Once, when I was a child, around 8 or 9, my Mother brought me with her when visiting a sick member of our church. The sick friend, we’ll call her Patty, was dying of cancer, although at the time I didn’t know what that meant. I knew Cancer was bad, because it sounded a lot like “cancel” and whenever my plans were cancelled, I wasn’t happy. I always heard the word “Cancer” in my head with a capital “C” at the front, because I knew it was capital “B” Bad. I
remember worrying on the ride over- was it safe to visit? If I touched Patty, would I get Cancer too? If Patty ate the food my Mom prepared, would my Mom get cancer too?
I was too young to understand that Patty’s prognosis wasn’t good. Even though I knew that Cancer was serious, I figured that we were all christians, and that God wouldn’t let Patty die. Otherwise what was the point of believing?
I remember entering the room Patty was in. She sat at her desk, in trousers and a blouse, and when I was introduced she offered to shake my hand. Not wanting to be rude, I shook it, all the while wondering if this was the moment I’d remember as the start of my own Cancer. Mom put the food she had brought in the fridge before we left, telling Patty that we’d pray for her.
As you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t develop Cancer from shaking Patty’s hand. Neither did her ingestion of my mother’s food cause Mom to be sick. But while I walked away from Patty as healthy as I’d ever been, I had learned an important lesson about community, and the importance of congregation.
It’s hard to postulate what-ifs, but I often think of how different Patty’s might’ve been had she not been a part of the church. Would she still have had family to comfort her? Would her husband, a devout believer himself, have stood by her without his faith? What would her last months have been like had she been forced to cook and care for herself? The congregation of God is a beautiful thing to see in action but for all we know, Patty would’ve been just as loved and cared for had she not been a christian. But what we can know is that if she hadn’t believed, I wouldn’t have met her. I wouldn’t have shook her hand. My mother wouldn’t have spent hours cooking for a woman she barely knew. Without the church, and without god, the love that only my mother and I could bring into Patty’s last months would never have reached her. Love your church family. Cherish your congregation. Invest yourself into your church and it will be returned to you 10 fold.