Yesterday morning our precious friends, the Sweeneys, left their cozy home in the darkness of 5am for a journey back to Houston's famed MD Anderson. Monday Sweeney will begin a grueling cancer treatment regimen that involves tearing down his immune system in order to rebuild it with turbo-charged versions of his own cancer fighting cells. He will be isolated to protect him from the slightest germs which could be devastating. This process will be followed by high dose IL2 (which, for the record, is much more grueling in real life than on Grey's Anatomy) and chemotherapy.
My amazing friend, Cabell, will sit by his bedside watching and praying and loving him through his illness.
This treatment, although more effective than chemo and recommended by all the national experts who were consulted, was not covered by insurance. Our friend, a Young Life missionary, had to have $200,000 in cash ($120,000 up front) in order to begin the treatment. Because we serve an incredible God, $230,000 was raised online through word of mouth in only 3 weeks time. Read that again...$230 THOUSAND in 21 days...that's over $10,000 per day.
Truly, extravagant love.
Sweeney was quarantined the last week, so we couldn't really 'see' them before they left. Cabell made arrangements for a little surprise for a few of her friends in her absence. We had special instructions to go TOGETHER to her back porch. Because the five of us have 15 children between us, it was decided Saturday morning at 7am would be the easiest time for us to pull off.
Armed with coffee, baseball caps and make-up free faces we met this foggy morning with the bittersweet realization that we were going to our friend's home and she wouldn't be there. While we were enjoying being together, she was several states away gearing up for a life or death fight with her husband against stage IV metastatic melanoma.
We were greeted by a brightly colored note of sweet thanks for our support stuck to her back door. (And yes, we were already teary at this point.) There were instructions to get a cleverly hidden key and go into her dining room. There she had prepared a glorious, festive Christmas table. Each place setting was hand-painted by Cabell, personalized with patterns, designs, initials and names unique to each of us. And there was another note...telling us where each of our 9 other place settings were boxed up.
My first thought was: "Seriously? This is too much!" I thought of the countless hours it must have taken her to prepare this. The hours she spent painting, firing, packing, preparing. How many weeks must she have been secretly conspiring to blow us away with this gift?
And then I thought of what I know to be true of my friend. She LOVES creating, giving, surprising. No one forced her to do this. Her extravagant surprise was because she loves us and WANTED to do it.
It is a trait she got from her Father. He, too, longs to give good gifts to His children. I love that from the moment sin entered our world way back in Genesis, He was at work with His Plan to restore us through the gift of His Son.What joy He must have had as He thought through the logistics...a young, unknown girl...a simple carpenter...a stable...a star. They'll never expect this.I am about to blow them away.
Extravagant love. Undeserved, unexpected, lavishness from a heart full of love.
I tend to be much more practical. Just the word 'extravagant' makes my chest tighten a little. Then I think about the way Jesus reacted to the extravagance of Mary of Bethany. I think of the extravagance of His Grace.
I am still trying to understand what this looks like in 'real life.' But walking through this difficult season with close friends has taught me a lot. The one thing that seems most needed in this situation is absolutely out of my hands. I cannot cure my friend's illness. All I can do is love them with the love of God through the process. I am helpless. God is not.
After we squealed and oohed and ahhed we talked about all the ideas we had for loving them back. Then we started with the best one we could think of--sitting crossed legged in their living room floor begging the Spirit to intercede. We prayed the lavish love of our Father would continue to be poured out on them as they were in Houston and thanked God, in advance, for the way they would impact the doctors, nurses and patients they would encounter.
Lord, may it not take such difficult, heart-wrenching circumstances for me to be one who loves others extravagantly!
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other." John 13:34-35(MSG)