Faith Forged in Fire
You have an aggressive, terminal form of oral cancer that began on your tongue and has progressed to your lungs. You have experienced extensive surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and experimental immunotherapy paired with a host of medications. Your kids are ages 15 and 5. You have lost 50 lb and your skin has a grey hue; your face is slightly deformed from surgery. You have been told you have 6 months to live: It is month 4.
This diagnosis was given to Kyle, a man who is like a second father to me. Some people might lose their faith or question God when they or a loved one are under these dire circumstances. However, the opposite occurred for me—I found faith.
Growing up, I was not a person of faith. By divine intervention, I attended a Christian nursing school. Twice a week in chapel, I stood just a little too late, did not know how to easily interlace my hands in prayer, and failed to pretend to sing. Although I did not reject Christian faith, I did not align with it.
During my junior year, my dad called, describing Kyle's bleak health situation. I was devastated. I walked through campus shell-shocked and muddled through weeks of classes. Sadness, anger, and a lack of understanding about why Kyle and his family should have to face terminal cancer were consuming.
During chapel, I sat with my arms crossed, face contorted with anger, and muscles rigid with disdain. One day, students were given a prayer card as we entered the chapel. We were simply asked to listen to the songs, and at the end, if compelled, to write a prayer request on the card. Kyle was on my heart as he had been for weeks. As I listened to the words being sung and felt the warmth of the sun through the painted glass windows, I began to cry. In that moment, my hand felt the prayer card in my pocket. Through flowing tears, I wrote what Kyle was going through, who he is as a person, how his family was being affected, and how his life has impacted mine. I turned the prayer card in and hoped to forget that day.
A few weeks later, I received an email regarding what an anonymous person had prayed for Kyle. Through watery eyes, I discovered how a stranger could pray for my loved one, and the impact reached my core. I had no previous understanding that someone's prayer and concern could make me feel the way it did. The solace, grace, and understanding an individual can feel when another prays on one's behalf was life-giving. I felt myself understand faith in a new and personal context.
Now I attend chapel willingly and sense why God calls us there. I stand with strength and interlace my hands with grace and understanding. While walking in faith is new to me, I am learning that we are all unique, sinful image bearers of God. Each one's faith journey is personal, and through grace and acceptance we come together through Jesus. Via my experience and attendance at a Christian nursing school, I have learned the healing power of prayer and how a Christian nurse cares for her patients with shalom (peace). Faith in God has changed my life. Mine is a faith forged through potential loss.
These words from God, written in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, are part of my faith history because I've experienced their truth:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3, NIV)