“Courage, dear heart.” -C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
My husband, Campbell, has several tattoos. Not as many as me, he will quickly point out with a sideways smile and a quirk of an eyebrow. It’s a joke between us because though I have at least three times as many, his take up more “property space,” if you will. Like the large and quite beautiful (yes, my love, it is beautiful, but in a masculine way I assure you) Celtic, green cross covering his upper right arm. It is beautiful not only for the design, but because of what is written beneath it: “By His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
(On a side note, don’t be deceived, dear friend. This scripture is not simply talking about physical healing. Though as a believer, healing is only a matter of time. We are either healed naturally by our body fighting off the sickness, or through medicine, or supernaturally…or by going home to heaven, freed from every earthly illness. We are still healed, whether it be on this side or the other.)
He got the cross tattoo in 2008 when we were in Houston visiting his parents, and his dad and I went with him. During the same stay, as we always did, I got a tattoo as well. (It is a tradition of ours–every time he gets a tattoo, I get one as well. We like to get them together. Also, let’s be honest here, it’s a great excuse for me to get another one. Tattoos are like potato chips; you can’t just have one.) My tattoo was a scripture reference: Revelation 7:16-17 and 21:3-4, which ends with one of my favorite lines in the Bible. “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.“
Little did we know, seven years later in 2015, Campbell would be diagnosed with cancer. God had prepared us both by His own words.
But our tattoo testimonies, or, as I call them, “stones of remembrance,” (a reference to Joshua 4), did not end there.
In 2003, his very first tattoo would also be a stone of remembrance. He decided to wrap it around his left wrist so he could hide it beneath his watch at work. (Wow…having to hide a tattoo at work–and wristwatches for that matter!…I feel old now.) It was the reference, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which reads, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.“
In all circumstances.
His final tattoo (so far) came three years before the cancer, in 2012. Placed on his inner forearm, it reads in the simple block lettering of Copperplate (which is pretty much the most Campbell-esque font ever): “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.” It’s a portion of Joshua 1:9. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.“
Wherever you go.
Whether we “make our bed in Hell,” or “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” we are to be strong and courageous.
And Campbell was, and is. He told me recently that he decided then and there, on June 3rd, 2015, in that doctor’s office when we first heard those three words, that he would live as if he did not have cancer. He would be strong and courageous, by the power of the strength of God in him.
I remember so vividly, one month before that doctor’s visit, as I lay next to Campbell in his hospital bed (delightfully smooshed as we are in the post picture), waiting for results of test after test when they first discovered his terrifyingly high white blood cell count (he has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia), I noticed the Joshua 1:9 tattoo. Then I quickly searched out his other two tattoos, and realized in tears how much the Lord had prepared him.
I am writing all of this in response to the coronavirus, dear friend, which is currently rampaging the globe, and has now sprung up in our very own city of San Antonio, TX.
COVID-19 has only mild symptoms for most, and even some have no symptoms (most especially children), which makes it even scarier, because it can slip passed detection, not to mention the current serious lack of testing kits in America.
But for Campbell, whose immune system is continuously shot due to the chemo meds he takes daily, the fact that his illness is chronic, and that it’s a blood cancer, he is literally at the highest risk of anyone—even more than the elderly and other cancer patients—for dangerous complications should he become infected. It could even have potentially fatal consequences.
What does this mean?
It means the same as it has always meant, dear friend. We will “not have a spirit of fear” and we will “keep our eyes upon Jesus,” for “He cares for us,” and “knows even when a sparrow falls.” Whether on this side or the other, “Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us,” and as John Piper once said, “Heaven is only an upgrade.”
The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21-23, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.“
We have nothing to fear. “Death has lost its sting,” and “we wrestle not against flesh and blood“…which includes the coronavirus, dear friend.
And not only that, but God, in His infinite wisdom, has gone before Campbell and me and made a way to this supernatural peace. Once again, as He did with Campbell’s cancer diagnosis, the Lord has spoken to him through those stones of remembrance he penned on his skin all those years ago.
As you’ve read in my previous posts concerning how the Lord has let me “grieve in reverse” for Campbell should he go home before me, and how God prepared him beginning in 2012 to be completely at peace about dying (a random conversation we had one day in our living room, which terrified me at the time but came with such fearlessness from him, and inspired his Joshua 1:9 tattoo), we both feel prepared and at total peace for whatever the future holds.
Or rather, whatever the Lord allows by His perfect design and glorious will.
It is “a peace that passes beyond all understanding.”
So we are not worried, dear friend, just in submitted prayer for God’s protection from this virus, and attempting to be wise by deciding this morning for Campbell and our family to strictly self-isolate until this pandemic is over, even though it has not (yet) been mandated by the city or state.
Please pray with us, as Jesus Himself prayed, for “the Lord’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven,” whether that means earthly protection and healing or not. The Lord’s will is not always perhaps what we would envision for ourselves, or what we would think is best for our family, but no one knows what’s best except for God. “We are not promised tomorrow,” but “we are promised eternal life.”
We trust the Lord, and His love and perfect plan for us, no matter what that may be. The Lord is good! And we submit our family into His tender, nail-scarred hands.
(Scripture verses not referenced but only quoted and emboldened, in order of appearance: Psalm 139:8, Psalm 23:4, 2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 10:29, [there are multiple scripture references for the next quote: Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8, Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20, and 1 Chronicles, 28:20], 1 Corinthians 15:55, Ephesians 6:12, Philippians 4:7, Matthew 6:10, [there are again more than one scripture reference for the next quote: Proverbs 27:1 and James 4:13], and [again, many references for this last quote as well, not to mention the theme of the entire Bible is that God Himself would save us from death, hallelujah, which is what makes Christianity entirely unique amongst all religions throughout history–we don’t save ourselves by reaching up to God through self-betterment, but Jesus came down to us and even became one of us to save us: John 3:16, Revelation 3:5, 1 John 5:13, John 10:28-30, Proverbs 8:35, 1 Peter 5:10, 1 John 2:17, 1 John 5:11, 2 Corinthians 4:17, Psalm 139:24, Romans 6:23, John 17:3, John 3:36, Matthew 7:13-14, Revelation 21:3-4, 1 Timothy 6:12, John 4:14, Matthew 10:39, Galatians 6:8, 1 Timothy 1:16, and Romans 5:21])