Tuesday, January 17, 2023

A True Example of God's Love

 "I'm a pretty quiet person," the man said. "But I want to tell you a story ... And I'm really nervous." This phone call shocked me because "David" is the quietest person I know. He and his wife, "Bev," are so fun and down-to-earth. They're the kind of people you can call with any issue, and they'd be there without judgment--no questions asked. But David was right; he doesn't say much. In fact, I've only heard him say a few words at a time. And now, this gentle giant wanted to tell me a story?

I closed my laptop. I'd just been reading dozens of messages in response to an old post that started trending this weekend--it's about the day I stopped believing in Jesus when an assistant pastor did an exorcism on me. Anyway, yesterday one woman even said my post is "dangerous" because it encourages people to doubt Christianity. "You will be accountable for all of those lost souls!"

I shivered, thinking about her judgemental words. I don't want to be called dangerous because I encourage people to think for themselves. I shook my head and brought myself back to the moment. "I would love to hear your story," I told David, more grateful for the distraction than he knew.

"When you first got sick," he said, "I started thinking about how much time I've wasted. I've never faced a real problem, not like what you've been going through with cancer." He paused, and I knew this must be hard for him. "And so, 250 miles from home, on the road to Scout Moutain, I decided to make a change." He cleared his throat. "Elisa, I started praying for you, and I never stopped."

"That's ..." I didn't know what to say because this was a huge deal. Sure, David doesn't normally share much about himself, but even I knew he wasn't religious. "Thank you," I finally said. "That means so much to me. I can't believe you've been praying for me!"

"I'm getting ahead of myself." He exhaled into the phone and gathered his thoughts. "When ... your book came out, I bought it because I knew that would somehow help. And then I just suddenly felt like I should tell other people about it. I felt so bad for everything you were going through being sick all the time. And it kind of became my mission; I could help by getting your story out there ..."

Tears filled my eyes. "Seriously?" I couldn't imagine this tall, quiet man telling people about my story. It must've taken a lot of courage because he's normally so shy. "Wow," I said, speechless.

"Yeah." He laughed. "And now, I've told so many people about it that I can't keep track anymore. And the weirdest things started happening when I decided to do this. People would just come up to me and ask if I knew of any good books! They would almost just come up out of nowhere!"

"You made my whole year." I laughed. "This is so amazing!"

"The strangest time was when a lady at work told me she ran out of books to read. There we were in full bodysuits, and I told her all about your book ... People would come up like that, or I'd hear about people fighting cancer, and I'd tell them about you and how positive you are ... One lady told all of her friends about it because they read too." He chuckled about all of this, and I sat amazed.

"You and Bev are so wonderful. I can't believe how kind both of you have been through all of this." Bev has sent me care packages or messages telling me she's thinking about us. Their son has come over and brightened our youngest kids' days. And now this from David.

"But I never wanted to tell you about it," he said. "I just wanted to do something in the background to help--without you ever knowing. And then, I just felt like I needed to call you ... like you needed to hear this for some reason."

I thought of the daunting emails I'd just been reading and suddenly wanted to thank David for everything. "You know, my book has made it to the bestseller list several times. I bet you were a big part of it!"

"I'm not sure about that, but I really have been telling everyone here in Wyoming. Your book did a lot of things for me, but it was hard to read the parts about Christians saying they thought you were sick because of your sins."

"I want to think they were trying to be helpful, but it was still hard."

"In the past, I went to church even though I never really followed. But I started to see some changes in myself this year ... I just got baptized."

Excitement lit his voice, and I wanted to celebrate too. It doesn't matter that we believe different things; I'm so glad he's found God. "That's awesome!" I said.

"I don't know exactly how to put this, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've been praying for you this whole time, and somehow through all of this, I've gotten closer to God. His love isn't about judging people, it's about being kind without asking for anything in return. And that's what I've tried to be. I really never wanted to tell you about any of this, but I thought maybe you needed the encouragement, and you needed to know that our family loves you guys."

I could hardly stop crying. "I'm so grateful for you and Bev--and for your whole family." I pictured Bev, spending time to teach me different art techniques over the years. Then I envisioned tall, quiet David, bravely pimping my book to strangers, and it just made me so happy. "That was amazing," brave, kind, WONDERFUL--I didn't have the right word, "of you to tell people about my book."

"I really went outside of my comfort zone," he said. "Oh! And I've started writing songs! One is something I pray every night. Can I send you one of the songs I wrote? It's just that reading about your experiences with God and your family out in nature reminds me of what I wrote."

I could hardly believe I talked to the same David we'd spent so much time with before my diagnosis. He's a devout Christian now, he's practically my agent (smiling!), and he's writing music?!

"Yes! I would love to hear it."

We gave each other updates on our lives, work, and my health. And with a grin on my face, I told him how much the call meant to me. "Thank you so much for calling," I said. "That was pretty amazing timing."

"Yeah, I just wanted you to know that I found Jesus, and I've been praying for you."

I hung up the phone and sat for a long time, just wondering over how miraculous life can feel sometimes. David is right; the best way to show God's love isn't through judgment and cruel words; it's through the sort of compassion and kindness that doesn't ask for anything in return. He and Bev are such examples of God's love. Wow! Who knew that's the reason I have so many new readers in Southern Wyoming.

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