By Tonja Talley
The parents of a 12-month-old child were told by doctors that a disease called cystic fibrosis (CF) would take their child’s life within four years. My parents received the news in 1962—the day before Father’s Day.
Like 30,000 other people in the United States, I was born with CF. A devastating, terminal lung disease, CF doesn’t allow many options for life. Back then it offered none. But for me, the disease has been a blessing, not a burden. I see life as a miracle, plain and simple. It is a miracle of the Master Weaver.
On the sixth day of creation, the Master Weaver brought man into existence—a physical body uniquely formed like a tapestry of delicate weave, cells intricately interwoven by God’s loving hands, connecting to form muscle, organs, and tissue. Subsequently, each human being created by God contains a unique DNA blueprint.
This unique blueprint allows us to be uniquely recognizable. But more important, it shows God’s personal character placed within us. David wrote, “You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something” (Psalm 139:15, The Message).
Sculpted from Nothing
What an extraordinary vision! With each move of the Weaver’s shuttle, we see a pattern emerge called the human body. This pattern is made up of 11 main organ systems. Each system has it own unique set of functions.
The integumentary system is made up of the skin and its related structures.
The skeletal system is comprised of bones, tissues (tendons, ligaments, and cartilage), and teeth.
The muscular system contains muscle tissue, including cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscles.
The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and sense organs.
The endocrine system is made up of glands that produce hormones.
The respiratory system includes lungs and all air passageways, (trachea, bronchi, and diaphragm).
The cardiovascular system is comprised of heart, blood, and blood vessels.
The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend against attacks by “foreign” bodies.
The digestive system is made up of mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and rectum.
The urinary system contains kidneys, bladder, and related ducts.
The reproductive system is comprised of ovaries, testes, and all reproductive structures.
The cells producing the organ systems need to work together as a community to survive. Bones and muscles benefit from this community effort. We could not stand or move without our muscular and skeletal systems. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems join forces. When one organ starts to fail, other organs compensate for a limited time.
Life is a journey of events with God at the helm. We are his creation, sculpted for his purpose. He is the glue that binds. Our Lord has not made any creature in the world out of better clay than he used to make us. In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul says, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10).
Even as a child, I knew my CF was not an error. God established within me the knowledge that he doesn’t make mistakes. Coming into this world, God gave me a purpose identified in my DNA. However, this fact didn’t stop me from wondering if my CF had anything to do with God’s purpose for my life.
In prayer David said, “For great is your love toward me” (Psalm 86:13). God is about love and loving relationships. He designed us to be his people—to be his family with all the benefits, to follow his precepts, and to put our faith in his son, Jesus Christ.
As his chosen children, we are to become like Christ. When Christ went to the cross, he carried with him the sins of the world. His death, burial, and resurrection allow us to become new creations in Christ. God prepared the way for this wonderful blessing when he announced at creation, “Let us make mankind in our image [and] in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
James notes, “It was a happy day for him when he gave us our new lives, through the truth of his Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in his new family” (James 1:18, The Living Bible).
Paul adds, “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus, and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others” (Ephesians 2:10).
Using the imagery of the human body, Paul explained to the church in Rome that we are bound together in the body of Christ. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4, 5, NIV). If we are a part of one body, then we are inseparably connected to each other. The question, then, is how individual members can carry out their unique gifts (12:6-8). The answer is that each Christian has different functions or work to accomplish as a member of the church. That is what Paul affirmed when he wrote, “members do not all have the same function” (12:4).
Blessings in a Breath
Hospitalized with repeated bouts of pneumonia, my lungs heaved for every breath. My organs labored under the pressure of my fierce cough. My legs shook uncontrollably while my heart pumped fiercely to compensate for the clogged lungs. My cardiovascular and respiratory organs labored so hard you could feel them under my ribs. Coughing to clear out the mucous that invaded the lungs continued to be a constant battle.
During those times I would usually have projects to do for our preschool or Sunday school ministries. When people would come into my hospital room, they would ask what I was doing. I would tell them, “Work for God’s children.” Then I would ask them if they believed in Jesus Christ. It made me feel good that even through my suffering the Holy Spirit could work through my CF to advance the kingdom. Many told me later the words spoken in that hospital room helped bring them to salvation.
In Jesus Christ we are one body. Together we are connected spiritually. But the Master Weaver saw to it that we were connected in another way. Many cells are connected by a protein called laminin, a vital component of nearly every tissue of every organ. If you look at this glue-like protein under a microscope, you will find that laminin is in the shape of a cross!
It was a life or death situation. After waiting more than two years, the Lord’s timing prevailed and I was scheduled for a double lung transplant. As the mask covered my mouth, I prayed, “Oh, Father God, you have prepared me for this moment. May your will be done. Amen.” I drifted into sleep with Job 33:4 running through my mind: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
At 51 years of age, I reflect on my life and know the Master Weaver has a purpose for everything, including a uniquely designed body with a terminal illness.
God’s Purposeful Power
”And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (9:17).
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
Tonja Talley is a freelance writer in Greenwood, Indiana.
Tracing the Master Weaver’s Thread
Thinking of your life as a cohesive narrative with a beginning, middle, and end can help you see the purposes God is working in your life. Often we can see the beginning clearly, and we know a bit about what awaits us in the end—but the middle can be downright confusing. What on earth is God doing with me now?
You can see God’s workmanship by looking for a theme in your life. Times of suffering, times where God’s worked powerfully, recurring feelings, or repeated types of encounters, opportunities, or relationships can help point you to the theme God is weaving in your life. Your theme may not be as dramatic as a life-threatening illness, but if God’s working, it’s just as real. (And, yes, God’s probably working a number of themes in your life, but concentrating on one at a time brings clarity and focus.)
Spend time praying, writing, reading Scripture, and talking to godly people who know you well until you find it. Then thank God for what he’s done in you and through you.
Now look ahead. With this theme in mind, where does it seem like God is leading you in the future—short and long term? Are you on the right track?
Let God’s purposes in your life propel you forward.