I want you to meet Tim and Nancy Milligan. We fell in love with them five years ago when we moved to Rochester. Nancy was a nurse, Tim a real estate agent. They obviously loved each other and their four children. Years of friendship followed. Nancy shared our love for birds and would often birdsit for us when we were out of the country. Their sons are strong, handsome, faithful young men of great character. Their daughters are young, sweet, and kind.
Almost exactly a year ago Nancy was found wandering around the halls of the hospital where she worked. She was confused. Something was wrong. To make a sad story short, tests revealed a brain tumor. The cancer was malignant and very aggressive. The doctors told her that with surgery and chemo she might live a few months. Stunned, thrown into emotional turmoil, fearful of how her family -- especially her little girls -- would survive her loss, Nancy looked about for a way to deal with this monster that had moved into her head.
Surgery was done. The doctors told her to go home and die; it was that bad. The church gathered outside her home in early December and sang hymns in the dark, each of us holding candles, struggling to keep them lit in the harsh winter wind. She came out, held up by her husband, wrapped in blankets, eyes closed, and soaked up the songs and love in her front yard. We sang carols, too, since she'd been told she wouldn't hear them again; wouldn't see Christmas lights again.
Nancy is still with us. She attends most worship services. She has hard days, but has proven her doctors wrong by staying fairly sharp, keeping her personality. Her husband has been a rock by her side. Even as the real estate market tanked in Michigan (we are 49th among 50 states) and their financial situation became desperate, the family stayed together.
I called Tim and Nancy up in front of the congregation on Wednesday as we did one of our "no catch and release prayer nights." [see last post] Tim is a very quiet man, but I convinced him to take the microphone and talk to us. He told us that there were lots of times that their faith broke. They cursed God, were angry with life and religion and everything. They would have fallen, too, had it not been for something Tim called faith insurance.
Faith Insurance was all the time they had put into their walk with God and all the people they knew at Rochester. The people at Rochester never gave up on them. They stayed right there with them, helping them with money, meals, prayers, friendship, and faithfulness. Even on their worst days, Tim and Nancy said they could draw on the Faith Insurance accounts of the members of this congregation.
Wow. Could this be what Jesus meant when he said, "lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth... but place them in heaven"? Could it be that our faithfulness, our active participation in the spiritual life of a community of faith is a way we make deposits into a Faith Insurance account? I know that, personally, the faith of others around me is a HUGE help on my dark days [if you never have dark days, why are you reading this blog??? Go read one about kittens and rainbows or something. You've wandered out of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood].
Tim and Nancy have given me the determination to be a source of Faith Insurance for those around me so that, when it is my turn to need a withdrawl, it is there for me. Tim and Nancy are sources of strength for us even as we serve as a source of strength for them.
Faith Insurance. It's time to make some more deposits. I'd better get busy and do it. See you.