standing near…

“The Spirit of the Lord told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading!’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.’” 
(Acts 8:28-31). 
I returned to the chemo lounge this week for my bi-monthly port flush. While many of my cancer contemporaries have their ports immediately removed after their chemotherapy has ended, per the urging of my doctor I’ve decided to leave mine in for the next couple of years. The odds for my cancer’s reoccurrence are greater in that time frame, and I certainly don’t want to have to go through the surgical process of re-inserting the port. It was a painful experience for me (think of knives poking themselves into your neck); accordingly, I’ve decided to live with the inconvenience of my port for a while longer. Thus, the need for a bi-monthly return to the cancer center in order to prevent an infection in that area.
The last time I went there, I became physically nauseated when I made that left turn into the hospital parking lot; this time I did a bit better as I made the usual trek to my usual chair and waited for Nurse Angie (Sarah has since moved to Montana and is expecting her first child!) to prep me, poke me, flush me, excuse me—a process taking about ten minutes. This isn’t on par with my previous five hour stays, so there is little time to absorb my surroundings. But with this brief visit, I did notice one thing—one singular reality that struck me afresh and forced my heart to deal with one of the cold, hard truths about cancer.
It’s everywhere.
As I looked around the lounge at the twenty some faces that filled the chairs with their ample suffering, I realized that they were strangers to me—a whole new crop of cancer patients with whom I had no connection. Some asleep. Some dehydrated. Some reading. Some requiring the immediate attention of the nurses. Very few of them engaging with the process. Most of them keeping to themselves. And it made me tearful… made my heart hurt all over again for the reality of cancer and its debilitating effects. I wanted to hug each one of them; sit alongside of them; strike up a conversation, and leave a little bit of Jesus joy with my passing.
But I didn’t; really I couldn’t. I’ve passed the ownership of my chair onto others, and the hospital wouldn’t take kindly to my just “hanging out to be an encourager” especially since, technically speaking, I don’t have authorization to be there. So I left the hospital feeling sad; feeling lost; knowing that my cancer journey has made a huge mark upon my soul but has, also, left me feeling “hung out to dry” as it pertains to the days ahead. I don’t know what to do with it all, how to process its worthiness, how to take the lessons I’ve learned and how to graciously bestow them upon others… those cancer “others” who might benefit from having a “come alongside” kind of Philip at their side—someone who is willing to “step up” and help with the reading of life and truth and Jesus’ role in it all.
While re-reading the above passage of scripture last night (one of my favorites in all of the book of Acts), I was reminded again about the nature of the learning process—about what it is to be a teacher in the classroom of life and what it is to be student. Really, there are two types of learners when it comes to spiritual matters and otherwise.
The first learner is represented by the Ethiopian eunuch—a person longing to learn the truth, yet unable to fully grasp its meaning because of language barriers, historical barriers, familial barriers, religious barriers, traditional barriers. His upbringing hadn’t allowed him the privilege of first-hand knowledge. Thus, when it came to his understanding and the grasping of truth, he began at a deficit. It wasn’t his fault; it simply was his reality. Accordingly, he could have chosen to settle for current understanding—for the “reading” of the story without ever really engaging with its witness. This kind of thinking represents the first type of learner—a learner that never makes his/her way past the print on a page. A learner that chooses ignorance over understanding. A learner that never progresses past the first grade and that is willing to spend a lifetime reciting the ABC’s (a comfortable education) rather than moving onto writing those ABC’s into a meaningful manuscript (a sometimes less comfortable, more laborious and struggling education).
The second type of learner is also represented by the Ethiopian eunuch—a person longing to learn the truth and who is fully willing to accept the teaching of one more knowledgeable, more experienced—a teacher who is willing to come alongside, to step up into the chariot of elementary understanding, to invest personal energies, and to unfold truth in the light of practical, first-hand knowledge and experience. The student-learner who is willing to receive a helping hand as it pertains to furthering his/her education recognizes that, without the help of another, he/she is likely to remain stuck in earlier perceptions that will never really advance personal education. A wise student is willing to share the chariot with a teacher who has previously walked the desert road and who has leaned into his/her own personal learning as it pertains to all of life.
I have been as both learners on my journey through cancer. A student longing for truth but unable to fully interpret it because of never “having been this way before.” I’ve also been a student willing to allow a couple of teachers to join me in the chariot, because I understood that their previous learning would be invaluable to me in my own quest for truth. Like Philip, they have graciously “stayed near my chariot” and, per my request, jumped on board to answer all of my questions and to gently point me forward toward personal application of truth. I am a better learner and survivor because of their generous investments into my understanding. And I am grateful that when they, like me, looked around the “rooms” in their lives and saw a whole new crop of cancer patients, they didn’t shrink back from God’s calling to “stay near my chariot.”
It is my heart’s desire to walk in that same calling, for I have, like them, have walked this desert road. As I look around my “room,” I want to follow God’s promptings toward a chariot or two where I might invest this heart-hurt of mine—a stepping up and into the lives of other cancer patients who need the benefit of my previous education. A few people who might be willing to allow me some personal investment into their personal quest for the truth. It’s not always easy to find them, those who are willing to move past elementary understanding and into the struggling strains of furthering their education. Harder still, is finding someone who is willing to trust my desert heart with the teaching, but I believe that this is what God is calling me to—to stay near the hurting and to gently offer God’s grace, peace, and understanding for the journey ahead.
We’ve all been called to the same… to the “staying near” to a few chariots where we might be used by God to reveal his truth. Not everyone will invite us into their private confusion. Some are content to live within the parameters of their well-recited ABC’s. But every now and again, there will be a few who will bend to their learning, those who want to further the story and who will need the benefit of your previous desert walk.
They are everywhere… a whole new crop of confused and suffering patients in desperate need of our nearness to their pain. How I pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to listen, and then feet to step up… to stay up until the work of the cross is done. Even so, keep to it friends, and if you’re so inclined, let me know what chariots God is calling you to “stand near” to in this season of living. As always…
Peace for the journey,

