and difficulty swallowing which has inhibited his ability to eat.
Other than about a five day break where he stayed at his father-in-law’s, my brother has been in the hospital since December 25th. Joe was going through his third round of chemo while we visited. The chemo has made his legs incredibly weak necessitating the need for a walker, and he also has had to battle extreme fatigue among other things.
I almost didn't recognize him.
It was so good to see Joe, although I almost didn’t recognize him. He has lost almost 70 pounds in the last six weeks. He is also missing his trademark goatee that has adorned his face for the last 20 years.
I was so thankful for the 3 days mom and I got to sit beside him in the hospital. It was so good just to be in his presence and know that he was okay. I guess I also hoped that even for that short period of time, my mom and I could help him and Angela carry this load. Even though it is Joe who is battling this cancer and enduring chemotherapy, my hope is that he knows that he is not walking this road alone.
What is it that God wants to teach me?
Since I have gotten home, I keep asking myself what is it that God wants to teach me from this experience. I’m not sure I know the answer, but I do have some thoughts.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I have prayed more in the last weeks, than I probably have in along time. But as I’ve lifted my voice to God, I have felt his acceptance, not condemnation. And I have watched him answer prayer after prayer. I have watched my mom and others pray for very specific things, and I have watched as God has answered those prayers. We have specifically prayed for Joe’s vision to improve and as I sat beside him these last days I watched him as he was able to focus his eyes for longer and longer periods of time. That, my friends, is God answering prayer. I also sat beside Joe as he prayed in faith that we would be able to find something important that had been misplaced. Within minutes the lost item was located down in the cafeteria when someone could have easily walked off with it.
I was also humbled as I watched Angela over the last days. I watched her show great love to her husband, serving him, meeting his needs, and standing right beside him as he endures this trial. Watching her has encouraged me to love my husband the way she is loving hers. From beside her husband’s hospital bed she continues to parent and take care of her children, she is taking care of the affairs of their home, she is staying on top of all of Joe’s treatments and the information the doctors are giving them. She is doing all these things and not once did I see her complain. It was an incredible example of love in action.
It was an incredible example of love in action.
I also watched my brother. He is incredibly sick. He is extremely uncomfortable in his own skin right now. And he desperately wants to go home. I think it's fair to say, he’s miserable. But, and it’s a big but, but with all of that, he daily showed genuine love. I watched him intentionally reached out to those around him. I was so impressed as I watched him. He knew the name of each and every care worker that came into our room from the nurses, to the CNAs, to the janitors. If he didn’t know their name when they walked in, he did before they left. He also knew little details about many of their lives. God has put him in this hospital room for this time and instead of pushing pause on life and ministry, he is choosing to be deliberate about living life and loving people.
The last night we were there, an old family friend stopped by to visit. As he visited with Joe, Joe began to share some of what God has been teaching him as he walks through this season of his life. Joe said that he has really come to see that it’s all about loving God and loving people. He went on to share that God was helping him to really see people. He’s come to realize that there are a lot of hurting people in the world and sometimes they just need a smile. And sometimes we need to stop being afraid and open our mouths and talk about Jesus. We need to reach out and meet the souls of men--That is spreading Jesus.
We need to reach out and meet the souls of men...
As I listened to Joe basically preach, I began to realize that I want to see people the way God is teaching Joe to see them. People all around me are hurting. What am I doing to reach out and love them? When was the last time I was bold enough to talk about Jesus and what he’s doing in my life? How can I more genuinely love the people around me? God is definitely using Joe even in these difficult days. He used him and the truths God is teaching him to speak to my heart.
I pray that these words would encourage and maybe minister to you too. I also challenge you to look at those around you with fresh eyes and ask yourself how you can show them love and the truth of Jesus.