I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into my first ladies’ Bible study a couple of years ago. Joining one had been on my list of “things I’ll do when the kids are both in school,” so there I was. I figured I would learn more about faith from the study book in front of me. I didn’t realize how much I would learn, too, from the quiet woman across from me.
The registration form had asked my age, so I was hoping they’d group all of us young moms together. Those were the people I knew, that I had more in common with, I thought. The group at my table was actually a mix of ladies, some like me in our thirties, some veteran moms, some grandmothers. Despite our differences in age, though, we chatted, laughed, and connected from that very first day.
Our small group’s appointed prayer leader was a longtime church member named Kathleen. As she prayed with us and for us every Thursday morning, she shared her strong faith with us. Occasionally she would also share a story or two about mission trips she’d taken to Guatemala.
Later that fall, though, it was our turn to pray for Kathleen as she tearfully told us she’d been diagnosed with an advanced cancer. We rallied around her as best we could, with flowers, phone calls, notes, and prayer after prayer. She fought bravely, relying on her faith at every turn. She came to the first week of the spring semester that January, disappointed that her chemo had not worked as expected but hopeful about a new treatment she was about to start.
And then, two very short weeks later, we were stunned by the news that her brave fight was over. She was no longer with us, but instead with our heavenly Father.
The celebration of her life was a beautiful remembrance. As her family and many friends spoke about her, I was taken aback to learn the extent of her mission work. She didn’t just go on medical mission trips to Guatemala; she was the one who organized them. She and her husband had years ago sold their lake house and luxury cars here and traded their comfortable life to provide health care to thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t have had any – and shared the Gospel with them. I had no idea.
I thought about all those Thursday mornings when our group had discussed the weekly lessons. We should have all been sitting around taking notes from her. To think how much we would have learned from her if she had spent the entire time sharing stories of her work, of the countless lives she touched, of how she trusted in God through every challenge and struggle.
But to think how much we learned from her by the fact that she didn’t.
Despite all Kathleen already knew about life, she came to learn and to listen. She didn’t consider her remarkable accomplishments to be her own. She believed them to be God’s work through her. Her grace and quiet strength were such a testament to putting your full trust in God, and she exemplified true humility. Humility, it has been said, is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
I wish I’d had more months or years to learn from Kathleen, but I’m grateful for the time when our paths did cross. It was time I wouldn’t have had if the group had gone according to my original plan. God’s plans, though, are always better.