Vineyard Stories: The Path To True Peace
Danny & Penny Meyer, pastors at the Vineyard Church of Delaware County, share their recent journey to find peace in Christ rather than in their circumstances.
Pastor, Vineyard Church of Delaware County, Sunbury, OH
The Path To True Peace
As I look at my journey with the Lord, it is apparent that God has led my wife Penny and I into different seasons in which He teaches us new lessons about who He is and helps us to see who we are.
Clearly one of those seasons began for us in May of 2015 when Penny was seriously injured in a car accident. We were on our way to Virginia with our daughter and grandsons, but suddenly found ourselves in intensive care in a Roanoke, Virginia hospital for almost 3 weeks.
A Disorienting Night In The ICU
Penny had broken her neck in two places and severely injured her right arm and hand. I clearly remember that first night being in ICU sitting next to Penny who was unconscious on a respirator. It was terribly disorienting for someone like me who likes to be in control. Little did I know that it was only the beginning of three of the most profoundly transforming years of our lives, both individually and for us as a couple.
Over the next 7 months Penny slowly recovered from her injuries, though the residue of pain in her neck and surgeries on her arm continued. Come that fall, we began to see light at the end of the tunnel and thought to ourselves, “Life is getting back to normal.” Understand, what I meant by “normal” was having a sense of control and thinking I knew what tomorrow held.
The Phone Call
Around Thanksgiving of that year, Penny began to experience some numbness in her left arm (her good arm). There was an MRI done to look for the cause. We assumed the symptoms were due to residual injury from the car accident and that more physical therapy would be prescribed. We received a phone call that evening from the hospital asking Penny to come in to discuss the results of the test – and to bring her husband.
When we arrived, we were told that the MRI revealed a tumor wrapped around her spine and sitting on top of her lung. They believed that it was lung cancer that had metastasized outside the lung and that we needed to get our affairs in order because she had only months to live. We were in shock!
Through that long night in the hospital, we cried, prayed and held each other.
By the next morning and with more testing overnight, it was determined that Penny did not have lung cancer but had multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. Clearly this diagnosis was not what we expected or wanted, and clearly we had not finished our lessons in learning to live for today.
Radiation, Remission, And Reorientation
Over the last two years Penny has undergone radiation, a stem cell transplant which meant another month in the hospital, followed now by chemotherapy every two weeks which keeps the cancer at bay and helps her to maintain a “near complete remission”.
Penny could stay in remission for ten years or come out of remission next week, but we have been learning to fully embrace what opportunities are present today instead of finding our peace from hopes and dreams for tomorrow, or expectations of what is yet to come.
“We have been learning to fully embrace what opportunities are present today instead of finding our peace from hopes and dreams for tomorrow, or expectations of what is yet to come.”
Perhaps the greatest benefit of our present season is the opportunity to answer the question, “What am I living for?” Each time Penny gets her new blood-work and we wait to find out whether her cancer is under control, we are faced with an opportunity.
We are given the choice once again to decide where we will find our fulfillment in this life. Will we try to avoid all trials and difficulties by attempting to squeeze happiness out of each moment? Or will we surrender to the reality that in this sliver of eternity we get to live in this fallen world and in these fallen bodies, and can choose to find fullfilment in our relationship with Christ, and in being woven into his plans and purposes?
Some days I am more successful than others in learning to find my peace not in my circumstances but in Christ. I am a slow learner.
Penny and I have been in pastoral ministry 43 years. I believe in the last three years, because of these difficult circumstances, we have likely had more impact and influence on others than in the past 40 years. When I think of all the sermons that both Penny and I have diligently prepared for and delivered, I realize now it is absolutely true that people may hear what we say with our words, but the greater impact comes from how we live our lives.
What We Have Learned Through Suffering
So what have Penny and I learned over the last three years? We can say with confidence that circumstances don’t have to dictate the relative degree of peace we experience in our lives.
True peace comes from our connection to Jesus lived out in the context of Christian community. In addition, though we may think we have a relative degree of control over our lives, none of us knows what tomorrow holds.
“…Circumstances don’t have to dictate the relative degree of peace we experience in our lives. True peace comes from our connection to Jesus lived out in the context of Christian community.”
Would we want to turn the clock back before the accident and before the diagnosis of cancer? YES! But if in the Lord’s wisdom and kindness these lessons and blessings of the last three years could have only been gained through walking down this path, we embrace it as yet another mysterious manifestation of His grace, love and mercy!
(Visit Danny and Penny’s church community at Vineyard Church of Delaware County)