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Kathleen & Bill's Story: Carried

On Easter Sunday of this year, Kathleen McClure was just 11 days post-surgery for ovarian cancer, still in pain, and still trying to ready herself for the rounds of chemotherapy ahead. She sat alone staring out the window trying to come to grips with yet another new, frightening scenario, this time involving her husband, Bill, who would need emergency triple bypass surgery the next day: “I’m thinking, ‘Okay, get in touch with this. Your husband is in the ICU. You can’t drive, you can’t really even put clothes on yet…” And then a prayer: “God, I am so numb. I’ve got nothing, absolutely nothing.” Emotionally and physically drained, Kathleen knew God was there and the community of people she and Bill had spent their lives pouring into proved it. 

“I knew at that moment that I would get on Caring Bridge and see how many people were following our story. I thought about how people were holding up my arms because I couldn’t even lift them,” she said referencing a moment in Exodus 17 when two of Israel’s leaders stand on either side of Moses supporting his arms so he can keep the staff of God raised to heaven until Israel defeats an enemy. “They were holding my arms up for me, and it was so encouraging to know that I was not walking alone.”

“People say they’re praying for you, and it’s like Christian jargon sometimes,” Bill said. “But the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16). We were carried along for 6 weeks: couldn’t drive, couldn’t grocery shop, couldn’t get outside the house, could barely get out of bed. During that time, we fought this peace battle. We said, ‘God is in this.’ We can only attribute that to prayer. We’ve got 60 prayer partners through our ministry, we’ve got the church, we’ve got a small group. We knew these people were praying, and they were also following up and showing up. That carried us. And it still does.”

“The night that Bill went into the ER, and we learned he had to have surgery the next day,” Kathleen continued, “he asked our daughter Allison and me to call 10 people he ministers with. Every last one of them said, ‘Alright, let me pray with you,’ and I sobbed. And yet my spirit was so at peace knowing these men were carrying us.”

“The next morning, I sat on the couch while my kids did laundry, cooked, cleaned up, and got everything ready. And I asked my son, Daniel, ‘Can you just read Psalm 91 to me? I can’t even open my Bible.’ That’s such a precious image in my mind of him getting on his phone and reading Scripture to me. That really carried me too.”

For weeks, Kathleen and Bill needed rides to appointments, meals, encouragement, and care as both recovered from major surgeries. And they got it. “Kathleen started keeping a list of all the people who wanted to help,” Bill said. “She would go down until someone said they could do what was needed.”

“Bill’s sister reminded me that the answer is always yes,” Kathleen said. “If people would call and say, ‘Can I bring a meal?’ she would say, ‘The answer is always yes.’ My natural tendency would be to say no, that we’ve got it, and she said, ‘Let them serve you.’”

“I had a special cardio diet for awhile,” Bill said. “Some of our friends are really into that and eat so well. They were excited about preparing this special meal for us! It just brought out the best in people. That’s where Jesus shows up.”

“If people don’t have that kind of community, let Jesus into that area of your life! Be safe in his leadership and forgiveness in daily life to overcome pride and self-sufficiency, whatever is holding you back. God works through people: iron sharpens iron; one man sharpens the next (Proverbs 27:17). We don’t want people missing out on the polishing work that God desires to do through relationships. We can both minister and pour into their lives and we will be ministered to.”

That kind of community doesn’t happen by accident. “Go find it,” Bill said. “Invite someone for coffee. Take the initiative. Hospitality is actually listed in the qualifications for spiritual leaders in Timothy. Hospitality! I’m talking to guys now: guys, set up the social calendar to get together with some other people. Do it for the sake of your family. For the joys of life - to make life richer - and so you can share with somebody else, but also for the woes of life like the tragedies the McClure’s just went through. Make sure you have that back-up list.”

Kathleen added, “Hospitality is a healthy spiritual discipline. If you come in and the garage door goes up and it goes down, and you never see anybody except at work or on Sunday morning, then you’re lacking.”

“It’s going into it not to be a taker, but to be a giver,” Bill said. “Good parents pour into their kids. Good friends want the best for their friends. Early in our marriage, we would have a retreat of sorts together and talk about the circle of people we were in: who do we need to be pouring our ourselves into?”

“These folks, especially those with the gift of hospitality or serving, they needed to serve us. Is it humbling to be driven here and there? Yeah! But we came to a point that we said, we need to keep this list, we need to allow them to do this. It’s for their good that they’re using their gifts. God, whatever you want to do. We’d rather be on the giving end, but if we need to receive, we want to do that.”