John Piper speaking at Passion ’97. (Taken on my not-so-high-quality camera with real film that had to be sent away in a cute little black tube to be developed.)
Dear Mr. Piper,
It is 1997.
Me and my 6 friends, ready to hit the road.
I am 21 years old, and I just hopped into a van with six of my friends to drive 17 hours from Ames, Iowa to Austin, Texas for the Passion ’97 Conference.
I have no idea who you are. Just a name and a photo. A middle-aged man who is going to teach me about Jesus while I enjoy some Texas sunshine and my break from college classes.
But God uses you for more than I anticipate, and after your Friday evening message, I do something I’ve never done before.
I call my dad at midnight and tell him I love him.
Like many people, I did not grow up in an overly affectionate family. The “I love yous” were experienced through action, but the words were not spoken.
This night they are. This night, January 3, 1997.
Fast forward two decades.
It is 2016.
I am barely 40, and I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The fear, the uncertainty, the dread are overwhelming. I don’t doubt my Savior, but I do doubt my ability to make it through this big ugly thing.
It’s the evening of February 23, and my husband (Corey) and I are sitting at the dining table.
Surgery is in two days.
A music video is playing on Corey’s laptop. Shane and Shane singing words that remind me of the richness of trusting Jesus when he takes me to hard places.
And then you begin to speak over the music.
Directly to me.
Or rather, God speaks directly to me through you.
“When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don’t say, “That’s meaningless!” It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore. Therefore do not lose heart, but take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”
I am weeping. My head is in Corey’s lap, and I am weeping.
His arms keep me from falling to the hardwood floor while he shakes from weeping with me.
It is a holy moment.
This thing in front of us is hard, but it is not meaningless.
Waiting for the surgery that would rid me of my tumor and change my body forever.
Over the next few months, we fight through the hard stuff. The scary stuff. The painful stuff.
And while we fight, we go deeper.
We feel sadness so intensely. We have joy so impossibly. We love each other so immeasurably. We trust Jesus so wholly.
We are coming out on the other side now. And your words have been proven true.
“Every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that.”
A peculiar glory.
Healing up and hanging out with my hubby
I believe it.
I’m tasting it right here in this broken body of mine. Tremendous blessings that are a direct result of walking through the pain. But I have a feeling the full extent of that glory will not be realized until the day I fall, whole and healed, into Jesus’ arms.
Mr. Piper, you spoke necessary truth into my 21-year-old heart so many years ago, and then you showed up with truth again just when I needed it at 40.
And for that I want to say thank you.
(Here’s a link to the song that spoke to me – Though You Slay Me)
(Find some solid Bible teaching from John Piper at Desiring God)