‘Cause You Gotta Have Faith(?)

March 10, 2010 at 8:42 PM (Faith) (, , , , , , , )

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.

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  1. Catherine Jacobs said,

    Amazing how much I’m learning about you as I read these. Keep ’em coming! And I just ordered “The Middle Place” and started reading it…

  2. Liliana said,

    I find your writing moving, funny and profound – all at the same time. You are not afraid to deal with serious issues, but you do it in a way that makes people willing to listen. Thank you.
    I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago and have undergone chemo, radiation, bilateral mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, hysterectomy. And here I am, still plugging along.
    I write about my experiences in my own blog. You might be interested:


  3. tea said,

    My mom was diagnosed terminal when I was 4. For the next several years she mostly laid in bed stating that this was God’s will – God’s plan for her.

    Sarah: Pulling yourself out of bed by your wig everyday is INVALUABLE for your kids! They will appreciate, cherish, and honor that for all their years to come. And they too will be able to overcome anything that life (and God) throws at them.

    As for God – I believe it is OK to be angry at God; She can take it.

  4. Jane said,

    Amy & I were talking today. Catherine is right, but we are not just learning about you, but learning about ourselves as well. As to faith: your Mom & I have always liked women who have all the questions more than we have liked those with all the answers.

  5. Mr. Wonderful said,

    I heard on the BBC that there is an Atheist Convention taking place in Melbourne Australia starting today through the weekend. According to the report, the 2500 attendees are Agnostics, Skeptics, Humanists, Rationalists, Academics, Scientists, etc. So there clearly are others who share this sentiment of questioning.


  6. Doris said,

    Sarah, your thoughts on faith were more spiritual than the sermon I heard this morning at Brandon Church here in Burrowsville. The Good Lord hears your name everyday, and in spite of your questions and my questions, I will continue. The Power is there because the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is fear. Your courage is an inspiration to all who know and love you.

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