Women’s Summer Study Panel 6/13/18
Nearly 40 years ago, when I was a student at Biola and met my future life partner I anticipated many things, but no matter what one anticipates the future is never certain. Who would ever have anticipated where God would lead us? Or how many kids we would minister to or raise? Who could anticipate raising our kids in IL or the amazing community we were to encounter there? Who could have foreseen that our move back to California was going to be critical as we would face cancer once we got there.
When Jim was diagnosed with GBM brain cancer, I began the fearful journey of anticipation as I wondered what life would be like as a widow and when it would become my reality. I had no idea. And yet Jim was loved to the end fearlessly and my kids needed strength for the day. My future all became a glance at the past as I avoided anticipating tomorrow.
I was afforded the great privilege of ministry as a team with my husband. Jim and I went to college and seminary together, pursued doctoral work and ordination and worked side by side at churches and in teaching at TIU. In 2009 Jim, a Bible prof at Biola, was diagnosed with GBM and we began a 22 month journey with the C-word. We were married 30 years with 2 high school kids when God took him by the hand and led him home.
We all have “stuff”. My experience of becoming a widow is both similar and unique. There are other widows here who could tell a different story But for me…
Jenni suggested that I answer the question of how God showed up and my first response is to say that he didn’t!
I would say instead that He was always there. In fact, I think God’s presence was more real to me than ever before, during that season of my life and I found the truth and comfort of passages including “though I walk through the valley of the shadow He was there with me”, and “God is close to the brokenhearted”, etc., I think that when life stopped with the cancer diagnosis it was easier to find God than when life goes well. Everything in life is designed to push us to dependence on our heavenly Father. Tragedy and suffering left me with no other option! My confidence in His presence grew. He had NEVER ever let me down before and I was sure he was not going to start now.
Life is difficult, but it is more than that. It is dangerous, magnificent, exciting, short, adventurous, fragile, humorous, magical and forever!
We don’t get to choose our path (Jesus never promised an easy life, just pain and suffering and his presence, among other other things).
Having said that, I would share that the Lord gave Jim a vision every night for several months after his diagnosis. Jim would wake up and see Jesus praying for our family in a corner of the room. I never saw the Lord even though Jim would often wake me up to experience what he was seeing.
I would like to read to you what I wrote in 2009 in response to these visions:
Journal entry by Miriam Mohler Mar 27, 2009
I was thinking of the vision Jim has had the last few nights of Jesus, and one of my favorite quotes came to mind. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in Aurora Leigh:
Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Often God is present in our lives but we fail to recognize it. Jacob echoed this in Gen. 28:16 after an encounter with the Holy One.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Gen 28:16)
It seems a natural part of human nature that we are more predisposed to sit around and pluck blackberries (or the modern equivalent) than to perceive the presence of God, take off our shoes, and worship. It is so easy to focus on our (Jim’s health) situation because it is the primary thought and conversation of the day. This is really just another chance for God to remind us of His care and his presence.
Perhaps Jim’s vision is a reminder of God’s presence, which we are to proclaim, rather than overlook. God took a rock and a hard place for Jacob and made it a holy meeting place. He is, perhaps, doing that for us too.
All the things I believe about God, all my theology, has become biography in the last month. The constant challenge for each person is the translation of all we say we believe to be real and true into daily living. Even though it is always a struggle, suffering forces the choice.
So God, once again, is breaking into our world saving, shining, healing, restoring and we are part of the shimmers of His presence. Wow! I hope you will take off your shoes and worship with us. (and then we can eat berries!)
2) how the Body of Christ loved and supported you through that and walked with you through your experience.
Let me say that the main way we experienced God was through the Body of Christ. And the body of Christ included our family, and multiple church families and 2 college campus staffs in 3 states. We experienced God’s love and presence in the valley through the many friends who hugged us, brought us food, took care of errands and chaperoned our kids. He heard his voice when we picked up the phone, or been given a word of encouragement and been reminded of His promises. He wrote us countless love notes, emails and get well cards. He creatively and generously met our needs and loved our kids and prayed without ceasing. The church was a joyful way of experiencing God – I would also add that we experienced the body of Christ as God’s hands and feet until Jim died. Then the comfort of community dwindled to a few who walked with us in the months and years that followed.
2 Cor. 1:3,4 says we are comforted so we can comfort others. I did not realize that the lack of that community would inspire me to provide God’s grace and love in a way that I did or didn’t receive it.