Strength and Love

Yesterday the pastors and elders at church prayed for Bryan and laid hands on him.In just a few minutes we will board a plane to Washington DC so that Bryan can start treatment at the National Cancer Institute.

Before everyone prayed for Bryan yesterday one of the pastors made a comment about how strong Bryan and I are and I responded by saying, "If we are strong it is only because of how well we are loved by so many." I think my comment came off as me trying to brush off a compliment, but that really wasn't it at all. I really deeply believe - no, I KNOW - that any strength I may have in facing all that we are facing is truly because I am supported and held up by the encouragement, support and prayers of so many. It is love that gives me strength. The love of God poured out through His people.

I am continually reminded of the story from the Old Testament when the Israelites where fighting a battle and whenever Moses lifted his hands they would win and whenever he dropped them they would start to loose. So others came along side of him and held his hands up. I am as Moses.

So often in this battle with cancer I have been weary and tired, I have been weak and unfaithful. I have had no strength even to go to God in prayer. But others have had that strength for me. Others have come along side with just the right encouragement to lift my head and raise my arms again. Others have prayed when I could find no heart to pray. Others have brought meals and provided for our basic necessities when I would easily have let those things slide.

It has been the consistent love of God's people that has lent me whatever strength I may have.

We have been showered in love. We have been surrounded by love. We have been held up by love.

This past week at our small group we talked about 1 Corinthians 13 - the love chapter. In many ways this chapter is a reprimand - this church was not showing love in the ways that they should, they were bickering and divisive. They valued how they were seen, their pride, their gifting, their abilities over love. And Paul comes in and turns that on its head. If I may paraphrase in my own words, "who the f*** cares if you can speak in tongues or foretell the future or whatever else you can do! If you can't love, if you don't do it all in love you are nothing!" And then he goes on to tell us what love should look like.

I kept thinking throughout reading the chapter that what Paul was experiencing with this church is just so very different from what I have been experiencing through God's global church. Because I have been experiencing love poured out upon us. I have seen love that looked like Paul's description in 1 Corinthians 13 and I have known that kind of love all around me. I have known the kindness and love of God's people and it is beautiful.

When Paul gets to the end of the thought he finishes by saying "now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

I was sort of side struck by this verse. Faith. Hope. And love. Something about it really caught my attention, but I couldn't quite put my figure on it. Until later.

I realized that these trials, these struggles, have stretched my faith in ways nothing else could. And it has only been through them that I have really learned what it is to hope - to hope in God alone. I have had opportunity after opportunity to practice faith and hope. But YOU - as those who have come along side us, surrounded us and held us up - you get to practice something even more valuable... LOVE. The greatest of virtues. The greatest commandment. The thing that all of this is about. LOVE.

People keep telling us things like "oh, you are so strong." Or "your faith is amazing." Or "the hope and positive outlook you have is such an inspiration." But what I wish they could all see is that it is their love that is really so amazing and inspiring. I feel like Bryan and I are indeed learning faith and hope, but we only have the strength to learn these things because of the LOVE that is shown to us. And truly Paul was right the greatest of these is LOVE! It is all nothing without love!

Through our trials we get to learn faith and hope, but you, as our support system, get to learn something even better - LOVE. And you are learning it so well!

I want to commend you all. I want to thank you all. I want to celebrate and tell everyone about the love that you have shown us.

You all are amazing! You all are inspiring! You all are living out what it really means to love God by loving people!

Thank you! Thank you for holding our arms up in practical, and emotional, and spiritual ways.

Thank you for your love!

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany

MelanomaBethany Stedman