Oct 4, 2007

God Doesn't Care If You Hit A Homerun

This is what I shouted at the TV last night after one of the Diamondbacks hit a homerun off the Cubs and then pointed to the sky as he crossed home plate. Granted, he very well could have been dedicating that homerun to a deceased member of his family. OK, I'll let him get away with that, but it really made me think. And if you're wondering, yes, I will be able to pull together a post about baseball and God - I'm good like that.

Do I start at the beginning or at the end? Hmm...I'll start at the end and work my way back.

When it comes to religion, I don't know what I believe any more. There is someone I "know" through the world of blogs who is battling Stage IV cancer. I'm not going into specifics because it is that family's personal battle and I have no right to identify them. I've been reading their blog for a while now and I like to check in on their progress. They are very spiritual people (yes, they are Catholics), and I am always amazed and impressed by the positive attitude they maintain throughout this process. They are parents (about my age), with very young children.

I'm not even sure where I'm going with this post. I know what I want to say, but I am having trouble getting there.

They frequently ask people to pray for them - for healing and a miracle. This is where I begin to question my faith. I was raised Catholic. I was taught that when people are sick, you pray for them. You pray for their healing and you believe in miracles. As a kid, this seemed OK because I never knew any sick people, so I never needed to question the validity of this. When my aunt got sick, we prayed. I prayed throughout the entire 8 months of her illness. It is the transformation of my prayers that interest me. I started by praying that the doctors were wrong about the cancer (they weren't), and then I prayed that the cancer wasn't as bad as they originally thought (it was). With the medical results to back that up, I started praying that my aunt would handle the treatments and would get better. She did get better...quickly. It was definitely a tough road for her, with the surgery, physical therapy, chemo, and radiation, but she did it. By the end of January, she was "cured" (don't get me started on the use of this word by her doctor).

Within a month things got bad again, and we started praying again. I had done the research and knew the grim prognosis - cancer within the central nervous system is not only incurable, it spreads quickly and most patients succumb withing a few months. I didn't tell my family, but I know my mom knew what was happening. We sat on the phone one afternoon and she said to me, "I just don't know what to pray for anymore." Praying for healing was futile. There weren't going to be any miracles. She was not going to survive this. I remember my brain switching from having faith to not believing, like turning on and off a lamp.

When do you make that switch? Is it wrong to stop believing? Do some people believe in miracles despite the medical evidence and the odds? A few days later my mom said, "I stopped praying for her to get better because I know that can't happen. Now I pray for her to be comfortable and at peace with death."

I know that things are not going well with my fellow bloggers. There are calls for healing prayers. Calls for miracles. I am happy that they have such faith, but it breaks my heart to read that. I remember those desperate times when I thought that saying one more prayer would make things better. I feel guilty that I don't believe in that anymore. But I can't. In my mind, what's going to happen is going to happen. You can't pray it away.

I am not here to criticize anyone's religious beliefs. Sometimes it makes me angry to hear people say that if enough people pray, and they pray hard enough, someone can be healed. Did my family not care enough? Did we not pray hard enough? I know that's not true - we did all we could when it came to prayers and the doctors did all they could when it came to treatments.

It's just too much pressure to think that you can control the outcome of someone's life by saying or not saying enough prayers. It's too heavy of a burden. I felt it. We all felt it.

I know there's a point somewhere in there...

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