Thursday, July 1, 2010

Disearning Between a Gift and a Cruse

I have to take a brief reprieve from writing about aging to writing about this issue of the curse Vs a gift. But it is related to my posting on aging.

I heard a Christian speaker say once, when referring to her cancer, that it was “A gift from God.” It seems like she had written a book with the same title but I couldn’t find it for this post. She was also struggling with some serious cancer, I think ether breast or ovarian. But it was life-threatening, and may have eventually taken her life.

So, I was thinking about this when it comes to my description of the “Curse of Aging.” Someone commented a couple of posts ago that aging is part of the Fall and I, whole heartedly, believe this.

But I think it is hard for society at large and especially for Christian society to be critical or complain about anything. It makes Christians very uncomfortable and I think it is part of this mantra that we must always be nice above all else. One of my Church history books (and I can’t look it up right now) referred to the Victorian age as the “Cult of Respectability, or Niceness.” I recently posted about the book I was reading, The Way of All Flesh, and how it was about a young man being saved from the hell of “niceness.”

An extreme example of this kind of niceness was in the little Missionary Baptist church, which I attended as a child. The Sunday school director, Jack, was chronically molesting young boys for decades. He never got a hold of me but he did my brother once. But it was a known fact. But when mothers, including my own, would complain that their little boys had been sexually molested (and this was in the sixties) they were told that they were “old women gossips” and for the sake of the church keep quiet. Everyone, especially the men of the church, turned a blind eye. After all, Jack was a clean-cut, hard working man who didn’t drink alcohol or say bad words. But it was this cult of niceness that gave Jack the freedom to have his way with the boys and fly beneath the radar.

My point is this; sometimes there is just shit . . . and no pony. There is often no sliver lining to a situation and that is the nature of the Fall of Adam.

I figured this out a long time ago when I was listening to a lecture by Francis Schaeffer (whom I refer to a lot). He made the comment that Christianity is the only belief system that allows us to shake our fists at pain, suffering, death and etc. without shaking our fists at God. The former is the CURSE and not a GIFT of the later.

It dawned on me that our purpose in this life isn’t to go around like Pollyanna putting a bright side and rainbow on everything. Indeed I see my Christian friends squirm if I, honestly, say something negative about Denise or my car won’t start, or something broke. I hope that Denise knows that she has the freedom to speak her mind about me. I’m not talking about being malicious. I’m taking about being honest. I’m full of failures which should piss her off.

So, aging is a curse and we don’t have to weave it into a “gift” to make sense of it. We were created for eternity and that eternity has had a great interruption . . . precisely growing old and dying. It really sucks!

So, I give anyone who is listening (as if they need to hear this from me) the permission to shake their fists at the curse. Cancer sucks! Pain sucks! Suffering sucks! Injustice in the world sucks! I honestly think that Jesus felt the suck-i-ness of the world more than anyone.

Now, gifts, that’s a different story. We can smile and thank God for them. I thank God that I’m not in much pain right now. I thank God for my children, for the beautiful place in which I live, for the thrill of gliding a kayak over Puget Sound, for the taste (and the means to purchase) the mocha that I’m enjoying or the thrill of climbing high on Mount Baker. I thank God for the 98% of compatibility and love that I share with my wife. I CAN paint rainbows all over those things. I thank God for my little grand son, Oliver and his big smile. Those things aren’t curses but gifts.

But back to the curses, to acknowledge that they are shit, pure and simple, in my opinion is to agree with God. There is nothing unspiritual about venting about those things.

Sure, we can try to make the best of suffering. That is really a no-brainer and not even a choice. Well, the only other choice is suicide. So to acknowledge the suffering doesn’t imply that we are not “trying to make the best of it.”

Sometimes I wonder if an additional church service or sacrament is lamenting. Can you imagine a (healthy) church service where the congregation screams, tears their clothes and curses their mother’s cancer, their son’s depression, their father’s death, their own rheumatoid arthritis and the injustice of their niece being rapped? It would be a good book-end to praise services when we give God thanks for His gifts.

I remember sitting in a church’s praise service once. It was during the time in my life that I was most depressed. I had been contemplating suicide. It was surreal to sit for an hour and hear people go on and on how wonderful life was. One young lady, who always had to be the center of attention during every church service, went on for 25 minutes about her new puppy. I was dying inside. I had tried to talk about my personal pain a few times and was quickly hushed.

Maybe it is because I work in a pain clinic and I am use to spending my entire day, every day, crying with people and listening quietly as they lament about their suffering. It feels natural. But they better not dare to raise their voice in the church setting.

So, I have no apologies for sounding negative at times. There is a place for frowning and complaining, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Shit happens.


Anonymous said...


PRS & ALS said...

I've heard the blessing spin put on even sexual abuse. I've read so many books on the subject, having been abused myself. But I was taken aback when one woman said she was thankful that she had been abused. Of course she didn't go to the extreme of saying then that we should pray that this happens to all our children, so they too can be so blessed.

I think the church has also pushed the forgiveness agenda as well. It seems they don't want people to feel anything that isn't happy and upbeat. So frustrating on so many levels. It's like you have to leave most of your emotions at the door of the church, or, some would say, at the cross. I feel Jesus wants to be with us in all our messiness and realness.

I must say that the church I attend, even though I don't agree with everything they preach, is open to people expressing real emotion. I remember one Sunday a woman got up in church and thanked those in the church who had been there for her when she attempted suicide earlier in the week. Wow! They walked with her and didn't judge her struggles.

I long for that authenticity in relationships. But it's hard and messy and many people don't want to be around that.