My husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor within the first two years of our marriage. We had just stood up in front of a church full of people and declared our love for each other in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, but we never thought we'd come face to face with something life-threatening within the first couple of years of being together. So even though our story has been different than what we imagined or would have set out to live, it has been a story in which we've seen God show up.
Sometimes I think God allows things to happen in our lives just to remind us he never created us to be self-sufficient beings. I meet people all the time who say, "I'm having trouble walking through this," and I ask if they have a church home. Sometimes they'll say yes, but when I ask if they've talked about what they're walking through, they'll say no. But that's what a church home is for!
Sometimes people think church is a place you have to show up having everything together, but that's the very reason we go to church. Because it's the one place in life we can let our hair down and say, no, I don't have it all together, I need Jesus, and I need Jesus in the form of the body of Christ. I need Jesus' hands and feet to come around me, love me, and really help me through this. That's one of the things we were reminded of so clearly through Martin's diagnosis—that we were never created to walk through life alone.
The healing power of community
We moved to Atlanta five months before Martin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He'd had some health issues back home in Spartanburg where we're from, and I feel like there's a reason we didn't find out what was wrong with him until we got to Atlanta and I took a job at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek. I would have never moved if I would have known Martin was sick—we would have stayed home with our families, and we would have missed out on the blessings of this church. We basically came in as strangers, then all of a sudden had this life-threatening event happen, and we began to see the body of Christ circle around us in a way we could have never imagined.
The power of presence goes such a long way. I joke sometimes about how when I was in the hospital with Martin hooked up to all the machines in ICU and they weren't sure whether he'd make it or not, the most powerful three words anyone ever said to me were, "Here's your latte." Friends would show up with a caramel macchiato for me, and they would just sit and listen to me cry. They wouldn't try to offer a lot of answers. A lot of times Christians feel they need to come up with some sort of answer, but I wasn't looking for an answer. There are times for pointing our friends back to Scripture, but there's also time for just sitting and letting your presence be your ministry. I had this gaping wound, and I just needed someone to sit with me, listen to me cry, and drink lattes.
Allison J. Althoff is Today's Christian Woman's online editor. Follow her on Twitter @ajalthoff.