Friday, March 27, 2009

Pondering God's Purpose in Pain-Part 1

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart."

This post comes out of my recent readings and experiences, coupled with the events of my mom's quick slide into death last week. If you've been alive for any length of time, you've wrestled with this question, posed by my sister. "When a dog is near death, we give it a pink fluid to drink, which kills it quickly. Shouldn't we be able to do that now?"

Seems a reasonable question, by human standards. My mom was weak with no chance for recovery; quickly her breathing grew strained, and the agony was apparent. My purpose here isn't to discuss morality or slippery slopes. My purpose is to think through this whole issue, in light of my mom's recent death, and my own inevitable mortality.

So, how does our finite, narrow perspective possibly square with the perspective of an eternal God that holds the entire universe-Earth, Milky Way and all-in the palm of His hand?

In light of the initial quote from Ecclesiastes, one purpose is to force us to come face to face with the fact that we all will die. I will die. You will die. Not likely to escape it. As my mom went from hospital, to nursing facility, to hospice, I thought through how I would respond. I even told my daughter that I wanted a room that has a window that you could look out of; and I'd want access to a laptop. Watching others struggle through sickness and death forces us to confront them head on.

In my own experience, pain and prolonged suffering force me to cry out to God, in hope for a time, or place where I am free of them. Ultimately, it is a cry for salvation, for God to deliver, and even, to bring us to the satisfaction of our hope-eternity in Heaven, in Christ's glorious presence.

Finally, one would hope that pain would be a window to cry out on behalf, not only of ourself, but for others who also are in pain. Potentially, it can bring us into a broad place where we pray for others who are themselves in hardship, brokeness and pain.

In the final analysis then, I understand the longing for the Pink Drink. Our momentary pain and longing however, "is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hailey, Please Hang Up Now

The marks of my daughter's becoming a teenager come one by one, but they seem to arrive daily. First it was the texting to both girls and BOYS in her class ("He's NOT my boyfriend.") Tonight, she forgot to bring her charger to my house, so she's using my phone. I didn't think this would be a problem, until I smelled the brownies in the oven. Which is why using a cell phone while baking brownies is now illegal in my state. Which is also why the red sirens appeared outside my window at the same time the smoke appeared in my kitchen. All of this guarantees that I'll need my charger, again, for the second time today. But maybe not; because I may never get my phone back!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Above All the Noise

From the movie, The Savages:
Jon Savage: Dad's not the one that has a problem with the Valley View. There's nothing wrong with Dad's situation. Dad's situation is fine. He's never gonna adjust to it if we keep yanking him outta there. And, actually, this upward mobility fixation of yours, it's counterproductive and, frankly, pretty selfish. Because it's not about Dad, it's about you and your guilt. That's what these places prey upon.
Wendy Savage: I happen to think it's nicer here.
Jon Savage: Of course you do, because you are the consumer they want to target. You are the guilty demographic. The landscaping, the neighborhoods of care; they're not for the residents, they're for the relatives. People like you and me who don't want to admit to what's really going on here.
Wendy Savage: Which is what, Jon?
Jon Savage: People are dying, Wendy! Right inside that beautiful building right now, it's a ***!!!* horror show! And all this wellness propaganda and the landscaping, it's just there to obscure the miserable fact that people die! And death is gaseous and gruesome and it's filled with shit and piss and rotten stink!

Above all the noise; the beeping of the instruments, the inflating and deflating of the blood pressure cuff, the alarm of the IV, we could be heard arguing.
“You’re bothering mom, so stop it. Mom, are we bothering you?”
“No, it’s better than the silence.”
As my mom lay next to us in ICU, we argued about her cat. The cat I’d let out of the house.
“You should care more about that cat. It’s mom’s cat, so you should care more about it because she cares for it.” Really, it wasn’t about the cat. It was about expectations. My sisters' expectations for me. My expectations for me. Perhaps, as John Piper says, many ‘words to the wind.’
“I can’t believe you said that. I’m still angry at you and I’m going to stay angry at you and not talk to you,” Denise said in staccato.
“So, you’re going to just keep that anger inside and let it eat you up? Rather than trying to deal with it?”
In the waiting room, every chair has a bag, a coat, an umbrella on it. No place to sit, to rest, to wait. A man and a woman enter, dark complected, stretched and haggard, like someone had pulled a piece of gum at both ends, leaving the middle near breaking. We ask them if we can move some of the stuff aside so we can sit down. We’d walked into a family drama; as their loved one was fading away in the Intensive Care ward.

Two other people enter. “You should go in now. He’s doing that funny thing where he puts his hands up to his head and says, Meshugana.” One leaves, one comes in. The guy and girl sit on the couch, unfazed by our presence.
“I’d be willing to have dinner every night with mom if it would help.”
“I don’t think she wants to move. She doesn’t know the valley. Everyone’s come by to see him. Except that flippin sister of his.”
“She’d be close to Gelsons, Ventura Boulevard, lots of places to shop. I think it would be good for her.”
“She’s not used to it. She won’t drive. She won’t like it. She won’t leave the house. I can’t visit her all the time.”
The sickness or death of a loved one scratches us raw. Forced to deal with the present, sometimes past history and ongoing emotion erupt and intercede uninvited. Above all the noise we must listen for what’s important. Allowing for words to the wind, we must trust to those things that anchor our souls. As someone has said, “We fled to take hold of the hope offered to us (that we ) might be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”