With my friend Terry still on my mind, I had to share a few more thoughts. The latest is that his wife and daughter is bringing him tonight to die. I’m meeting with the pastor in the morning at 7 to pray for him and his family. We still do pray for a supernatural miracle . . . but will not be disappointed in God if he does not intervene.
I noticed two observations with how we evangelicals deal with loss or failure and both relate to Terry.
About two weeks ago I was part of a large fund-raising auction. I sat with a group of people, all from one very popular charismatic church on our island. The thing I noticed, and it wasn’t a bad thing, is that they were all over-the-top a bit. What I mean is that each time the next person would show up, they would all give each other these huge hugs, slaps on the back and saying things like, “Isn’t God good!” They were very jovial and loud.
There is nothing wrong with the way they interacted. But in the middle of the up-beat conversation, the guy sitting next to me turned and asked, “So what’s happening at your church?” He had a big smile on his face.
I honestly searched my mind for some type of spiritual answer that I knew would satisfy him. But really, Terry’s serious health was the only thing that has been on my mind lately. After thinking, I looked up and said, “Well one of our members is dying.”
The reaction I got from him and another guy listening to us was just like I had cocked my leg up and farted. They were speechless. No questions, but a look of disappointment on their faces as I had done something antisocial.
The second thing that happened was today in the gym. As I was getting dressed a Christian friend came in. After greeting each other, I looked up and asked, “You know Terry (lastname) don’t you?” I figured he did because they work for the same fire department.
He looked at me with concern, “Yeah . . . didn’t he just pass away.”
“No,” I said. Then I explained what had been happening. I told him that we were expecting Terry to recover fully up until a couple of weeks ago, then he took a sudden turn for the worse..
This guy looked at me and shook his head, “Yeah . . . but he was a smoker.”
I was perplexed by his statement. I had never seen Terry smoke, but I had smelled cigarettes on him at church. It wasn’t a big deal to me except that I hate the ill, health, effects of smoking.
Actually, there is a relationship between smoking and leukemia but it is subtle and the science is not clear.
In the fist example, again I sense that we Christians really don’t know how to deal with bad news. To share an honest, but sad story among Christian friends is as socially offensive as farting really loud.
In the second situation, I observe how we build insulation between ourselves and bad things by casting blame. Yeah, Terry smoked. So somehow he got what he deserved. Therefore, the reasoning goes, since I’m so smart not to smoke, I’m protected. That some how gives us some comfort.
It is presumptuous to believe that Terry’s leukemia is related to his smoking. Many, many people die from leukemia and have never smoked.
I just wish we could embrace failure, sadness, and bad news better. Me must separate the concept of bad news from the implications that God failed, wasn't listening . . . or that something is wrong with our faith.