Blue Skies and Thin Ice
By Michael Stephanides
This story came to me originally in Honduras, and now with my dear friend as he heard the dreaded words “you have cancer”. Reflecting back on my own occurrence, my friend, as well as others who have been diagnosed with cancer, I have come to realize that in many ways they are more blessed than many of us, as they have been given the opportunity of a deeper walk and understanding of the preciousness, salvation, and love constantly found in our Lord and Savior. I dedicate this story to my friend who I love as a brother.
A day like most other days begins – and we fall into the familiar pattern of our daily lives. Do this, go here, be there, lunch at noon; on and on it goes, walking through the well-known roads and designs we have so firmly established. We are sheltered by the routine of the day, the soft footsteps of security and calm as we journey through life. Above us, the warm, lush Carolina Blue Sky (that’s for you my friend), so rich and deep that it blankets us with comfort and peace as we walk. Life is good! Looking up into the reassuring blue sky of our perceived self-sufficiency, it is easy to forget the thin ice we have so firmly planted our feet on.
You know but you don’t know, or better said … you don’t want to know. The subtle perception of an imperceptible sound. A premonition of things to come. The visceral cracking sound registers within us, and the foundations and well-known paths beneath our feet give way. As we desperately look to the deep blue sky above us, we are plunged into the frigid waters of our mortality. The arctic grip squeezes our self-sufficiency out of us as we sink deeper into the steely grasp of the dark cold water of our infirmity. Your breath is gone, the pressure is intense, and truth penetrates us to the core as we come face to face with the veracity of our mortality. The blue skies are nothing more than a distant dream now, as we come to know the depths of our fears. ‘Tomorrow’ will never be the same and has a totally different meaning now.
Everything was so great just moments ago. How can this be? What will tomorrow be like? What just happened? What happened is that we have broken through the grand illusion that we are in control; the illusion that we possess within ourselves some strength or ability that can direct or control our tomorrow. No doubt we all enjoy certain natural talents and abilities that help us in our day to day lives, but they are given to us by God. John the Baptist so clearly answered this; “… a man can receive nothing unless it is given to him by God” (John 3:27).
None of us know what tomorrow will bring. It is so easy to believe that through our connections, friends, and the modern conveniences of life that we are in control. Serving as missionaries in Honduras we were reminded daily of the uncertainty of tomorrow and the total lack of control we truly had.
I remember so clearly that day in La Ceiba, Honduras, just three weeks after we had arrived, and the reality of where we were, where we were headed, what we were doing, and the uncertainty of ‘the mission I signed up for’ came crashing through me. I brought three children, ages 4-6-8, an amazing wife, to live in the jungles of Honduras. The guttural fear was almost crippling to me as I cried out to God that Sunday afternoon. No longer were my connections, abilities, or talents going to help me. I was lost in a foreign culture, language, and place; and I was responsible for my wife and children. God’s answer came not in the deliverance out of the situation, but deliverance through the situation. That day God gave to me a very special key and a promise that He was with me.
Oh, how easy it would have been for the Israelites as they wandered through the desert to look up into the blue skies, at the multitude of shrines and gods, and be tempted to find ‘help or comfort’ in the false gods that surrounded them. But the Psalmist answer is quickly found in the second sentence; “My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and earth.”
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills-from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
I remember some friends’ years back walking by our home, hand in hand, holding so close to one another as they faced the uncertainty of her diagnosis, yet walking firmly in their faith and their love for one another. A love I am sure deepened by uncertainty. You see they had broken through the ice and come face to face with how fragile and transitory life can be. As my friends walked by, I watched them draw close, share something, and laugh.
What did they say? What would I say to my wife, or son, or daughter, if I was unsure of their presence tomorrow? I do not know for sure, but what I do know is that God’s love for us is eternal and everlasting. It is constant and true. The intimacy and vastness of that love are described so well by David in Psalm 139. An unconditional love is so grand that He freely gave His only Son to die for each one of us so that we might enjoy His presence for eternity.
In times of trouble and despair, our worry and angst derive from our resolve to get our own way and the fear that it won’t be as we desire. Peace comes in our acceptance, satisfaction, and unbridled dependency in Him who is able. Is God any less when we are plunged into the depth of our mortality, or when we are walking under rich blue skies? No. How blessed are those who do break through the false thin barriers that obscure their intimate knowledge of who and what God is. The ones who stand in His loving presence, when that temple curtain is torn and they enter the Holy of Holies. The icy water can no more consume you then darkness can consume the Light.
Oh, that we could all crash through the thin ice of our imagined self-control and accomplishments to enter into the reality of our utter need and dependency on the Lord God Almighty.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39).
Michael Stephanides is a resident of Morganton NC, and has lived there with his wife of 30 years. They have had the privilege of raising 3 biological children, and one adopted child, ages 24-29. Their daughters are married to great men, and they have 2 beautiful grandchildren. Michael and his wife are members of Summit Community Church in Morganton. You can read more good Christian news here.