from the Spring/Summer edition of Reflections magazine
for more about this issue, go here
by Marjorie George
It was more than ten years ago, so perhaps I can speak of it with some clarity. A suspicious spot on a routine mammogram, bad biopsy results, a lumpectomy, six weeks of radiation. A few months to recover from it all. I’m somewhat embarrassed to even claim to be a breast cancer survivor when I think about the women whose roads have been so much harder to walk than was mine.
I recall it now mostly as an interruption in my well-planned life, although my friends and family probably recollect better than I the moments of terror, anger, frustration and exhaustion. Please hear in my story that I take cancer seriously and recognize the devastation it wreaks in lives and that I know myself to be blessed.
Some say that God gives us trials and tribulations to make us stronger. I think that God takes the stories that life gives us and shows us how to use them to become stronger. So it is with my cancer. My take-away from my cancer story is about abundance.
For it was in that time that I was thrown into an environment very different from the reality that had been my life – Anglo, well educated, middle class, self-sufficient woman that I was. But what I did bring to my cancer experience was resources. Did I need a good doctor? Episcopal churches are full of good doctors and good connections to them. Did I worry about medical costs? Yes, but I was fully insured, and the costs were manageable. Did I worry about losing my job? Not really. “Take the time you need,” my boss said. I was surrounded with resources.
How many women in San Antonio, in south Texas, in much of the world do not know this abundance of resources when they face cancer? How many do not have access to good doctors? How many ignore a lump in the breast because they do not have any money to deal with it? How many can’t even get annual routine mammograms and reveal cancer in its early stage as I did?
So ultimately this is not a story about cancer; it is a story about abundance. And really so much more than the abundance of good doctors and medical insurance. Even more important was the community of support in which God had placed me and the moments he was there when my mind took me to the precipice of the “what ifs” and invited me to leap into that chasm of despair.
When Jesus delivered his proclamation that he came to give life – abundant life – it was in the midst of his treatise on being the Good Shepherd. “I take care of my sheep,” he said. “My sheep know my voice,” he said. “I am the gatekeeper to the sheepfold,” he said. Bishop David Reed says this so much better than I in his article that begins on page 6 of this issue.
But note with which Christ contrasts himself. “Thieves and robbers come only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). And once again, as so often happens in Scripture, Christ is not giving us a command as much he is telling us about choices and consequences. You can choose to follow ways that lead to what the world calls abundance – accumulation of possessions, status, power, big bank accounts – or you can choose to follow me, says Christ. The world’s way is going to kill your soul in the end. My way is abundant life.
When the contributing writers and I started crafting this issue of Reflections, I had in mind to answer the question, “What does it mean to have abundant life?” But I cannot answer that question for you; I can only answer it for myself. I know what it does not mean – and for sure it does not mean placing our hope in our material goods, our own little plans, our bank accounts, our status, years and years of hard work, or even our good health. That kind of hope consorts with thieves and robbers.
It’s really about recognizing what abundant life is, isn’t it? In this issue, Bishop Reed says we do that by knowing his voice. Carol and Dan Morehead advise remembering our roots. Jay George says we learn about abundance right where we are, or at least we are given opportunities to do so. Jennifer Wickham says we recognize it by cultivating gratitude. Chica Younger agrees. Lera Tyler reminds us to share joyfully even when we have little from which to share. Mary Carolyn Watson recognizes abundance in little hands that are busy, busy, busy.
The spiritual journey is always about going deeper, seeing new revelations, spending a little more time with Scripture to get to the meanings of Christ’s words for our (abundant) lives. With this issue we have added some opportunities for individual and group reflection related to each article and the theme as a whole. We invite you to ask your own questions of yourself and your communities, remembering that Ranier Maria Rilke urged living the questions. “Live the questions now,” said the poet. “Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer” (from Letters to a Young Poet, 1903).
Here’s a good question to start with: Where do I see God’s abundance all around me?
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and Reflectionsonline. Reach Marjorie at