A Message for You

Third Time’s the Charm, I hope

by REV. HELEN H. COLLINS
North Kent Presbyterian Church

Well, I’ve done it again. At least I sure hope I have—beaten cancer number three. Not one cancer in—and then out—of remission, but three different cancers, theoretically unrelated, over 41 years. The first one was ovarian carcinoma in 1970, found on a routine annual physical. The second one was non-Hodgkins lymphoma, 24 years later. The last one was found about this time last year—breast cancer—once again found on a regular annual physical with the help of routine mammography.

“Third time’s a charm,” we say to our passenger, smiling nervously as we try “one more time” to get the car to start on that cold, snowy morning. “Third time’s the charm” is the comfort we offer to a five-year-old when the child timidly approaches the new two-wheeler after already weathering two crashes. “Third time’s a charm” is the mantra batters recite when they’ve already got two strikes against them.

I sure hope the “third time is

a charm.”

I remember that Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved him. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of

my sheep.”

The third time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time. He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep,” (John 21:15-17).

Perhaps Jesus asked Peter three times to counter the three times when, in spite of himself, Peter had denied he even knew the Lord. Maybe he asked three times because in the Hebrew culture, three is a perfect number. Perhaps he asked three times, because the third time really is the charm. What it took Peter three times to get—and most of us a lifetime to practice—is that the question about loving the Lord and the command to feed his sheep are one command. To love Christ means to take care of those whom he loves. That includes family members, coworkers, neighbors and strangers—and even one’s self.

Loving isn’t always pleasant. For every loving moment of holding that sweet, sleeping baby, there are dozens of loving moments of changing smelly diapers and walking the floor with a screaming, feverish, ear-achy infant. Loving others includes taking care of one’s own health. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of you. For every romantic Valentine’s dinner there needs to be the less-than-fun annual physical and accompanying mammogram or whatever other tests you and your doctor feel are appropriate and necessary.

I’ve seen a lot of changes over the 41 years since my first cancer. In the early ‘70s, any cancer diagnosis was thought to be a death sentence. Now, caught early and appropriately treated, breast cancer has a survival rate in the upper 90% range. So today, my caring for Jesus’ lambs includes encouraging you to get that checkup you’ve been putting off.


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