Thursday, October 6, 2016

Jesus & Orencia

      I am often asked how I reconcile my identity as a Christian with my reality of being sick. People see that I am suffering and (correctly) infer that God seems to provide little physical relief for my pain. I am bombarded, not usually by people I know but rather by social media and simple exposure, with articles detailing the complex relationship between God and illness, and I usually have no idea how to feel about it.

      I suppose I do not cling to any particular theology of suffering. I am not interested in trying to explain it or figure it out, and I hate the idea of trying to write or analyze it to death. I think at some points during my illness, particularly during my middle school years, I felt the need to know all of the answers, but I do not feel that way anymore. I remember once accusing God of being a malevolent doctor who cruelly withholds cures from desperate, suffering people, but that idea or hypothesis is currently just too antithetical to my broader understanding of God for me to entertain. It is a puzzle piece that does not fit, and I refuse to spend my whole life trying to make it click. Maybe I've matured, or maybe I'm just exhausted. I do not suppose that it actually matters that much.

     My outlook is just that God cries with me when I am sick and in pain. My illness makes God just as upset as it makes me. God hates arthritis just as much as I do. I think empathy is one of the most beautiful things in this world, and I like to think that that is the quality exhibited by God in these situations. Is that right? I have no idea. But I know that as for me and God, we cry together. And when we do, we use those special Kleenex that are cold to the touch to wipe away our tears, because those are our favorite.

     I have been trying to explore some different churches now that I am in New Orleans to find a good fit, and on one humid Sunday morning a few weeks ago I found myself in an eclectic Episcopal church downtown, surrounded by an overwhelming number of fascinating people. It was exactly the service my little heart was craving after being away from my home church for almost a month. The air conditioner was broken, but it did not matter in the slightest, because we all joined together in singing, clapping, and listening, grateful that the church has survived so many disasters. We pulled out tattered hymnals to sing "There is A Balm in Gilead." And as I sang those sweet words, surrounded by people I did not know but already loved, I found myself thinking, I'm not exactly sure what a balm in Gilead is, but I think maybe there's one for me, too. The service concluded with an upbeat rendition of "I'll Fly Away," and as we bounced around belting out the lyrics it gave me hope that there is something better waiting just ahead. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but I am sure that it is there. Maybe some days I only believe in God because I need to believe that there is something better out there. But you know what? I think that is a pretty legitimate reason. As much as I have tried to poke and prod my faith, I cannot escape a mysterious yet confident understanding that this world is not all that we have. I wholeheartedly believe that one day I will be welcomed into the arms of God, surrounded by a love even sweeter and fuller than what I have known here on earth, equipped with joints capable of every activity.

      I am sorry that I do not have any better theology. I am sorry that I am just trying to smush Jesus and Orencia together and calling that a belief system. I am sorry that I do not believe that there is earthly healing for everyone. That is a terrible pill to have to swallow, and it is okay to take pity on yourself or eat a pint of ice cream in response. The one thing I can promise is that there is a balm in Gilead for you. Maybe you will see it tomorrow, maybe you will see it in a few months, or maybe you will see it in seventy years. Until then, Jesus and Orencia might just have to suffice.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. Your ideas about God are like mine. Even when I feel angry at God, or have doubt at times, I can't deny the reality of God. It's everywhere, inescapable, that God IS. And weeps with us just as Jesus wept in sorrow for others.

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