One week after getting the devastating diagnosis that his wife, Britton, had stage 3B breast cancer, Jason Neese picked up the phone to call his new employer, the Rock Church. He felt the need to tell them what their future would be like with him as their Care & Concern Pastor, now that he was about to become caretaker to a very sick wife.
And so he told the Rock what he thought he knew—that the future would be filled with: time off to tend to her and care for their four kids; doctor appointments, and visits, and surgeries; bouts of fatigue, and emotional depletion, and a sadness that would almost certainly take its toll on his job performance. Knowing this, would they still want to continue a working relationship with him?
The answer was, “Yes.”
But Jason’s list of all that he and Britton would be going through was only what he thought he knew. What he didn’t know was that amid the chemo drips, the hair falling out in clumps, the frightened children, and having to find private places to fall apart, came something so beautiful, it has actually made the entire experience, the not knowing if Britton is going to live or die, in some ways, worth it. What has emerged has been the most beautiful look into the meaning and mystery of marriage.
It began when Britton excused herself from the dinner table to walk into the bedroom, with Jason following right behind, to take the first phone call from her doctor. That’s when they learned, “Yes, you have cancer.” It was the moment they shared when the call ended; it signaled the beginning of their new lives. They suddenly felt powerless. It was the perfect start.
As the Neese’s reached out to God in complete dependence, unlike any other time before, they began to feel God stepping into each aspect of their lives, that He was breathing His love into every moment. God expressed His love in the physical pain of post surgery, in the tears, in the frightened faces of their kids, and even in the empty ache of fear as they lay in bed and held each other. They could feel Him. He was there. In fact, God reached out with a hand so large and comforting, they began to feel they had entered into a new realm of existence. To live was God. To die was God. Everything was about God.
All of a sudden, without really seeing it happen, they soon found themselves in a deeper love with each other than any other time in their lives. In the middle of her painful battle with cancer, Britton talked about the deep abiding love of God more than the pain of the surgeries or the fear of dying. To Jason, this new view of his wife hit him like a ton of bricks. She was never more beautiful—scars, bald head, body bereft of energy, and all.
Of course it just made him want to be at her beck and call even more, to make sure she had the space to live in the presence of God, to pray, to blog, to rest, and heal. With the help of family and friends, he cleaned the house. He prepared food. He kept up the yard. He tended to the kids. He held down the full-time job. He prayed for strength and faith—and healing. When he thought he couldn’t go on anymore, he found that he could, by the strength of God.
“We now have a corner on the market of love,” says Jason. “We love each other more than we ever thought was possible, and more than we ever could have achieved on our own.”
“We could never have come to this without the cancer. It seems odd to say,” adds Britton, “but it’s true. I’m so grateful.”
And that’s when the concept of marriage, and how Christ loves His bride, the church, took on a whole new look and understanding. “When we say vows on our wedding day,” Jason says, “where we spell out the uncommon level of commitment to the needs, wellbeing and happiness of the person we are marrying, it’s really God giving us a glimpse of His incomprehensible love and faithfulness.”
“And yet, as we have seen, it just scratches the surface,” Britton adds. “When we are His—fully His and fully surrendered—God pours out His Love to the point where you will never be the same. To have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward, ‘til death do us part. It’s all about faithfulness. And that’s who God is.”
POSTSCRIPT: Jason currently serves as the Rock Church’s Lead Pastor to Family Ministries. Britton was diagnosed with stage 3B cancer in October of 2011, and after eight rounds of chemo, a mastectomy and reconstruction, she made it through. Praise God! On June 5, 2014 Britton was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer; it had metastasized to the pleural fluid and lining of the chest wall of her left lung, and also to her sternum. Britton has been taking an oral chemo, which seems to be working. The numbers for her tumor markers keep dropping—a huge answer to prayer! The side effects of the oral chemo are much less severe than the I.V. chemo treatments she received the first time she was diagnosed, so she is thankful for that, too. Another praise report is that her lungs have been staying clear of fluid. She is an amazing warrior and her spirits are high.
Read Britton’s blog at: http://nicetobeaneese.blogspot.com/
How has God expressed His true love for you in your life? Share with the Rock Church Storytelling Team at [email protected] today!