On February 1, 2019 I had a beautifully average day. I woke up, was late to my Journalism 210 class, went to a worship night, ate a lettuce-wrapped cheeseburger, and returned to my room to watch my favorite movie with a friend. Then my phone rang and that normal, happy life was completely flipped on its head.
I walked into the hall, cheerfully greeted my mom, and rambled on thoughtlessly about my day. And that’s when she said it. In the most casual voice, she spoke the four words that changed everything.
“Well, I have cancer.”
Following my dumbstruck response, she began to tell me about the diagnosis and her impending chemotherapy and the plan for surgeries and all the while I sunk onto the floor of my dorm hallway thinking no, no, no. My thoughts began to spiral. My best friend, my best friend, had cancer. The most selfless woman I have ever met, the woman that makes every decision for the benefit of her children, my momma, was suddenly handed a future full of tubes and tests and weakness. Even through these descriptions, she spoke with strength, but I was still filled with the fear that I would lose my best friend forever. She had just found out her life was falling apart, but she spoke to me with comforting words, always thinking of me, not herself. Eventually, we hung up. Then, I stood up, walked back into my room, and tried to pretend I was okay.
Needless to say, the next couple of weeks were filled with random fits of tears. My thoughts were constantly clouded by fear; I felt completely alone. I kept praying, “God, not her. Why her?” I could not wrap my head around any possible reasoning for this horrible plague to be placed in my mother. After the first few days, I went numb. Sure, I would laugh and smile at the right times and pretend life was good and dandy, but I did not feel any of it. I isolated myself. I tried to ignore what I knew: that my mom might die.
Then, it was time for Israel. I was able to dig myself up from that pit of hopelessness and go to the land where my Savior lived. Throughout the trip, I went to places I had read about and learned more than I had ever hoped. We went from site to extravagant site, from huge heaps of ruins to colossal churches. Then one day as we were driving we stopped on the side of the road. I thought to myself, Oh no, someone has to throw up again, because, face it, sometimes people get carsick. But then Dany, our tour guide, said over the speaker “Bring your whiiispers,” in the way only he can and we pooled out of the bus for our next stop.
Rather than walking to an actual place, we trekked through bushes and trees and beautifully vibrant, tiny flowers. Then we stopped, with nothing but nature surrounding us, and Dany informed us that we were in the Valley of Elah. Initially, these words meant nothing to me, but the Christian Ministry majors and seminarians that filled most of my group all sucked in a gasp.
“This,” explained Dany, “is where David fought Goliath.” While he went over the story of David and Goliath and all of the historical context of those days, the scene took on a new light. He brought us to an area full of stones and told us to each take one in remembrance of the single stone David threw at Goliath.
As I tossed the stone from hand to hand, a wholly new and lovely realization entered my mind. God equipped a young, inexperienced boy with the precision and force he needed to kill a nefarious giant. Little people can win big battles. And if little people can win big battles, then my mom can, sure enough, beat hers. She is not a “little” woman — her strength constantly fills the air around her, her selflessness makes others know they are seen, her comfort allows people to truly believe and know they will be okay. And, my God, if David can beat Goliath, my mom can beat the disease that is flowing through her body. This stone reminded me that, while David picked up 5 stones, he only needed one. My mom might need a couple more stones. She might get worse before she gets better. But she can get better, and the Lord will fill her with the courage, strength, and confidence that she needs to win.
After this revelation, I looked up from the stone in my hands. I was face to face with a vividly green valley filled with scores of lively wildflowers. The valley was filled with red, pink, yellow, and purple all in the brightest shades. I was reminded of the reassurance in Luke 12 of how much attention God gives to unseen wildflowers and how much more provision He will give to humans made in His image. He provides the air, sun, and flowers with what they need to exist; He will give my mother what she needs to live. He did not create everything and then walk away, but He created flowers and clouds and people and He continues to provide for His creation day after beautiful day.
Coming into Israel, I was vulnerable and lost, to say the least. I was hurting and scared for the future of my mother, but nothing could keep me from seeing the grace and hope that filled each of the sites I visited. In the Valley of Elah, I saw that beauty can grow in old war zones. I encountered the Lord’s grace, provision, and restoration. Though my mom may continue to get worse before recovering, I am able to remember God’s authority over sickness and His constant provision for her. The Lord loves His creation — He loves us.