The Kindness of Strangers

It was finally here—the day of my lumpectomy surgery. It’s a strange feeling you have if you’ve ever faced this. It’s a mixture of intense dread and heady anticipation. The suspense will be over with; no more wondering about the imagined “tortures” that will be inflicted upon you on that day.

I felt strong and ready as my husband helped me slip into my hospital gown. He left me to take the kids to school, assuring me he’d be back. I sat twiddling my thumbs, looking around the cubicle that had been assigned to me for the day. I checked my e-mail. I adjusted my super-sexy hospital socks. I sent my sister a funny text. I tried not to be irritated by the inevitable waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I sighed and changed positions in the bed and decided to sit in a chair instead. Maybe if I read a book, the speed of time would transform from that of a glacier to a kangaroo.

As part of a “You can do it” goody-bag, my sisters had given me a book by Max Lucado, entitled “God Came Near” (W Publishing Group, 2004). I hadn’t really started it yet, so I got it out. I had not even read the first sentence when the nurse bustled in my cubicle. “Hello there, I’m Linda—sorry for the delay—it’s been a crazy morning already and it’s not even 8:00!” She then looked at the book in my lap. “Are you a Christian?” she asked immediately. I said I was. She said, “Well then, God sent me here today to take care of you. You know that, don’t you?” I was momentarily speechless. It took me entirely off guard. I hadn’t realized how scared I was, and I felt tears blurring my eyes, my lips quivering.

Linda came over, sat beside me in another chair, and took my hands. “You know He is with you today; He’s the Author of all things.” I nodded, still not able to speak yet. She proceeded to share with me how she had received a difficult diagnosis and how God had walked with her through it, healing her body and spirit. “I learned a lot about myself. Would you share with me what you are learning about yourself in this process?”

I swallowed. “I’m learning to be patient…or trying to be, anyway. I need to learn to slow down and stop trying to control everything in my life like a maniac. I need to listen to Him more.” I shrugged in defeat.

Linda laughed, and wiped away a few sympathetic tears of her own. “I promise I’ll get you through today. I’ll talk to you, hold your hand, whatever you need me to do. As soon as I saw you, I knew I could help you today. Can I pray with you right now?”

I took a deep breath and nodded wordlessly. I don’t remember any of her words; all I know is that I felt calm and cared for.

Later on, I marveled at how I got the reassurance I needed at exactly the right time. I appreciated that Linda was able to reach out to me, seeing that I was distressed, even though I didn’t even know it myself. I was humbled by her ability to unabashedly share an intimate story with me, to ask me questions about my own personal story, and to pray for and with me. Later on in the evening when I had returned home from surgery, I read a phrase in the Lucado book that resonated deep within me:

“My prayer for this book—without apologies—is that the Divine Surgeon will use it as a delicate surgical tool to restore sight. That blurriness will be focused and darkness dispersed. That the Christ will emerge from a wavy figure walking out of a desert mirage to become the touchable face of a best friend. That we will lay our faces at the pierced feet and join Thomas in proclaiming, “My Lord and my God.” And, most supremely, that we will whisper the secret of the universe, ‘We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.'” (Introduction, p. XX).

Sometimes, God’s majesty can be as simple as the care and prayer of a stranger in a time of deep need.

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  1. Hi Rebecca
    How wonderful and moving that God sent you an angel before you knew you needed one! I love this. I also love your C.S. Lewis quotes. The one about being still so God can reveal himself reminded me of another quote I read recently: “You don’t catch a butterfly by running after it. You sit quietly until the butterfly lands on your shoulder.” I’m working on it! Love your blog.

    1. C.S. Lewis is my hero. I really cannot imagine having the analytical mind he has, and the amazing ability to put forth analogies that are poetic yet clear. I miss you, Ellie!