Sunday, August 21, 2011

Living Above our Illnesses

Lisa Dubois
Our dear friend and sister in Christ Lisa Dubois died last Tuesday, August 16. She was 48. At age 21 she was hit with cancer - Hodgkin's lymphoma. She lived 27 years with this cancer, having many treatments, going in and out of remission, and finally, around 2004, refusing any medical treatment and trusting in God.

But Lisa lived as if she did not have cancer. People who met or hung around Lisa would not necessarily know of her struggle. This cancer, for Lisa, was an unwanted enemy, and she refused to acknowledge that it had any power or influence over her. Her excellent physician at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Dr. Henry, told Lisa and her husband Marty that she lived way beyond what would normally be expected of someone with untreated stage 4 cancer.

During Lisa's cancer years, 27 of them, she was a world traveler, political activist, counselor, friend to many, wonderful wife to Marty, prankster, servant, and most of all, God-and-Jesus lover. Lisa worshiped God. Her worship of God was not contingent on her expectation that God would heal her. Lisa just flat-out loved Jesus.

All who knew and loved Lisa were deeply influenced by her. One thing I am taking away from Lisa's life is her radical, monocular focus on Jesus and the victory of God. Here's how God is putting this together for me.

We are all diseased people. Our infirmities may be physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, structural, political, economic, or situational. These troubles call for attention. Since we are never really without something going wrong in our lives, it is easy to live dominated by them.

While we are to be responsible regarding these things, we are not to make these things our life or identity. I am not my illness. Rather, God has raised me up with Christ and seated me with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6) In Colossians 3:1-4 Paul writes:

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Many of us saw, in Lisa, a life actually lived this way. A life not obsessed with one's infirmities. A life not controlled by them. Of course she knew cancer was there. But it would not dictate to her or rule her life. Christ was and is her life, and she set her mind on that. You had to see it for yourself to know that one's life can be lived to fullness in the midst of our many distractions, be they small or large.

This is huge for all of us who freak out when our favorite sports team loses the big game and "ruins our day," or who cannot attend to the worship of God when we have a cold.

It is what we live for that determines the quality of our lives. From a faith-in-Jesus perspective the glory of the victory of Christ far outshines and overwhelms the darkness. Nothing, wrote Paul, can separate us from the love of Christ; not famine, or persecution, or nakedness. (Romans 8:35)

Today I know, more than ever, that such a life is possible.