Mary Willis Page: God is good
Editor's note: This is from an address Mary Willis Page delivered at her church, St. John's Lutheran.
When Pastor Rhodes asked me to speak this morning I was nervous but I said, "Sure...about what?" and he said talk about "Why church?"
I've been a member of St. John's for the majority of the time since I moved to Salisbury in 1987. I met my husband, Tommy, in Salisbury, and we were married in the chapel in 1991 by Pastor John Derrick. Both of our children, Steven and Anna, were baptized here and attended St. John's Kindergarten.
I am the eldest of three with a younger sister and brother. I was raised Lutheran and attended Catholic schools through high school. We went to church regularly; it wasn't an option. It was a small church with mostly older folks and few programs. Even so…Mama always said, especially during the summer months when we wanted to go swimming, that going to church and worshipping God for an hour on Sunday was not too big a sacrifice when he had given us so very much. She was right, so of course we all went. And you know it just didn't feel right if we didn't go. Something was missing…
At the church retreat last month I was asked to share a story about someone who had been influential in developing my faith. I chose my Mama and Daddy. Now, I'm a good Southern girl so they'll always be my Mama and Daddy to me! I shared how my Daddy always said, or impressed upon me by his actions, "God is good."
My Daddy really is a rocket scientist, and when his plant was literally blown away during a tornado when we lived in Huntsville, Alabama (late '60s) we were forced to move to Philadelphia.
Daddy said, "God is good" and we got through it. Later, living in Maryland, when our home of 20 years burned down during a robbery, Daddy told us that "God is good" and we got through it.
Again, when Daddy lost his job after 25 years and had to move across the country to California to start again, "God is good"… and he and Mama got through it.
God has been good through tornados, fires, California earthquakes.
And finally, when my dearest Mama, who was fighting, and winning the cancer battle, failed to wake up the morning of Sunday, May 1 of last year, Daddy has said, "God is good" through his words and actions and is getting though it, as he is learning to live without his partner of 52 years.
It was this teaching, this belief, that saved me when I was unexpectedly diagnosed with two separate cancers this past spring (one like Mama's), and less than a year after her death. However, it was only after the surgery, only after the initial poor pathology report, only after traveling to Houston for second opinions and only after experiencing the fear and anxiety of the possibility of a shortened life that I really came to believe that "God is good" and that he will be with me and get me through whatever happens.
In Matthew chapter 10 it says: Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows!
I love this verse because as my hair was falling out from chemotherapy I would think to myself, "OK, Lord, you know how many are left and pretty soon I'll be able to count them and then we'll both know!" But God is good and got me through it.
When I was sick, hurting and oh so very tired… Jesus says in Matthew, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
I needed to know that God my heavenly father would hold, rock and comfort me through the pain. Just as a parent holds a hurting child…God holds us when we are hurting. And God is good and got me through it.
I never really became angry with God about getting sick because I do not believe my cancer is from God. I do not believe he gave me this burden to bear. I believe he joins me in my sadness about being sick and in the trials and difficulties that face us all. God is good - and will get us through it.
God never promised us a life free from pain and tragedy, and most of us will encounter it eventually. But he did promise us in the last verse of Matthew that we would not be alone in our pain and that we would be able to draw upon a source outside of ourselves for strength, courage and hope in surviving these events and the fact that life is often unfair and that bad things can happen to good people.
But that is the miracle, that is the gift…and for me that is the answer to the question: "Why church?"
I learned that God helps by inspiring people to help.Human beings are God's language. You have been God's language to me and my family, through your cards, dinners, devotions…through the wooden clinging cross I carried and through your prayers and hugs, through the precious mementos little Lilly R. and Anna E. made me and the cards sent by the Weekday Church School children. You have spoken God's language loud and clear…and made a difference!
God shows his opposition to cancer and other tragedies by summoning forth friends and neighbors to ease the burden and to fill the emptiness. I have heard God's language through you, but you also carry the language beyond these church walls, around Salisbury, and around the world, as you ease the burdens and fill the emptiness of other
Why church? My faith was shaped by my parents but it has been forged through facing tragedies head-on and surrounding myself with a Christian community, the St. John's community.
Why church? Because it is here that I hear God's language spoken so fluently.
God is good! God is so very good.
Mary Willis Page lives in Salisbury with her family.