Thursday, April 05, 2007

Before We Judge...

Do you know a cancer survivor? He or she could perhaps use some encouragement this week. When notable people like Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow get bad news and it's a front-page story, we suffer with them. Though we don't know them personally, we empathize with their pain. We ache for their families, especially the children, and we hurt for ourselves. Because we realize vividly that their news could also be ours.

On Wednesday night, I read an excerpt from an interview that Elizabeth Edwards gave to Newsweek Magazine. Her remarks about God were initially unsettling to me. She asserted she would not be praying to God to save her. She gave God credit for our salvation if we believe. Beyond that, she seemed to question a God that could allow bad things to happen to good people. The context of her questioning was not so much about herself or her condition, but the tragic and untimely death of her son some years ago.

I went to bed thinking, "That's not the God that I know."

Then I woke up in the middle of the night still burdened by that interview. And I came to another conclusion. While that's still not the God that I know, that's also not the level of suffering I've known. To first lose a child then know that another child will lose a mother is almost unimaginable.

There is biblical precedent for what Elizabeth Edwards is expressing right now. If I am going to judge Mrs. Edwards for her candor about God, then I'm going to have to sit in judgment of any number of psalmists, including David, and people like Habakkuk and Job who were similarly impassioned over feelings of abandonment by God.

I wondered when I read Mrs. Edwards' words what backlash would come from such candor. But as I process what she said in light of her experience, I have to say that if nothing else, she is real. And what she is feeling is honest, human emotion. She spoke of hoping to find "enlightenment." I'm not sure what she meant by that. I would hope that she finds the illumination of Christ and the comfort of His peace in the space of uphill struggles to come.

I watched the press conference in which they announced that the cancer had recurred and John Edwards would continue his campaign. I heard the flack on the other end... the "how could he do this political thing when his wife is dying?" armchair commentary.

But when I relfect upon our own cancer journey, I'm reminded of how important it was to our family to keep plodding. We were inundated with meals lovingly prepared by friends and there were nights it would have been cold cereal or cheese and crackers were it not for the grace and generosity of others.

Then there were the times I needed to put a chicken in the oven and pull it out by myself. The times I needed to work my way through six steps in a familiar recipe. Being able to cook for my family became part of my hope. Afterall, if I'm caring for others, I'm still alive.

Could be right now that good medicine for Elizabeth Edwards is knowing that she can continue to do what it is that she would normally do. If she can campaign with her husband, she is alive.

That's my "two cents" on this topic...

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