When you get an assignment to Alaska one of the first things someone will tell you to buy is a “Milepost”. It is a map of Alaska but not like any other map. This map not only has all the roads but it lists everything along the way. The map list the distance of each highway, say from Anchorage to Fairbanks, where mile zero is in Anchorage and the ending mileage is how far it is to Fairbanks. But it also lists everything along the way, like a dirt road at mile 24.5 or a gas station at mile 112.3. Everything along that road is marked by a mileage. Because the environment is so harsh in Alaska it is important to always know where you are. Getting lost in Alaska can cost you your life. The Milepost is the best directions you could get. You know when someone is trying to tell you how to get somewhere they will say, go down this road for about 4-5 miles and turn left on center street, go a little ways and you will see a small street on the left go past that to the next left and that is the street you are looking for. Then as you take off you have an idea where you are going but there is always a little doubt. Had you gone 3 mile or 4, did you miss a turn? Now if that person had given you the same directions but added some landmarks like as you go that 4-5 miles you will pass a Wal-Mart, keep going straight, then look for an underpass, go under and look for a McDonald's, just past that is your street. Now you as you drive you have something to let you know you are going the right way. If you begin to doubt if you have missed a turn and you look up and see the Wal-Mart, you are instantly relieved and because you know where you are in relation to where you are trying to go. And the longer the distance you have to go the more “markers” you like. The Milepost is like that, it is the best directions because you can always look at the map and find out exactly where you are. So if you are in need of food or gas, you know exactly how far it is until the next station. These “Mileposts” take away the fear of being lost, they bring comfort it a hostile environment.
As we started journey I began to feel as if we were trying to find our way, but I did not know where we were or how far we had to go, I did even know where we were going in the beginning. We were figuratively in the dark, trying to find our way to where we wanted to go. We had to first find out our destination. We prayed and believe God told us Andrea would be healed, but we were not told how we would get there, or how long it would take. But as I sought God more I found that our final destination was already set, we are heaven bound and healing from cancer is not the end but a means to the end, an opportunity to allow God to shine through us. Although healing is still something we believe for it has taken a backseat to our desire to serve the God who already has given us a gift we can never repay Him for, salvation. But that is another topic, Mileposts is about how God provides the best directions, how God gives us “mileposts” in our life to keep us on the right path to remind us we are not lost.
I have found that Godly mileposts can come in many forms. A verse in scripture, in silent prayer, in the audible yet silent voice of the Father, in a sermon, in an e-mail from a friend, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a letter, a card, or from a song. There are no limits to how God can speak to us if we choose to listen and be spiritually attentive.
I have found that sometimes God does not give us directions to the end but to an intermediate point, many times not very far ahead of where I am. It is like standing in total darkness, with only the path lit in front of me as far as God wants me to walk. At times it has not been more then a few steps and I could go only go as far as I could see. I had to trust and wait for further illumination from God when I wanted to just take off and get to the destination, and just get this trial over with. At times the slow pace as been more of a test then the trial itself, but I can tell you nothing is wasted by God. But like I said where we are going is set, so it becomes more about how we get there then where we are going.
I have also found out that God provides mileposts to strengthen our faith, and there are times when they come one after another, usually when times are the most difficult. But there are times when it is eerily quiet and I have had to just remember past mileposts to trust. You see mileposts are not for the moment and then forgotten, they become part of us, they scream at us to trust. If God had been then before He is here now, even is the silence and in the madness of cancer. You see if He never leaves us nor forsakes us, and if He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow, then we can wait is the darkest of times and know that we know that we know that He is still with us. Mileposts become the bricks and mortar to the foundation of our faith. We stand on all the past promises met, answered prayers, and we trust. Even though the future is not clear, even if the path that lies ahead is in total darkness we can trust that our Father sees it all. There is no darkness to Him.
I have found that even if we would not take the particular path we are on if the Lord is leading us then it is the best path for us, and we are there for a purpose. Trust me I had figured out the perfect path in my mind several times. Yes Lord I could see it perfectly clear, the next treatment and then we will be done, or now that I learned that last lesson, now we are situated for you healing. Yes Lord just over that next hill and we will be done. But that was never how it worked out. There was another bad scan, a higher tumor marker, or a new unexplained pain, and then more chemo, more side effects and more pills to take away the pain. Until I didn’t know what we were fighting, cancer or side effects from the drugs we were hoping would heal Andrea. You just get so deep into it your not sure which way is up. Then it happens, God sends you a milepost. And you know God is in control and clarity returns to life. Mileposts like: Jacquelyn’s prophecy in Belks, Shelby’s emails, Wayne's prophecy, Silo’s phone call, Virginia’s e-mail, Gina’s prayer, the faith of Andrea’s bible study group they all have reminded us that God is still in control.
You learn that a God who loves you so much to your answer prayers and send believers into your day to lift you up has no problem healing. Suddenly the gift of Christ’s sacrifice is sweeter, more humbling, and you find yourself not asking what God will give you, but what can you give to God. What is too much to give to our creator who died for us? What is too much to give to one who gave His life for us? You started by begging for life, healing and you end up laying down your own life and desires to a loving God. And that is the miracle of God love. It takes our eyes off ourselves and puts them on Him and those around us. It takes away our selfishness. It makes all we have done as filthy rags compared to Christ. It makes you realize there is nothing we have done or will do to deserve salvation. It makes this temporary life, this vapor of time, be seen for what it is. An opportunity to serve our creator, to live a life of service to the one who first loved us.
Today I met a wonderful woman and her husband who are breast cancer survivors for two years. We talked about our common experiences. At times there were tears in her eyes just recounting all she and we had been through. I looked at her and thought how marvelous it must be to be two years out from treatment. Her hair had grown back and was beautiful. There was no exhaustion in her eyes, but cancer had still left its mark. The possibility it could come back, the dread of facing treatment again. That look is only shared by those who have heard the doctor say you have cancer and have faced the chemo chair, the months of sickness, weakness, hair loss, vomiting, and countless side effects of drugs meant to randomly destroy life. But they are also the ones who have the chance to experience the joy of trusting God when life hangs in the balance, to fall back in faith and be caught in the arms of God, to strip away the meaninglessness of life, to feel the love of the body of Christ. I count it all joy to have suffered for Christ.
There may have been some very dark days but God always provided us a Milepost, a gentle loving reminder that says, "I'm right here."