How I Thank God.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

The MRI is in; Rebecca’s brain tumor has not, as yet, grown back.  Which means she will not die yet.  Had that MRI gone poorly, the best we could have done was put Rebecca in hospice and wait for the end.
I have never been so happy to hear about a girl getting chemotherapy in my entire life.
And so I thanked God that Rebecca was okay.  Which was a little awkward, because depending on who you talk to, God was the person who gave Rebecca the tumor in the first place.
The thing about the Rebecca’s saga is that there is a significant amount of providence in her story.  If they had not been at the ER when Rebecca had had her first seizure, Rebecca might not have survived the seizure.  (They had to break open the crash cart to save her.)  If the  Meyers hadn’t been on vacation in Jersey, they wouldn’t have been so close to CHOP, the best children’s hospital in America, where extremely talented surgeons resected the entirety of the tumor.  And as far as parents go, the Meyers are a superteam for a child with cancer – Kat is a doctor, and Eric’s dealt (sadly) with familial cancer before, so they both know what to expect and how to deal with it in a way that provides the best care possible for Rebecca.
Yet I recognize the intense survivor’s bias in all that.  There are children in similar circumstances who weren’t near an ER.  There are kids who got worse surgeons.  There are kids who got parents with less experience.  Am I then implying that God wanted these kids to die?
(Which is foolish, as it’s not as though Rebecca has lived yet.  She has merely passed the first of what are hopefully many milestones.  Her life is still very much in danger, and as usual XKCD described the experience best.)
Yet I thank God nonetheless.
The thing about God is that if He exists, He’s working off of a logic that we’d find hard to understand.  We get bent out of shape about death, which is understandable, since to us death is the end of everything. But if we truly accept all the ideology of God, death is actually a temporary thing, and then we transition to another area.  Death is traumatic to us, sure, but if you believe all the way then you have to understand that to God, death isn’t cruel but a way of transitioning someone from one state to the other.  We see dying as the end of all things, but to God it would merely be a beginning.
And I can’t claim to understand all the ramifications of that logic, though I’ve tried.  There’s a ton of pain and suffering on Earth, but if the stories are to be believed, all of that goes away.  It affects us now, gouges our spirits, but after a million years of living in paradise we’d probably struggle to remember what all the fuss is about.
Infinity is a long, long time, my friends.
None of this is presented in an attempt to convince you.  I’m just saying that faith is a lot more complex than asking why people suffer now.  There are certain fundamental tenets of life where, if we’re wrong about them, then everything we know changes.  For me, in a very real way, my faith is a way of engaging with the universe and saying that I don’t know how things work… and that faith taps into much the same humble mystery I get from learning about scientific breakthroughs.
The world is a complex and wonderful and terrifying place, and I can never know it all.  To me, science and faith meld, clasping hands and spinning in circles, reminding me to question everything.  And so I thank God.
But I also question Him.  Jay Lake, an atheist who is dying of cancer, posted a treatise on faith, where he said, “I have an immense respect for faith and its power. I have a profound disrespect for confusion between the truths of faith and the truths of testable, empirical reality.” And in that, the atheist and the Christian agree completely.  I think that science is our best way to understand the universe and to combat our silly monkey brain biases… but I also recognize that science is an imperfect tool, not the best thing but rather the best thing we have available.
And so I keep my scientific brain open at all times even during my faith, reminding me that I do not know whether God exists, and if S/He exists I certainly do not pretend to understand all the concerns of a compassionate, omnipresent being. My dog thinks I am terribly cruel for putting her on a leash, but my dog does not understand how close she’s come to being hit by a car many times.  To delirious people in hospitals the nurses are cruel demons, tying them to a bed and poking them with needles.  It’s very easy to appear cruel if someone does not understand the methodology of your kindness, and if there is a God it may well be that some portion of our torment may be a kindness we do not understand.  Or that God is not as omnipotent as we’d like.
Or that God does not exist.  I can keep that option open, too.  It is a poor faith that has to deny other possibilities in order to exist.

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