Friday, October 3, 2008

Pitty Party

That is what my day was like on Wednesday. It started out bad and just continued to go down hill from the moment I got out of bed. The scale curse of the ankle injury continued and I was up 0.2 lbs. To most - this translates to a fart and not a big deal. However, since injurying my ankle, I am officially at my lifetime heaviest - I HATE it. I think I weigh more than I ever did after a knee surgery. Of course - none of my clothes fit and I am refusing to buy more. Won't do it - I need to lose it. Then I had a flat tire. Yep morning after getting it back from being repaired because someone backed into me. Of course - as luck has it - on my way to the repair shop - I dump the smoothie down the front of the white shirt. And why wouldn't Bridgestone have any of that tire in the state of Texas or would it be an expensive tire ($208 when said & done)?

But after a day like that I couldn't of picked a better day to get the email I got yesterday. It wasn't a happy email but the message was loud and clear and hit so close to home. One of the guys that graduated the year before me in high school passed away from cancer. The blog was shared with us and it included a piece he wrote (he was a writer) to be posted after he passed. I share part of Jeff Dodd's final blog here because we all can learn something from him! The part that hit home the most is below. If you wish to read his entire blog - you can follow it at:

I spent a lot of time begging God for healing during those first several months after my diagnosis. I prayed almost constantly that he would perform a miracle and rid my body of the melanoma. I also spent a lot of time wondering—for the first time in my life—whether there really was a God, whether there really was an afterlife, and whether there was any value to prayer. I hadn’t given much thought to these subjects in the past, but they suddenly seemed very important now that I faced the possibility of dying. The lessons I learned in religion class looked quite feeble when I viewed them next to the apparently iron-clad proofs that scientists and atheists made for a wholly material world.

They looked feebler still after the melanoma metastasized to my brain and I underwent brain surgery, lost the use of my leg, and spent a month laying in a bed in the hospital. This rather dramatic sequence of events might have seemed to be an emphatic answer to my questions. See, these might say, this is what will happen. Not because of God but because there is no God. The universe began with a disinterested bang, and it’s been operating in a disinterested cause-and-effect ever since. Prayers are irrelevant.

It would have been difficult for me to dispute this argument, except for a strange event that happened six days before my craniotomy. It was a Monday afternoon, and I had jogged three laps around the Hart Park track in Wauwatosa. Those were the first three laps I had run on a track since high school. I had given up running for more than 15 years because it wasn’t fun for me anymore. But that particular Monday, as I walked past the track, the thought struck me that it might be fun to run again. And it was. Seeing once again the lane markings, feeling the spongy recycled-tire surface under my feet, striding past the grandstands, it all made me remember why I had enjoyed running as a boy and motivated me to want to do it again. Moreover, it renewed my desire to beat this cancer. The fact that I couldn’t extend my left leg when I got home seemed irrelevant.

It wasn’t. That was actually the first symptom of a swelling brain tumor. The following Saturday morning, I underwent a craniotomy.

During the following weeks, it became increasingly more apparent that the surgery had left me with a permanent disability and I would never run again. Surprisingly, I was not particularly angry about this new development. I was grateful that the doctor had been able to remove the lesion. I was grateful that I was close to home and could have lots of visitors. And I was grateful because I had run those laps around the track. Some people might call it a coincidence. From my perspective, however, it was as if God had given me the opportunity to run—and I had chosen to take advantage of the opportunity through my free will—because He knew I would never have that opportunity again.

I began to think of some of the other “opportunities” that had presented themselves in the past year. I had pulled my bike out of the shed for the first time in seven years and taken several rides with each of the kids. Coincidence or opportunity? In the days immediately prior to my diagnosis, I had completed the last task in our home renovation. Coincidence or opportunity? We had taken our first big family vacation the summer before my diagnosis, and the Christmas that preceded my diagnosis—by a mere eight days!—was undoubtedly the best Christmas we had celebrated as a family. Even if I had gone into complete remission, we couldn’t have had another vacation or Christmas like those, so carefree and hopeful with no worries about the future. Coincidence or opportunity?

And then there was Finn. Kelly and I were not expecting to have any more children. Jack was five years old, and we were starting to get comfortable with the notion that God had given us all the children we were meant to have. Then Kelly found out she was pregnant. It took us by surprise, and we wondered to ourselves why God would give us this baby at this time. The timing seemed even worse after my diagnosis. But then Finn was born, and God’s answer was clear. If ever a family needed something to celebrate it was us at that time. Here was a special person that we could love and, equally importantly, who could love us at a time when we needed it most. Coincidence or opportunity?

I am an objective person by nature. I think logically and believe firmly in rational thought. I considered all of these situations carefully and, while admitting that some of them might be coincidences, cannot accept that so many seemingly random events would coincide in such a way by pure chance. Assuming there is a God—and I am convinced that there is for several reasons, not the least of which are Thomas Aquinas’ Five Proofs—and assuming that He interacts with His creation, then these kind of “opportunities” seem to me like the most probable way He would do so. These opportunities respect the gift of free will and provide comfort without interfering with the forces of nature. Miracles, by their very nature, are not common. And I really do not think we would want them to be any other way.

For some reason, my recognition of these “opportunities” seemed to quell any doubts I had about prayer, Heaven, and God. I think this feeling of acceptance—you might call it Faith—is probably also an answer to a prayer.

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