Today—the eighth day of June—carries special meaning for me. Just eight days ago I received the good news that a biopsy showed no signs of cancer.
Yet, on this date eight years ago the news was very different. I can vividly recall that surreal experience as I listened to a soft-spoken specialist tell me I had cancer. He described the rare form of melanoma growing on the retina of my eye.
Shocking! I didn’t see that coming. (Sorry for the pun.) I expected the doctor to tell me I only had a minor abnormality with my vision and life would go on as usual. Instead, I was blindsided by the cold, harsh reality that a large, malignant tumor was growing inside my eye.
Within days, my wife and I found ourselves in Boston where I was the patient of a world-renowned Harvard professor, eye specialist, medical researcher and textbook author. Before undergoing proton therapy, I was scheduled to have surgery at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, an impressive building adjacent to Massachusetts General Hospital.
The night before the procedure, my wife and I dined at a nice restaurant in downtown Boston. Weeks later, as I reflected on the events of that evening, I described my experience this way:
The weather on June 29 was ideal—a perfect summer evening. Carol and I were seated near the harbor at an outdoor café in downtown Boston. We found it hard to enjoy our beautiful surroundings, though, because our minds were occupied with other things. We were not there on vacation or even business. We had traveled to Boston for medical purposes.
The following morning I would be having surgery, and this was my “last supper” before undergoing general anesthesia. I was neither afraid nor anxious. After all, I knew I was being treated by the best doctors available. More than anything, though, I was confused and perplexed with God. Most of my prayer requests, it seemed, went unanswered.
Carol and I prayed there would be no mishaps or anything out of the ordinary back home. Hundreds of miles away, we had left our teenage daughter at our house with my parents.
Just as our food was being served, my phone rang. Jennifer was calling to tell us she had just been in an auto accident. We later learned it was not her fault and that the other driver’s insurance would pay for everything, but we didn’t know that at the time.
My immediate thought was, “Where is God? Did he not hear our prayers when we asked that everything would be okay back home?”
I silently asked God for an explanation. I asked for some indication that he knew we were there in Boston and that he understood what we were going through.
Immediately, he answered my prayer—not with a flash of lightning or something anyone else would have noticed—but with something quite subtle. The moment I asked God to send me an indication that he cared, a sparrow landed on the handrail next to our table. Instantly I recalled a very comforting passage from the Gospel of Matthew, and I was reassured of God’s presence.
In the Hallock Paraphrase, Matthew 10:26-31 reads like this:
Don’t worry. God knows everything about your circumstances. Consider the sparrow—an insignificant, brown bird. Not even one sparrow can fall to the ground, or perhaps visit your dinner table, without your Heavenly Father knowing it. God not only knows about the tumor in your eye, he also knows the exact number of hairs on your head. You are more valuable to him than many sparrows. So don’t think that God does not understand. His eye is on the sparrow, and more importantly, upon you.