24 Responses to standing near…

  1. My life has been so crazy preparing for the mission field that I haven't been able to visit in a while. As always you continue to encourage. I think God may have another book for you to write specifically for those battling cancer. Have you ever thought about that?

  2. I don't think I have what it takes to fight cancer like you did. I'm constantly amazed and inspired by your story. My prayers continue to be for your complete healing with no recurrance.

  3. Just keep writing…You may just find some of those chariots right here among your readers. I don't know what the recent statistics on cancer are, but I do know it's very likely that one day one of us readers will be be told we have cancer, and will need the help and encouragement that you so willingly give.
    I agree with the first comment…there may be a book to come from your experience.

  4. So it is with every 'disease' or 'disability. In the past year I have had the opportunity to step into the chariot with a young woman who battles an eating disorder. I walked that road and can help her understand a bit of what is going on in her psyche. I was once that young woman in the early 80's and unfortunately there was no one around who could step into the chariot with me. I want to be there for those who need that teaching and encouraging.

    God bless you, Elain.

  5. I have no doubt in my heart that God has some special people picked out for you to walk beside. You are already a great inspiration on my own journey.

    Continued prayers…

  6. I love how God is stirring up this next season for your life. You have a pen and you have your experience, and in writing God is showing you more, and teaching me more.

  7. Elaine…
    Your post is so timely. A few weeks ago I was out with my cycling team for a ride. It amazes me how God can use even a flat tire on the road to give someone the opportunity to share their biggest grief and fear. While my husband was changing a flat road bike tire one of our teammates called me aside and told me that his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer just the day before. My heart broke two… but I know my heart was in far better shape than his broken heart. It had been shattered into a million pieces.

    Today in one of my emails to Dave and his wife Susie I included a link to your blog… So my dear friend… your journey's lessons will continue. Perhaps not in that hospital… but in the inbox of a woman who is just now immersed in the deep waters of living with cancer.

    For now… if you would lift Susie, her husband Dave and daughter Meaghan in prayer I would be so appreciative. We will know more this week what her course of treatment will be…

    When the dust settles… I do believe a book should be in the works! 🙂

    Much love my friend!

  8. Dear, dear Elaine….you are so above and beyond where most people even expect to excel to in life and it amazes me each and every time I read your writings! God is with you! And you are being such a blessing and a help even when you probably don't realize it. You praise instead of pout. You give glory instead of a glare. You have fun instead of frown. Love you my dear friend !!


  9. Elaine, I'm sure God will use you to minister to some very needy souls in the coming days and years — and I'm sure your willing heart is precious to Him indeed. May He open the doors and then guide and direct everything you say and do!

