Walking off of the Mass Gathering stage after speaking at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering, I don’t think I fully understood the magnitude of what I had just done. It was a life-changing experience that felt so wild but the deeper layers of what I had just done were only beginning to unfold. I stood up on stage to show others how you can take some of your worst moments such as my terminal diagnosis and use them to help remind others they do not have to feel alone in all of this.
After sharing I was privileged to meet a young woman at the Gathering who had the same diagnosis as myself. She never met anyone with her diagnosis until she heard me speak. That was the rewarding experience that made everything I did worth it. It is a reminder of why I advocate by sharing my story through all the suffering I endure. I get to be that little lighthouse that reminds others to know they are not alone in all of this.
These days I still try to push that sentiment even while things have looked really different. Our world feels as though it is falling apart, there is the pandemic, political unrest, natural disasters, the explosion in Beirut, and other unspeakable tragedies 2020 has brought us.
During these hard times it is easy to focus on the bad, to believe things may never get better, or think that God has abandoned us but, in these moments, we must remember we are not alone in all this. God is with us– always. Once we remember this, we too can be that lighthouse. God’s grace is here for us all as we continue to walk through the difficult storms ahead.
Michaela Shelley is the founder of an online support group for adolescents and young adults with chronic and/or terminal illnesses. Currently, Michaela is working towards a Master’s degree in social work. You can watch her 2018 Mass Gathering talk here.