Tentatio

struggle, spirituality, absurdity

Tag: spirituality

Thoughts on Remission

I have no idea where I am going with this but feel compelled to write. So bear with me. Or don’t, it’s your choice. That’s the danger (from my perspective) of blogging.

So I got the news that I have achieved a 3-log reduction in the presence of the Leukemia mutation. Or something like that, but I was never great with Biology. Suffice it to say, this is the goal for treating my kind of Leukemia (CML), and within this threshold the disease is considered well under control. My next step is for the mutation (actually it’s the presence of a protein, or something like that) to be undetectable by the machines that do the detecting. That won’t necessarily mean the mutation is gone, but rather that it is so low that the machine can’t find it (we are on the molecular level at this point).

It’s strange, though, because I still sense that I have a ways to go in terms of dealing with the emotional side of having leukemia. For those of you that know me well, this summer has sucked horribly. I’ve been sick and injured for most of the season, and then I was forced to try a different leukemia drug because the original one was no longer effective. Not to mention that I struggled with the side effects of that original drug.

Now I feel better than ever, and I actually have more energy now than I know what to do with. But this morning, a friend of mine mentioned in passing that he had had some blood work done and the doctor said he wanted to run another, more specific test. It ended up being nothing (except that my friend needed to lose a little weight), and yet when I heard this story being told, I almost had a small heart attack at the idea of him needing more blood work. I’ve been down that road, and it didn’t go well with me.

It was like a small panic attack induced by PTSD, or something like that. I can be a little dramatic at times.

But it did tell me that I have a ways to go. I still get depressed, and who wouldn’t? After the leukemia, the multiple deaths of loved ones, the car wreck, my cat that died, the million kidney stones, and a few other things, this shouldn’t surprise me.

It all reminds me of how messy life really can be. I get impatient with movies that have nice, black and white, neatly wrapped endings. How is that anywhere near life-like? Real life has real struggles, real joy, and everything in between – and often at the same time.

I am in remission. That’s incredibly good news, but it isn’t the end of the story, nor is it the beginning of another. My good news simply is. I will carry this damned mutation all my life, and my life will likely be long.

Learning to live in that tension takes serious chutzpah. I pray that God grants me some of his…

Meditation

I think it was Bonhoeffer who said that the goal of meditation ought no to be focused on gaining profound intellectual insights or even deep spiritual experiences. Even if he didn’t say that and I’m really thinking of someone else, it sounds like something he would say. Instead, the goal of meditation is oriented around the act itself – the discipline of meditation. It doesn’t matter if one gains great insights into the Scriptures or has a profound spiritual experience. It’s all about the day-in day-out rhythm of the Scriptures and being faithful to its calling.

I hate that.

I like results. I like hitting a button and getting something in return. I like reading a book and knowing more than I did before I read it. I despise pointless exercises.

But – does that mean I judge something as ‘having a point’ based on what I immediately get out of it? That’s a scary thought, leading me to wonder if I am really more superficial than I’d like to believe.

Now I’m irritated.

Confessions of an Ex-Evangelical

I remember in high school youth group we had to respond to this particular situation: What two things would you take with you if you woke up with your room was on fire?

It was hilarious, in retrospect, because we all had to be very pious. This meant that our first item was our Bibles, followed by the one item that we really wanted to keep from getting torched. Give me a break. Our Bibles? Unless this is a 200 year old Bible that has been in a family for that long, I somehow doubt that any one of us would have cared at all about the ten-dollar Bible sitting under a pile of dirty laundry.

Of course, by answering such, we all appeared very well behaved and spiritual in front of everyone else. And we perpetuated the stigma that one can only be a part of the group if you were very pious, or at the very least, can fake it really well. We tended toward the latter.

It wasn’t until college that I heard the first accurate response to that question. My friend, Stephen, answered with, “My pants.” After all, we tend to sleep without pants, and if we have to watch the firemen try to save what’s left of our house or protect the houses around us, then it’s probably best to do so with our pants on.

A Musing on the Resurrection

I read somewhere that you don’t beat the Reaper by living longer. Instead, you beat it by living well. That makes sense, of course, and living life to the fullest is important to me, even though I find I am terrible at it. But while it is both inspiring and good advice, I can’t help but think that there is more to it. I’ve been reading “Surprised by Hope,” by N.T. Wright, and it has me thinking about the whole death/living thing. Actually, I’m kind of amused by how tritely I just wrote that, but oh well.

The way I see it, we can’t defeat the Reaper because it has long been defeated. When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, it was not some hyper-spiritual type of resurrection I think I had inherited from an evangelical heritage. If Jesus’ resurrection was physical, which is the thrust of Wright’s book, then so will mine. After all, Baptismal theology says that I will get what Christ got – resurrection from the dead and a glorified body.

All that to say, the reaper is already defeated. Yeah, I’ll die. So will you. But it will be only temporary. I’m not sure I understand why, but that makes it somewhat easier to live a full life, and live it well.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

A german photographer developed a work of art that focused on death. Specifically, the artist produced photos of people when they knew their health was declining and then after they had died. The work represented a fairly diverse group of people at different ages and gave the observer background information leading up to the person’s death. The photos, one of life and the other of death, looked strikingly similar, and combined with each person’s brief life story, the whole work was quite haunting.

I found myself not particularly enjoying the work, however, and like some profound movie, it stuck with me (and bothered me) for several days. But I could not figure out why. It wasn’t that there were pictures of dead people – Leukemia cured me of any acute fear inherent in death. Nor was it the fact that most of the subjects of the piece died of cancer – I found that kind of amusing because “it’s always cancer.” And no, you aren’t allowed to find that funny unless you have dealt with it – think of it like a club. An exclusive club. Expensive, too – even with insurance.

Anyway, After a few days of mulling it over, I finally came to understand why the exhibit unnerved me to such a degree. The artist sought to celebrate both life and death, especially the latter. I am all for celebrating and cherishing life, but I will never do the same for death.

 

Things were not supposed to be this way. We weren’t meant to die.

 

Regardless of how readers of the Biblical Narrative interpret the beginning of Genesis, the anthropology is universal: our own mortality is a profound corruption. Life was given as a gift, death is the curse of our own doing.

Culture seems to be moving in a way that idolizes death, using descriptions like “a sweet release,” “a turning to peace,” and “rest.” There are even religious cliches that move in the same direction: “going to be with the Lord.”

But we weren’t meant to experience this separation from those close to us; they weren’t meant to die, and neither are we. Death is not a natural part of the human life cycle, but rather it is decidedly un-natural. Treating death as anything else robs our ability to mourn, feel the pain inherent in death and separation, AND experience life to the fullest.

Life is all we have right now, and death is an abrupt end. Seek to live a full life. Don’t fear death, but hate it – because it is a curse.

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