|Mark E. Gunnison||www.MGCPA.com|
This is the story of a life-changing experience that happened to me, one that I feel compelled to share. It is the story of how we affect other people�s lives, how they affect our lives, and how God plays a part in it all. My only hope is that by reading it, you will get closer to God. I know that by writing it, I did.
I have always been a lucky person. I had a good family, a nice home, good schools, and plenty of opportunity. That is not to say that I did not have my share of heart aches growing up; for example, my parents were divorced when I was seven years old. However, in general I always felt that I had a good life relative to some of my friends. I think a big part of that was the fact that my family was religious and God was always a part of our daily lives.
From as early as I can remember, I have always believed that God had a plan for my life. I have always believed that everything happened for a reason, and that only God knew what those reasons were. I have always felt that I had a responsibility to follow God�s plan in any way that I could. That might mean that my purpose in life was simply to help an old lady cross the street. However, by doing that, I would be fulfilling God�s plan. That lady might go home and help her grandson with his homework and her grandson might go on to be a world leader. My part might seem trivial, but in God�s plan, every little thing is important.
I have always felt God gave me certain talents and abilities and that it was my responsibility, as a Christian, to work hard to develop and use those gifts. God gave me those talents for a reason, his reason, and it is my responsibility to use those talents to serve him.
�Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.�
Because of these beliefs, I have always tried to consider God�s plan when I have had to make a major decision in my life. In 1991 I had one of those decisions to make. I was living in Washington state, where I was born and raised, but I had an opportunity to move to Ohio. I thought that it was very strange that this opportunity presented itself, too strange for me to ignore. For some reason God wanted me to move to Ohio, and I did.
1 Samuel 3:10
�Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.�
Things were going well for me in Ohio when in 1994, at the age of 27, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy and went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I suffered a lot during that time (lost all my hair, had multiple hospitalizations), and I struggled with my faith. How could it be part of God�s plan for me to have cancer? Did God give me cancer? I struggled with these issues. I finally dealt with them by trying not to consider them. I simply pushed them out of my mind. I prayed occasionally, but not regularly, and not with much faith.
�Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.�
During this difficult time I had wonderful support from everyone I knew, my caring family, and loving husband. I was surrounded by people who were open about their love for me and their desire to see me through this. In addition, my employer and co-workers were absolutely wonderful. I was given all the time I needed for treatments and recovery and was showered with kind words and deeds. This was particularly interesting because I worked in a male-dominated field. However, these men were extremely supportive throughout my ordeal.
I also had a friend named Sue. Although we worked for different companies, Sue and I had collaborated on a number of projects over the years. During my treatments Sue was a wonderful friend, continually sending me little notes and cards with words of encouragement and always mentioning that she had me in her prayers. Her kind words and thoughtful notes were very meaningful to me during that time. Sue was somebody who really stood out in my mind as an example of true friendship and kindness.
I recovered nicely and was doing wonderfully. Then in 1997 I had a recurrence of my cancer. This time, I had to have a mastectomy. The night before my surgery I learned that Sue was also scheduled to have a mastectomy the next day. As chance (and I later learned - God) would have it, Sue and I were scheduled to have surgery at the same hospital within one half hour of each other. We saw each other the next day in the surgery prep area and were able to hug and share a few quick tears. It was a strangely odd experience to share with a friend. While it was reassuring to have a friend like Sue with me, it was the last thing I wanted to have happen to any friend.
After the surgery I was on medical leave for two months. During that time I received full pay and was told to simply return whenever I was ready. Once again, the support from my employer was deep and heartfelt. For Sue however, the story was different. Her boss, a woman, was not at all sympathetic. She was pressuring Sue to come back to work after just a few weeks. She told Sue that cancer was like a bad cold, and the best thing was to jump back into your routine before you started feeling sorry for yourself. Sue was struggling with recovering from the surgery and starting chemotherapy treatments while being physically and emotionally drowned by her employer.
To help deal with some of these issues, Sue and I decided to go to a breast cancer support group together. This was something I had not done my first time through and I was relieved to have a friend go with me. During one of those meetings, Sue talked about her troubles with work and how it was making both her physical and emotional recoveries so much more difficult. The group was supportive, but had no real answers to help Sue.
While I was driving home that night, I prayed to God to help Sue. I asked God why Sue had to suffer so much. Suddenly, in the middle of the freeway, God answered my prayer, but not in the way that I would have thought. Suddenly I realized that through witnessing Sue�s suffering, I was able to see more clearly how truly lucky I had been. This had ALL been part of God�s plan. God�s plan was FOR me. God had sent me to Ohio to put me in a wonderful position when I went through this difficult situation. God�s plan was not just about what I was supposed to do for him, but also about his love for me and what he was doing for me. I sat there and sobbed while I tried to continue driving. I had never felt God�s love so strongly in my life. I suddenly understood that through trying to fulfill my part of God�s plan, I was allowing him to love me more than I could ever have dreamed possible. By sacrificing a very small part of myself to follow his plan, I was rewarded beyond my greatest dreams.
Later, I understood that not only had God given me a wonderful support structure in Ohio, he had also given me the wonderful gift of the image of his great love. I think back often to that moment on the freeway when I suddenly understood the awesome power of his love. Every time I am drawn to tears, tears of joy and wonder and gratitude.
I can now admit to myself that God did allow me to get cancer. He allowed the cancer to flow through him and into me. He did it for a reason. He had a plan. A plan that included Sue, me, and many other people. A plan that is much greater than anything I could ever imagine. A plan that is founded in love. A plan that I want, more than anything, to be a part of.
Following God�s plan is not going to stop us from suffering. Terrible things will happen and we will experience deep pain. However, God will always be there and he will always love us with a love that is greater than anything we can imagine. All we have to do is have faith, and he will be there to help us and to love us.
�... for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing.�
I don�t know what God has in store for my future. But I do know that it will not all be pleasant and that there will be times when I won�t understand the pain that I see or feel. But that doesn�t matter. I know that God has a plan and that God loves me. And that is the greatest gift of all.
1 Corinthians 15:58
�Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.�
If you can use anything Lord, you can use me.
�I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.