It was the fall of 2010. Randy’s company had closed its Kansas City office, leaving him without a job for the second time in less than two years. He quickly found a temporary position that had the possibility of becoming permanent, but I was still struggling with this latest installment of Great Recession-induced uncertainty.
Not so good with uncertainty, am I.
I knew I needed some perspective and wisdom from someone who had a little more experience with uncertainty than I did. So at church that Sunday, when I saw my friend Lisa greeting people in the lobby with her usual friendly smiles and hugs, I asked her if we could get together.
“I need to learn from you,” I remember telling her.
Lisa was a pastor’s wife, but not the dress-wearing, piano-playing variety. She was a former All-American tennis player who had coached her daughter’s soccer team for many years. She was a computer whiz and a veteran of the New York City Marathon.
She also had been engaged in a grueling battle with stage IV breast cancer for about six years.
Learning from Lisa wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment idea. I had long wanted to interview her for a book I planned to write some day.
But it wasn’t urgent. She was doing well on her treatments, or so it seemed. We had all the time in the world.
Suddenly, though, I needed to talk to her. And she was happy to oblige.
We met a couple of times. Over coffee at Panera, we sometimes talked through my list of questions, and we sometimes just talked.
She talked about the routine she followed when she got bad news or when she felt like she couldn’t go on. She talked about one of her favorite scriptures—Deuteronomy 8:2—and how her belief that God had led her “through the wilderness” of cancer “to humble and test (her) in order to know what was in (her) heart, whether or not (she) would keep His commands” actually comforted her on hard days.
She talked about how she loved to go to Wal-Mart and pray for the women who were shopping with screaming children. She talked about presence, and how it was so much more encouraging than advice or questions about her illness. She talked about what a blessing it was to have a friend who had also fought cancer and was comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics (like death).
She talked about purpose, and how firmly she believed in it. (Still. After all she’d been through.)
She talked, and I listened. I talked, and she listened.
She offered me perspective, wisdom and friendship.
I needed all three, more than I realized.
I don’t know how, but I think Lisa sensed her time was short. She was right—she went home to her heavenly Father four years ago this week.
Her time in the wilderness is over; she’s now cancer-free for the rest of eternity.
I didn’t know her long, and not nearly as well as I could have. But some how, she understood me. And the wisdom she poured into my life continues to simmer, gently reminding me that God’s ways are often not my ways, but they always have a purpose.