“Moments are everything. Moments are snapshots of eternity, and we need to enjoy and live to the fullest every moment that we have.” ~ Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson is a 70-year old miracle with pants on. I think he’ll like that line. Although he’ll probably come back with a wise crack about not wearing any pants, and that will inevitably lead to a pun about telling the “naked truth.” That’s how Steve rolls. He’s funny, he’s smart as a whip, and his body is filled with cancer. It’s in his bones, on his lung, and in his brain. “Incurable,” the doctors told him. That was sixteen months ago. Since then, he has laughed, he has loved, and he has lived.
Seated in his “comfy chair” at his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he awaited my call. He sounded tired, but after hearing his classic laugh I knew this was my friend. I had many questions for him, but mainly I wondered what it was like to be in his shoes. Of course we’re all dying. None of us knows how much sand remains in our own dwindling hourglasses. But the picture changes when you’re told you really shouldn’t be here. “I had a pity party a couple of times,” he admitted. “But God corrected me on that. I’m blessed with very few side effects from the chemo treatments and I’m convinced that God is walking though this with us. I believe I’m being prepared for another ministry.”
Steve and I worked together twelve years ago. I want to be him when I grow up. I love this man’s faith. If cancer thought it could take him fast, it badly miscalculated. “It really is a gift,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish the journey on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have been able to pray like never before. I have been able to help more people than ever before. God had to slow me down to get closer to Him.”
He had the unusual pleasure of attending his own “funeral.” His friends and family gathered at Family Christian Stores Headquarters where he worked for many years. There were tears, tons of laughter, and countless hugs. And as he and his wife of thirty-nine years sat front and center, people took turns saying so many of the words we don’t say to one another nearly enough. “It was humbling,” he said. “I don’t think of myself the way people spoke of me.”
Steve and I talked for 45-minutes. Remarkably, every answer he gave spoke of how much has been given to him. Never a mention of what’s been taken away. And he has a message for the rest of the living: “I want people to know that there is hope. Life is a precious gift and its not to be wasted. Stop throwing grenades at one another. Life is so rich and we miss so much by not being observant. God is real and He loves us. And our time here is short.”
I hung up the phone and I buried my head in my hands. How many days have I wasted? How many moments have I missed? How many grenades have I thrown?
Steve Johnson’s body is filled with cancer. And he’s the healthiest man I know.
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