This video was made about a year about Summer was given the all-clear by her doctors. I was asked to speak to a group of graduate students, so I asked for Summer’s feedback. This is what she said.
One of the great myths of American Christianity is that God makes life better. So something that was sick, becomes better. Something was not as pretty as it could be, so now it is prettier. We tend to think of God’s role in our lives as one of degree. That’s not true at all. I am not saying that a relationship with God does not make life better, that is sometimes true. But more importantly, God is a God of opposites. The prophet Isaiah, in Chapter 61 proclaims (I particularly like the language of the King James version here) that he has been anointed by God to proclaim the great exchange. God brings life from death. He brings creation from chaos and calls it good. He makes clean the unclean. He exchanges beauty for ashes, freedom for captivity, joy for mourning, garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness so “that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3 KJV). This does not sound like a God that makes things simply better.
David Thoreau famously stated that “most men live lives of quiet desperation” simply plugging along. Some lives get better and some lives get worse, but the ho-hum of everyday existence is reality for most. God steps into this chaos and does something radically unexpected (even unexpected for many so-called believers). God makes the great exchange. The most remarkable being that God so loved this world that He gave His one and only son in exchange for us.
Summer recognizes the exchanges. Maybe more so, because her life has been filled with so much chaos and pain. Maybe she just has an innate ability to seek and find it. As I learn from her, I am able to see it more as well.
I recall one Christmas many years ago when my mom invited our entire family to one of those “Night in Bethlehem” walk-throughs at a local church. Before the Bethlehem tour one of the volunteers gathered every in our group (there were 15 of us with my sisters and their families). The point of this walk through was to connect the Christmas story with the Easter story. To that end, the volunteer asked our group what we knew about the cross and grave. Summer boldly proclaimed, “Jesus died and on the third day He rose from the tumor.”
You see to her death, the tomb, and tumors were one in the same. She understood that her cancer could have meant death. In fact, it was through Cancer that she began to understand mortality. So, it made perfect sense to her to proclaim that when Christ defeated death, He also defeated tumors. To Summer, the story she tells of her life has cancer in it. However, there is a God who defeated tumors, who defeated death, who rose from the grave. Once again, she sees a Savior that didn’t simply make her life better, but one that through the cross and an empty tomb (or empty tumor) stood triumphant over death. She fundamentally understands the great exchange, for as she will tell anyone willing to listen, “God saved my life.”