My wife, Kathleen, is about to turn 60.
In about 4 months, Lord willing, I will do the same.
The last 12-month stretch of the road to 60 has been, as most of my readers know, a rough one. Next month, October 22nd, will mark one year since Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following days, weeks and months were quite intense.
Test after test.
Chemo, which seemed to damn near kill her.
The human mind always tries to make sense of things. That’s just part of what it’s supposed to do. But sometimes, there is no making sense of things. Others try to help you figure it all out with well-meaning but all too often meaningless platitudes.
“Just trust in the Lord.”
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid hearing anything like “You need more faith,” or “God’s trying to teach you something.”
I may have glanced at it briefly, but I never really went down the path of “Why, God?”
I’m not belittling those who go there. It’s a natural place to go. It’s just that in my journey, I’ve learned that’s usually a fruitless endeavor.
People, especially Christians (especially Western Christians) too often seem to think God owes them an easy life. When trouble hits their world they start questioning God’s “goodness,” or even if there be a “god.” What many of us, in our comfy little lives, apparently fail to realize is that trouble is always hitting someone’s world.
Someone’s father is dying.
Someone’s sister is going through a divorce.
Someone’s little boy is being kidnapped or murdered.
“Their” bombs are killing our families.
“Our” bombs are killing their innocent children.
The world can be, as those famous prophets “The Temptations” have said, a “Ball of Confusion.”
But, God is still good while all this is going on…
Until it’s “me.”
Until it’s my family.
Then it’s suddenly “Where is God?!?!?”
The thing is, “The rain falls on everyone.”
That’s religious language for “shit happens.”
Through it all, as one who does still believe in God, I have hope. I have faith. (Not that those who don’t believe as I do can’t have hope and faith.)
BUT, it’s a very different hope and faith than I was raised with, or than I adhered to in the past. It is not a hope or faith that requires life or God to be or act in a certain, narrowly defined pattern. The Divine (by whatever name) is not obligated to me because I quote some magical incantation from the writings of Saint Paul in the Bible. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped praying. If anything, I pray more.
I believe Jesus clearly taught, and came to show, that what he referred to then (because of the culture he was born into) as the “kingdom of God” is here and now. Being in that kingdom is a way of life. It’s learning to truly be one with God’s good world, rather than planning an escape from it. In this understanding, many Christians have been “left behind.”
How does that relate to pain and suffering? Well, I’m not sure I know. But I do know that even in my deepest dissatisfaction (and I’m one of those who is dissatisfied a great deal of the time) I retain some sense of, well, I guess I’d call it “ultimate peace.” That peace that I can’t understand or explain. A peace that’s there even when it’s not. Yeah. That makes no sense. That’s the point.
So, the fact that my wife’s turning 60 this month is a pretty big deal.
Making it to 60, alone, seems to be an accomplishment. Let alone being a cancer survivor.
She’s seen lots of pain in 60 years. Some of which I have been the direct cause.
But I know she’s had lots of joy and laughter in her life.
Some of which I believe I have also been the direct cause. 🙂
Next month will be a milestone. We will discover if her system is currently cancer free.
(Yes, your prayers, thoughts and positive energy are requested.)
The road to 60 (or, at this point, almost 60) has taken us to some strange, horrible,
wonderful, awesome unimagined places.
For 35+ years, we’ve went most of those places together.
Whether in this realm or another; in body or spirit, or in some way I’m not yet aware, I’m
looking forward to the next 60 years I spend with Kathleen.
In my faith, in my hope, in my prayers we will be one forever.
[Photo taken June 19, 2014 while joyfully attending
the wedding of Jean Capler and her wife, Jenny Austin.]
The Road To 60 September 13, 2014
WHY? October 27, 2013
So often, when tragedy strikes in the life of a Christian (well, and many others, I guess) the first response is “why?”
Why is this happening to me/us/them?
There’s also “What?”
What is God trying to teach us?
What did we do to deserve this?”
I look back at when I was in the “Charismatic” movement. Everything was cut and dry. Life, even “life in Christ” often boiled down to the reasons why. Tragedy almost always was the result of a lack of faith, God’s punishment, or even demons in the pictures on your wall. [Yes, folks. We actually taught that.]
I am thankful for my faith in Christ, and I’m thankful that although it may not seem as comforting as my former theology, I find it much more real and grounded. I thank God for so many of the “stirrings” and teachings that led to, and have continued since, leaving institutional religion. Not the least of these is no longer focusing on “Why?”
I’ve said in the past, often the answer to “why?” is simply “sometimes life sucks.”
Good things happen to “bad” people.
Bad things happen to “good” people.
I don’t get it.
But, not focusing on “why?” helps move us on to “What now?”
For sure, that doesn’t keep you from being sick with worry. It can, however, keep you from wasting time on a question that likely has no answer. Certainly no discernible one.
I hate that bad things happen to good people; things they certainly don’t deserve.
I hate that life can be so fucked-up, bat-shit crazy.
I get mad at God. Terribly terribly mad.
And still, I pray to the very God I’m angry with.
The very God whom I’m not sure will grant my request.
And I believe that God is perfectly OK with that. I don’t need to feel guilty for some purported lack of faith.
Without some form of faith, I wouldn’t be talking to God in the first place.
People, I guess, mean well. But when someone is struggling, the last thing they need is pat answers, platitudes, and a handful of scripture quotes.
“Why” is a natural question.
It’s an honest question.
But in sorrow or tragedy, it’s not a very useful one.
I know it’s not useful for me.
I don’t care why.
I need to know “What now, God?”