Arriving a few minutes late to a youth girls Bible Study I run, having all sat down at the pergola where we meet, I asked, “Let’s check in… how is everyone… who’s going to go first?”
One of the girls, brimming with excited news, couldn’t contain herself. Her demeanour wasn’t unusual. This girl is often at the forefront of things. But there was something different. She had a smirk on her face that belied what she was about to share.
“Fiona (not her real name) has got cancer!”
I had one of those moments where I felt I was being fooled, but I knew being fooled (if I was being fooled) was a better outcome than to ‘call’ this teen girl for joking about something so serious.
She wasn’t joking.
Fiona had cancer. A type of cancer that young people get. A cancer they think they got in time. But she’s got a series of chemotherapy treatments to endure; indeed, she’d started. And she’s got some massively invasive surgery ahead.
I invited Fiona to share information with the group about the cancer. I asked her to share how she was going mentally and emotionally… and spiritually. She was going well, and everyone could see it. Only baptised months ago, having grown like many of the girls in this program do, she was motivated to see how God might use the fact she’s got cancer; to use her story for His Kingdom. She said it made her feel her faith was real. I asked the rest of the group to share. “How do you others feel?” Each shared as they had warrant to share. One girl simply said she was still in shock. We talked about the grief process; loss. As we often do. But this session was different.
The girls’ humour was clearly keeping Fiona both upbeat and grounded. I mentioned that in Romans 12 it talks about the love of community, where we mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. If they laughed with Fiona, they’d certainly weep with her. Everyone quietly agreed it would be so.
I’d come to this Bible study prepared to share on Matthew 6:25-34, where Jesus says, “Do not worry for tomorrow, for today has enough problems for us to deal with, and don’t worry in any event, what you’ll eat, drink or wear, for God will provide all your needs.” The Holy Spirit had gone before us all. As I read out the words of this passage the area was stony quiet – Fiona was especially pensive.
Fiona taught me something. The girls taught me something. They showed me again; community empowers us to wrestle bravely adversity that would floor us if we had to travel that tough journey alone.
None of us pretend that everything will go well just because it goes well in this abovementioned moment. There are many tough and insurmountable moments ahead for Fiona and her friends.
Loss teaches us that the moments are unpredictable; that we never quite transcend grief’s reach, until one day we look back and ask, “When did the grief go?”
But in community, adversity is made more palatable.
© 2016 S.J. Wickham.