“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Gandhi
I just saw a wonderful example of these words as they can be lived out. I saw them in the life of a tremendous woman.
Being in London for a day where we have NTV News (Newfoundland Television), I had opportunity to see a very inspiring story from ‘home.’ Florence Strang describes herself as “a 44 year old breast cancer warrior, Certified Angel Practitioner, single mother to 3, and Autism Mom.” She has begun a blog called ‘Perks of Cancer.’ Florence tells her readers this about herself: “I am actively battling [cancer], but not yet far enough along to call myself a survivor. While succumbing to another assault on my body by my friend, Chemotherapy, I decided to focus on the GOOD things about having cancer. So I have issued myself a challenge to try to find ONE HUNDRED perks of having cancer. Wish me luck!”
Florence, who lives in a town called Lawn, on the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland, has taken on the nastiness of dreaded cancer with an unbelievable resolve and with an indomitable will. Her wit, humour and sensitivity are evident in her blog posts. Her faith/spirituality is also very evident. On the last day of November, Florence declared that perk number 34 of having cancer was ‘realizing her own strength.’ She writes;
“Ten years ago, if I could have looked into the future and saw 44 year old Florence: divorced, single parenting three children, dealing with the many challenges of having a child with Autism, and then facing cancer on top of that, well I probably would have said, ‘Hand me a rope, would ya?’ But I would have been underestimating the strength of 44 year old Florence. Not only am I handling this, but I am experiencing some of the happiest and most joyful moments of my life in the process! It is true, God never gives us more than we can handle. But God, if you are listening, I GET IT! I’M STRONG!!! Now go pick on someone your own size.”
How true it is that we often have no idea what we are capable of managing when we have to. We wilt and cower at the thought of suffering, pain, or difficult situations. Sometimes we even avoid suffering. How often have I heard people say they cannot visit a dying friend, a relative in a nursing home or hospital, or a family grieving at the funeral home because it is ‘too hard to see.’ Often expressed as, ‘I wish I could go, but I just find it too hard on me.’ To that I always say – sure must be nice to make a choice. When my hour of suffering comes I hope that I have people choose to come to my side. I pray as well to have the strength to come to the side of another in her hour of suffering. Henri Nouwen wrote,
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Why must suffering knock on our door for us to realize that we can find strength? Why can we not push to see what we can manage by coming to the aid of another? Why not see how strong that spirit we have is but choosing to enter into another’s suffering rather than running from it? Life can sometimes be so unbelievably cruel and unfair. When it is, people like Florence Strang stand strong and show us that when we don’t get a choice, we have to find a strength to stare suffering straight in the face.
Her resolve and her willingness to reach beyond herself and give strength to others is a real gift. I encourage you to find and follow Florence on her blog at www.perksofcancer.wordpress.com and on Twitter @strangwarrior. She is going to give us 100 perks of having cancer. She is also going to give us 100 reasons to be grateful and to respond in gratitude by looking to come to the side of another. She will help us choose to enter into another’s suffering to be present as with Christ and for Christ.