by Joanie Butman
Anyone with children is familiar with the ubiquitous homework assignment to create an autobiographical illustration for the class. It‘s an annual elementary/middle school exercise whereby the student tells the story of their life thus far. My children surpassed my academic abilities in the fourth grade, but I was all in when it came to ‘creative’ homework assignments. The one my daughter and I came up with for her last autobiographical project was one of our best efforts (in my not-so-humble opinion). It was called “You Wanna Piece of Me?”
She drew a body and pasted pictures of her different interests, family members and activities onto the body. Then she cut it into jigsaw pieces, attaching Velcro to the underside and mounting it on a map of the world with pins indicating the places she’d been. Each piece represented a different aspect of her personality and life that she could remove and discuss at random. The reason this comes to mind now is because I am going in for surgery Tuesday where I will be cut into a human jigsaw puzzle and come out with a few pieces missing – none that will affect the composite thankfully. This will be my fourth such surgery. In fact, last time I jokingly asked the doctor if he could just install a zipper so he wouldn’t have to keep cutting into me. Velcro would be even better.
The more I thought about my daughter’s project and my upcoming surgery, it occurred to me that I’ve been playing a dangerous game with God, eagerly yielding areas of my life but hesitant to surrender certain pieces – the very ones that should have been the first to go. The ones left untreated that wreaked more havoc than this cancer, despite my maintaining a good façade. That’s the funny thing. I’m a picture of health. You’d never know I was sick. Even I forget about it sometimes. Then again, can’t the same be said about so many of us carrying around unhealthy issues that can suck the life out of us? Life offers a smorgasbord of options.
Anyway, this is a long-winded way of letting you know I will not be writing for the next six weeks or so. However, I will be taking copious notes and have already entitled my return essay – Tales from the Crypt. The halls of Sloane Kettering are ripe with material and opportunities to witness for Christ. How we handle our suffering is perhaps a Christian’s greatest ministry. Coincidentally (or not), I just read that God uses our suffering as a teaching tool. That in itself is nothing new. Who was included in His audience, however, came as a shock to me.
God is teaching other beings about Himself and His loved ones—us—as He did with Job. The point of Job's trials was to enable heavenly beings to see God glorified in Job. Sometimes He trusts us with great pain in order to make a point, whether the intended audience is believers, unbelievers, or the spirit realm. Joni Eareckson Tada, no stranger to great suffering, writes, "God points to the peaceful attitude of suffering people to teach others about Himself. He not only teaches those we rub shoulders with every day, but He instructs the countless millions of angels and demons. The hosts in heaven stand amazed when they observe God sustain hurting people with His peace. You were made for one purpose, and that is to make God real to those around you." The reality of God's power, His love, and His character are made very, very real to a watching world when we trust Him in our pain.*
Who knew that our sphere of influence spills over into the spiritual realm? When you consider that concept, suffering becomes a privilege, not a problem. It brings purpose to your pain. I’m convinced God is following my cue and taking me a piece at a time, using each one to witness to His power and glory. He doesn’t just want a piece of me. He wants all of me – and you. What are you choosing to hold onto?
I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. It reads, “Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of my hand.” Here’s another timely one from this week, “Be willing to follow wherever I lead. No matter how steep or treacherous the path before you, the safest place to be is by My side.” Amen to both!
Oh, one last thought. My Bible babes have always taught me to be specific when asking for prayer. As the duration of my hospital stay is dependent on how quickly I pass gas, I respectively ask that you pray for a fast fart!
Just following some sage advice, "Get them to laugh and while their mouths are open, pour a little truth in!" Here's the truth I want to pass along today. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10) This is the visual I will be taking with me this week (as opposed to the one above.)
If you want to follow my progress, you can visit my caring bridge site at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/joanbutman