“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy” (Ps.126:5, NLT).
In November of 2016, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram revealed a lump in her left breast. She was 43 years old. Becky would need a mastectomy and chemotherapy. I know it’s superficial, but I couldn’t help thinking about her beautiful hair.
If you’re anything like me, you can probably remember the first time you ever had some serious hair envy. When I was a little girl, my first long-haired idol was my older sister, Becky. I still remember wearing towels on my head, dreaming of the day when I could boast the same flowing, silky, Farrah Fawcett hair that she had. Instead I rocked my little ’fro that my mom swore was all the rage, endured being mistaken for a boy, and sat through painful combouts.
Cut to adulthood and some more regrettable hairstyles. My sister continued to rock long and gorgeous hair. And my envy turned to adoration for the big sister I love.
In February, 10 days after Becky’s first round of chemo, I left my husband and three kids in Virginia and made the four-hour drive to Kentucky to be with my sister and her family. It was one of the best weekends of my life. Don’t get me wrong. It was tough and exhausting, it hurt to see my sister living with cancer, and this was no carefree girls’ weekend away. But it was precious and important. It cemented an already strong bond I have with Becky—the kind of bond only sisters can share and suffering can bring.
The morning I arrived, I was greeted with coffee brewing and chocolate croissants baking. Becky is always five steps ahead. With a gift of caring for others, her home is the kind of place you love to visit and never really want to leave. She had cut her hair into a bob, anticipating the hair loss. I was surprised to see a full head of beautiful hair and became hopeful it wouldn’t fall out after all.
Unfortunately, when my sister showered that morning her hair began to fall out in clumps. This made the cancer visibly obvious. We “planted in tears.” When I asked my brother-in-law to shave my head in solidarity (he gave me a mohawk before shaving it all), we harvested “shouts of joy.”
My sister, looking in the mirror and staring at her bald, white head, her disease looking back at her, planted tears. Driving to Jerome’s Beauty Boutique in Lexington, trying on some fabulous wigs—shouts of joy!
Going to dinner with friends that night, facing them for the first time with no hair: tears. Wrapping Becky’s head up in a beautiful scarf from our stylish sister-in-law: joy!
That whole weekend, God restored us in our sorrow. In our grief he gave us joy, no matter how silly or insignificant. We felt real delight, and we found ourselves rejoicing. When life comes at us fast and hard, we should expect tears. But we can also anticipate joy.