A friend posted an article today about how most Americans think God gets involved in what happens in their daily lives. One in three of the surveyed respondents agreed with the statement that “‘There is no point in planning a lot because ultimately my fate is in God’s hands.'” Once I’d recovered from my initial shock at the statistics, I read some of the comments at the bottom. Which proved to me that: a) NYT.com readers are either cynics, or liberals, or both; and b) the pollsters whose data is represented in this article were not asking questions in Manhattan.
I also started down the long path I’ve been on a few other times since 2006, about where my religious flag should be planted. Raised in the Protestant tradition but with an overarching sense of scientific skepticism, I did the whole Sunday School thing, and even confirmation and Youth Group through high school, but more to meet boys (yet another bonus of single-sex education) than for any church-y stuff, which made me more than a bit uncomfortable.
There’s probably nothing that’ll get you thinking about God quicker than a serious illness. Not so much when I was first diagnosed, but definitely when I found out about my first recurrence; I was making deals with God (or whoever) like Monty Hall on speed. Just one more month and I’ll never ask for anything else. Just one more year with my kids and I’ll never complain again. Just let me see them into middle school and I promise I’ll enjoy even the crappy weather. Just let me make fun of them at their rehearsal dinners and I promise I’ll go quietly. But I wasn’t really sure who I was petitioning.
And I can’t really tell you that I believe my bargaining worked. I get surgery from one of the best gyn/oncs in the Northeast, and I get medical and chemical treatment from one of the top cancer centers anywhere. Do I think God guided me to live in Boston? Um, no, that was a cute guy with a great smile. Do I think there’s some mystical, divine force behind my getting sick in the first place? Wow, I hope not. Lord knows (sorry) I don’t think that whole “You only get given what you can handle” thing holds any water, because there are people who get sick who can’t handle it. They’re also deceased. And I don’t think it’s fair to those of us who pull ourselves out of bed by our wigs every day and march onward, for our families, our kids, our sanity, to say it’s all in God’s hands. That’s selling us a little short.
This summer I had a long conversation with the Reverend who is the head of the church I got married in; I wanted to put a more adult spin on my views than my previous what-I-think-about-God chats, which were brief, giggly, and in the ’80s. Maybe I was looking for proof (I know, that’s not what happens – that’s why they call it “faith”), or an explanation of how this stuff can happen, or validation that it’s okay to be confused. The result of our hour-plus-long chat was…hmmm. He didn’t try to get me to make up my mind, which I appreciated. And he didn’t try to convince me that this was all part of some grand plan, which I appreciated even more. I’m certainly not any closer to understanding how some people can so blithely relinquish control of their fates and responsibility for their actions to a divine being that no one can ever prove exists.
So for now, I’ll continue to put my faith in the vanguard of western medicine, top-notch whole food, vigorous exercise, a healthy dose of laughter, and a good under-eye concealer. But if I make it to my kids’ rehearsal dinners, I hope I don’t have to go apologize to someone. Not a big fan of crow-burgers.