ocean pier transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

What’s Important. What’s Not Important.

I met my college roommate, Donna, in September of 1977, freshman year, fall term, first day of school. We were assigned a room together. I got the better roommate. She, not so much. She was a brunette with a sense of purpose. I was a clueless blonde. She was a Christian. I was not. We’ve been friends 38 years and counting. This month she was diagnosed with brain cancer. I’ve spent the better part of the month wondering, why this month? This is her birthday month.

She has several brain tumors that the doctors give a grade 4.

Tumors are graded on a scale of 1-4. 1 is good. 4 is not. Though they admit to a possibility of being wrong, they’re treating it like a 4. (It’s possible the grade is 2-3. Her’s is an unusual case.) Her doctor said when people get a diagnosis like this, life becomes about 2 things: What is important and what is not.

I’ve noticed that aging is moving me to the same conclusion, but with Donna, the thought process is accelerated. Her beautiful family, her faith, her most treasured friends, and the lost are now what’s important to her.

I did not become a Christian until age 32, and the word lost infuriated me. I wasn’t lost. I was an intelligent, capable woman with a college degree, a job, several boyfriends (yeah, let’s not go there), and lots of friends who thought and acted just like me. So, what was I lost from? That’s what I wanted to know. I didn’t feel lost. There are multiple ways to explain that, but for now, I’m only going to say that after I became a Christian, I was stunned at my lost self. I am still dumb-founded by that girl in her 20’s, and how she perceived and understood the world.

What strikes me, looking back, was my refusal of all Christian thought on the basis of how ridiculously stupid and intolerant I thought it was, but how quickly I accepted and made my own (without stopping to question), the world’s view on almost any subject–political to personal–especially if it leaned left and liberal. Please don’t read that, now, I blindly accept one thing while refusing everything else. I don’t. If anything, I question everything more. This includes my Christian beliefs and friends, and worldly wisdom. I may still be blonde, but clueless has left the building.

Our college, Furman University, would tell Donna and I that they taught us critical thinking skills, but they didn’t. They taught us worldly wisdom and worldly conclusions. I’m not talking solid-based research on, say, polio vaccinations type-worldly conclusions. There is much the world has discovered and applied in amazingly positive ways.

I’m talking life here. I’m talking what you do when you find out you have brain cancer with grade 4 tumors, and you’re facing radiation and chemotherapy.

If you’re my most beloved and treasured friend, you get on your knees and begin to pray with urgency for the lost.

Sure, she prays for herself. We have a list of healing verses that we’re praying for her. She wants to be healed. She’s my age, 56. She has an 18-month-old grandchild, an adoring husband of 30+ years, a house I am seriously jealous of (with the most charming garden), a beautiful daughter-in-law (in spirit and in person), 2 accomplished and loving children, a sister (they are so close), brothers, father, and friends. She has so much life ahead of her and we’re focused on that. We’re focused on taking our granddaughters (we currently have four!) to the beach when they’re old enough and their moms will part with them for a week. That’s been on our list for years; just the girls and the grandmas.

But, that doctor was right. For Donna, life is now about what’s important and what’s not. So, she prays fervently for the lost while she prays for her family and healing. I have prayed with her. Beside her couch, using her pretty, pillow shams to buffer the old knees.

If I made my what’s important and what’s not list right now, I’d have to admit that the lost don’t get top billing, though I “once was lost but now am found.” (Note to self: To whom much is given, much is expected.) But, as Donna has always known, we’ll spend way more time in eternity than this blip of life on earth, and how deeply the Father wants us all together. How deeply my dear Donna wants us all together.

I don’t for a second believe that Furman put that purposeful brunette and that clueless blonde together. I trust that the Lord made that roommate assignment. Someone had to pray for me. I was lost. That someone is still praying, and it doesn’t get anymore important than that.

donna and cinthia transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner


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