When Life Comes to Moments

Julie-Allyson IeronBy Julie-Allyson Ieron8 Minutes

The day before my health crisis showed itself, we’d led a beautiful Christmas-themed worship moment at the senior village where we work. I was experiencing shortness of breath that I attributed to an allergic reaction to chemicals I’d been exposed to. So, that day’s only hiccup came when I asked Chaplain whether he’d mind if we didn’t do our usual second service with the memory-care residents. It’s a long walk to their meeting room, and I wasn’t feeling up to it. He said no problem.

Both of my careers—as a worship leader and as an author—allow me the luxury of intimate study and familiarity with God’s Word. When the chaplain gives us his Scripture plan for worship services, we read and pray over each passage and search for music to enhance his message. Likewise, my publishing career has kept me in the Christian living and Bible study genres—allowing me to pour prayerfully over large portions of the Bible as I write and edit.

That grounding proved vital in the hours immediately following my initial cancer diagnosis. My first full day was filled with hurry-up-and-wait. We’d overhear bits and snatches of conversations outside my door. Strange doctors with specialties we had to Google to understand bustled in and out. Different ones offered snippets of concern or hope, but little of substance. No one, except possibly my attending nurse, bothered to synthesize anything for us. At that moment, no one could.

All this led up to the test that would give more clarity to the tumor that shadowy x-rays and the ER-administered CT scan showed sitting on my heart—the dreaded MRI.

They transferred me to the MRI table and slid it into the tube. It’s tight. And loud. And scary. You’ve been read the riot act by the tech. “Don’t move. If you do we’ll have to start over. You don’t want that. It’s already going to be more than an hour. Trust me, you don’t want to make it any longer.”

Your arms are in what amounts to a strait jacket. You never realized you were thirsty until they rolled you in. Or that you really need to go to the bathroom.

And then it begins.

Your nose is two inches from the top of the shiny dome, which reflects back your own hot breath even as it pours its heat down on your face. The droning and clacking of its motor cycling on and off is guaranteed to make your head throb more than it did before.

Yet what I felt more acutely than any of those agonizing discomforts was a sense of absolute aloneness. Mom had been with me up to that moment. And for her I’d kept a positive outlook—a realistic yet upbeat tone. But now there was no one to influence. No one to shore up. I was alone. And scared.

What does one do or think throughout that interminable hour? All I can say is that the mind feeds back to itself what it’s been fed. Decades of studied Scriptures came pouring back to me. Scripture passages I’ve read to others at their bedsides and at gravesides. Scripture passages I’ve meditated on and dissected until I knew every comma by heart. These flooded my cluttered mind and brought a clarity and focus that frankly shocked me. It had been years since I’d actively memorized a list of Scripture verses, yet in studying them to write, I’d unwittingly committed them to my mind’s permanent file.

I asked myself what I knew to be true. And my answer started here:

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).

Yes, of course. God cares. He knows. He’s not taken by surprise by events like we are. He is calm in a storm. He is my loving Shepherd.

That’s right! I heard His voice in my mind and realized that my Shepherd had shown up in my time of fear—as He’d promised He would.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Yes, I know that one. It’s in Hebrews, right?

Yep. 13:5. What else do you know about Me, Julie?

I could almost hear His voice helping me call up the words from my memory banks, “I go to prepare a place for you … if it weren’t so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2) So soon, Lord? Is my place ready right now?

“We who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.” Will I still be alive, Lord, when this is over?

“I am persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing? And then I heard repeated to me a version of Romans 8:38 I’d memorized in high school—from The Living Bible. Its paraphrase is truly unforgettable:

Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow.

Now that’s relevant!

Still and again, the Spirit of God fed me more assurance through Bible passages. I wish I’d had a tablet to record them all. They were most poignant in that moment, I suppose. Other verses would come later when I needed them. I don’t recall all that paraded through my mind, except to report they kept coming one after the next for the entire hour. I’d almost say I felt a little disappointed when it was over—not the test, just the marvelous reassurance of the Scriptures. And the delicious aloneness with my Savior.

One final verse filled my mind as the machine was spitting me out at last. Again from The Living Bible, memorized decades ago:

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27 TLB).

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