I just got home from a party given by friends, Kyeonghi and Bernard, of the Buffalo church we attend.
Thirty-five people showed up, many wearing hilarious wigs in honor of my (still) hairless days. It was a blast. Most are young and full of “we are hard-wired for fun!”
I sat in the dark of my apartment explaining to David that I was having some internal dissonance. (Poor guy – he has to endure therapist phrases and he probably just wants to say, “Can we simply call it confused feelings?”)
“Maybe it wasn’t all so bad after all (my cancer treatment). I’m kind of feeling that I may have made a big deal about nothing so terrible.”
David’s response was straightforward, “Yes, it was a big deal; trust me.”
Maybe I am going through something like the aftermath of child bearing. The relief of new life causes a kind of amnesia of the pain you thought you would never get over.
But then again, I wasn’t satisfied with that analogy. Something else was going on. I stared at the basket of cards from friends from Juneau and other places. I looked at the books and gifts sent and reminded myself of the countless phone calls from family and friends and the many emails even from David’s clients and colleagues who had never met me but wanted to encourage me. People read my blog and were unbelievably kind in their responses. Friends traveled to visit me or house me.
The kindnesses that I received from my health providers and just random folks I would meet in the hospital – all of these memories were flooding me with that “internal dissonance” thing. The level of kindness far exceeded the level of suffering.
Because I was feeling unworthy of this amount of kindness crazy thoughts were entering my head in an effort to make sense of it. “I must have communicated to everyone that it was worse than it was. Did I tell them I was dying? Did I let on like I was bedridden and hospitalized most of the time? Did I say that my head was in a bucket 24-7 during chemo? Did I intimate that surgery had complications or that radiation could only be endured with drugs, prescription and recreational? In short, did I exaggerate this whole thing in spite of the fact that my doctors were telling me I had a high risk disease and treatment would be intense?”
I thought of the support of my sweet daughters, their husbands and my grand boys and my courageous 88-year old mother who looks after my 91-year old father. It was beginning to feel like too much.
Too much support.
Too much love.
Too much guilt from all that love and support.
Too much God – is that even possible?
The scale was tipped in favor of love – far outweighing the trials of cancer treatment. I was overwhelmed with undeserved love.
Of course it was undeserved. Christianity 101 tells me that. None of us get what we deserve. God help us if we do. It just can’t be about deserving. I don’t even want it to be. It gets back to that fair thing I talked about in my last post. After all, do I deserve all this support and some other person in a hostile dangerous place who is being horribly persecuted for their religious belief or ethnic heritage deserves being alone, feeling forgotten and wondering why God is silent. Does she or he deserve that treatment while I am showered with love and support from friends and family? Of course, not.
What to do with all this
There is something else going on. What are we ultimately meant to be thankful for? Please don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the support of friends, family, and health care providers who, in part, sustained me through this ordeal. But I know that right now at this moment countless people of Christian faith and other minorities in faraway places and prisons are suffering, even dying, alone and unnoticed. What sustains them? It can’t be, “God loves me this I know for I have so many friends and family telling me so!” Equating God’s grace and blessings to family and friends and medical support just do not cut it for the multitudes deprived of basic human rights. I once read John Stott, the late theologian and vicar of All Soul’s Church in London, say something to the effect that he could not worship a God who had not suffered pain, abandonment humiliation and forsakenness. Thank God we have that God in Jesus Christ. His suffering appropriated something profound, cosmic and eternal for which anyone of us can be blessed, whomever and wherever we are. Now, I am venturing into territory that I cannot speak authoritatively. But someone can and has. His name is Ziya Merkal. I read an article of his in Christianity Today back in 2008. I printed off a copy, put in a manila folder and over the years have reread it many times. Here are the links to two articles by Ziya Merkal , “Bearing the Silence of God” ( the one I carry around) and “Standing with the Desolate” (recently read this on line). Please read them.
After listening to my angst in the darkness of our apartment after the lovely party thrown in honor of my end-of-treatment. My husband said, “Dona, just be thankful.” Good words spoken by the champion of support, love and perspective during one of the toughest 9 months of my life. But David was quick to point out that the apostle Paul said it better in I Thessalonians 5:18,
“For this is the will of God, that you be thankful.”