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Archive for September, 2009

tired of miracles

NearMonticelloUtah(photo by my neighbor Joe; hope he doesn't mind if I use it)

I live in a half Mormon community, which itself is unusual for Utah. We have a lot of people who have moved here from out of state and for whatever reason our neighborhood on the mountain contains equal numbers of Mormons and non-Mormons, as we call them. I like that diversity, although I have to admit I’m not much of a neighbor to either the church-goers or the gentiles.

Three weeks ago I started a triple androgen blockade, which means that I’m now taking three drugs to shut down androgens (male hormones) in various ways. We hope that will also shut down the cancer growth for a while. I’m not in a very different place than I was when I was just on Lupron: still fatigued, depressed, and not very sharp mentally. So it’s easy to lapse into negative thinking. And so, I’ll indulge myself just a little.

Mormons like miracles. They thrive on stories of subtle spiritual promptings that lead to dramatic rescues or averted disasters. They love to hear about prayer and priesthood blessings that end in healing. If you spend much time with the Ensign, the official church magazine that comes out every month, you know that miracles are the fuel for this religion. Miracles, and obedience. (But that’s another topic.)

Since my diagnosis and surgery in the spring of 2007, members of my ward (our local congregation) have been asked several times to remember me in their prayers and even to fast for my health and recovery. I am deeply grateful that anyone would be willing to do these things for me; I’m not much of a neighbor, as I said, and I don’t often trouble myself about anyone else’s needs. It has been touching that people will spontaneously tell me that they and their family mention me in their prayers.

The difficult part is that I feel that I’ve let them down. They prayed for a successful surgery, and while it was successful in many ways, I had to move on to radiation treatment. People prayed for me during the radiation treatment, and for a few months after it was done it looked like I might have shut down the cancer for a while. But it came back, quickly, and so people prayed for me again when I had to go on long-term hormonal blockade therapy.

On my own, I’ve let go of expectations about miracles. Having studied the Book of Job in some depth in the last couple of years, I’m comfortable with the gist of that story: to those who question “Why me?” to God, the answer comes back clearly: “Who are you to question me? I created the universe!” I love that slap in the face to all the characters in the Job story who think they have life and adversity figured out.

What I am not comfortable with is my failure to provide a miracle for my ward and family members who have prayed and fasted in my behalf. I try not to be sensitive in this area, but it’s starting to really annoy me when people stand up in church and thank God for answering their prayers and healing someone or leading them out of some difficult situation. They are seeing miracles, and after so many of these stories, my first question is, why not me? Don’t I pray just as earnestly as the next guy for my health? Do I lack faith? Do I not deserve to be healed? These are unspoken questions that are starting to get in the way of my sense of belonging in the church. Like I said, in my own heart I’m OK with whatever the outcome will be. Well, I’m not totally OK with the idea of dying sooner than later. But I’m clear on the point that it’s not about me.

I’m getting tired of miracles. People who share miracle stories are so sure that God fixed their problem just because they asked. Or they feel that they have a right to miracles because they’ve earned them with righteous living. Or there’s a quote I saw recently that I really don’t get:  “A miracle is the natural result of the application of true, eternal principles.” Don’t get me wrong: I do not for a minute begrudge anyone else their miraculous healing or their sudden change of fortune. I’ve had my share of great things happen in my life, and I know the feeling that maybe fortune, God, or the universe is smiling down on me.

Just for today, though, I’m tired of miracles. Can’t bad things just happen now and then? Do I have to find a silver lining behind this particular cloud?

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