  10. 2 things Elaine…

    1. He's already using you, in so many directions.

    2. Book, book, book! Your journey and your gift of expression, would help so many.

    No, 3 things!

    You should know, if I ever need someone to stand by my chariot, I will come running!

  11. It's times like these that I long for you and I to live beside one another! I'm sure we would be busy fixing little bags/baskets with small devotionals, unscented lotion, small gift cards, and other little goodies to hand out at the treatment center.

    Perhaps your church or your district could become involved in this kind of ministry, providing small items for little bags/baskets to hand out to the patients?

    I certainly can't speak for those receiving treatment at the center, but I know how I have a tendency to put up an invisible barrier around myself when I'm not feeling well. A small token of love from a caring person makes all the difference.

    Missing you lots!

    Love you

  12. I've strayed away from blogging a bit in the recent past as I am still in the early stages of learning this new life alone.
    Oh, how I seek the guidance of one who has walked these steps before me. You are right, it is not easy to allow someone in to your own confusion yet I yearn for the joy that can be a reward of that letting in.
    I believe God has just the right leaners for you to come along side and I am just as sure you will be a huge blessing to them.
    You are precious!!

  13. Thanks for sharing your heart here. It resonates with mine.

    Reading Radical by David Platt and being challenged to take what I have received and use it to disciple those around me. And you're right… sometimes I am not invited into the chariot.

    And sometimes I wonder which part of my past is still part of my future testimony. And so I tend to reach out to those who are struggling in those areas that I have experienced and offering my wisdom… and love… and compassion.

    Love to you, my friend!

  14. It is amazing how God uses all our pains, struggles and joys. He never wastes a thing! Though the road you have been traveling has been difficult, God has used it to prepare you to offer comfort and the wisdom gained to minister to others.

    Blessings to you, Elaine!!

  15. When you've been through something as intense and all-encompassing such as dealing with cancer, it's almost like being taken out of your world when you've come through the other side. It's a transition, and one that can be difficult for the best of us.

    While you couldn't stay and be that encourager to those new patients Elaine, you still provide much encouragement and guidance to others through your outreach and your writing. Many who are dealing with cancer, or are caring for those who are will find your marvelous journals here, and can gain that encouragement and enlightenment to help them carry through the storm.

    You continue to be in my prayers. Have a Blessed Day!

  16. I know just how you feel when you return to the chemo room, so many emotions: relief you're no longer taking chemo and profound sadness at the new brothers and sisters who've joined the club we all feared joining.

    God has turned my breast cancer journey into a ministry. I call women every day to check on them, answer any questions I can and steer them in a hope-filled direction. It's not always easy, but this is where I'm supposed to be, helping in some small way.


  17. you are always such an inspiration of faith and joy my friend. i love you so!

  18. I am called to love. To trust His love. To allow Him to be my portion.

    You are so gifted dear friend…they need you (we need you). Keep serving and definitely keep writing!!

    Dad has had a good week and even gained 5 lbs. Looking to get to see him this weekend. Thanks for praying for him.

    Believing Him~Pamela

  19. wifeforthejourney:

    A beautiful reflection on a routine that has been anything but easy. So many people who have endured suffering (cancer and otherwise) want only to put as much distance between themselves and any reminder of their pain, those willing to "stay near" are to be admired. I believe God will continue to honor your obedience and your honesty will provide opportunities for you to share from your experiences words of wisdom and encouragement for those who are just learning that they have cancer.

    I pray that the Lord will continue to provide you with the measure of strength you need to be available to whoever and wherever needs you most. I'm thankful for each day we have together!


  20. As always, you inspire. I think God has you right where He wants and He will luse this season to His plan.


  21. I find it interesting, challenging, comforting and mystifying how the Lord plants us in different soils for this season or that. My life of late is also filled with a whole new crop, and I find your words here of great encouragement.

    I love your warrior heart, my dear friend.


  22. You have given me something to ponder. I'd like my reality to be Learner # 2 with chariots to stand near. Do 30 something daughters count as chariots to stand near and Sunday School class members? Hope so that's what I seem to be doing and I often chide myself — surely I could do more.
    As always you bless and challenge me, Elaine.
    Love and holy hugs,

  23. I haven't been around in awhile but when I come back I am always blessed here. Good to see you doing so well!!

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