This post is part of a series titled, “A-B-Cs – What It’s Really Like”. Each week a new letter and its word will be revealed. Each word’s explanation will illustrate significant personal meaning, application and ultimately demonstrate, What It’s Really Like…
Faith is funny.
It is presumed that all of us believe in something bigger than ourselves. Peace, love, religion, science, etc. Harmony for all humans, love will prevail/conquer all, trust in the power of the supernatural or higher being, or simply having faith that the sun will come up tomorrow. Out of all the words that I have chosen for this project Faith may be the most difficult to “own”. Maybe it is because I am still learning how to take ownership of it.
It has been nearly one month since my mother was diagnosed with Stage-4 Lymphatic cancer. Unofficially to date, this will be her third major encounter with the disease. I learned of the diagnosis late on a Friday night. She would immediately begin an intensive 6-month round of chemotherapy the following Tuesday. Our family’s world, just as in 2005, would be rocked again.
In the fall of 2005 my parents would reveal to my brother and I that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The announcement came only a short time before she would undergo a major surgical procedure to help combat her condition. Fortunately my brother and I were attending the same college just 35 miles from our home. We would be there to do whatever possible to ensure the health and healing for our mother during this time. Either out of frustration or fear both of us became angry with my parents after the initial numbness of the announcement subsided. Why did they wait so long to tell us? What good could have come out of holding this news close to the vest? Why were we not included in the updates while the testing process was playing out? We wanted to know why we were being protected like children and not treated as the adults we were.
As the elder brother, I became the spokesperson to vent our grievances toward my parents for not disclosing this news beforehand and the virtual blindside of the situation. My father calmly explained that they wanted to be absolutely sure before letting us know (a wise order of operations that I would not understand until many years later with all of the tests and close calls we have endured over the last decade). At the time I felt the explanation was unacceptable and I made both of my parents to swear that they would never withhold any critical information from us again. I finished my proclamation by scolding my mother pleading, “Why wouldn’t you tell us? Don’t you think people may want to pray for you?”
Faith is something that I keep very personal. I recall asking my mom when I was a teenager why we discontinued attending church. She said that our involvement in sports and other activities during the week (often on Sundays) made it difficult to stay on top of tasks around the house and attend church regularly. While she acknowledged that it was a poor excuse, our regular attendance would dwindle to part-time to eventually not at all. I also asked her if our absenteeism bothered her. She told me something that I will never forget. She said that even though it bothered her that we no longer attended church, it did not change her relationship with God. “Everyone is different. Everyone has a different measure of faith. As long as you have a chat with him (God) once in a while and know that he is always there, I think that is what matters most.”
At closer look, much of my faith is deeply internalized likely due to this lesson from my mother. Many readers may have already clicked to another page because they assumed I would continue plugging religion, making for an uncomfortable read. I understand and I am no different. I get extremely uncomfortable when I see continuous expression from individuals on subjects of politics or religion. I believe you are entitled to your opinion, but prefer you keep most of it to yourself. I internalize most of my opinions on these subjects out of respect for others. So much so that it wasn’t until over the course of the past year that I have become comfortable praying in front of my wife. Faith is one element that I have never allowed to become outward and public.
Fast forward to 2015 less than 24 hours after learning my mother’s diagnosis… During a break from yard work I began a rare, aimless flip through Facebook to discover that a well-connected colleague of my brother’s had announced my mother’s diagnosis and asked for prayers via a status update. While I appreciated the sentiment of the announcement, I quickly began to boil over in anger. I waited about a 30 minutes before shooting off a text message to my brother, hoping that he would acknowledge what I believed to be a mistake. My thoughts: To this point, I have not heard directly from my parents. My brother filled me in on the diagnosis the night before. Surely they had not notified the family yet. How awful would it be for a family member to learn of my mother’s condition via Facebook? I explained in the text to my brother that while I appreciated the gesture, I did not think the timing was appropriate. In the 15 minutes I waited for a response I convinced myself that my brother would apologize for the mistake and call my mother right away to set it straight. What I would receive in a reply was completely the opposite.
For nearly an hour my brother and I went back and forth via text messages about our positions regarding this serious announcement. I claimed that it was a private issue that should be shared with the family and that mom could decide whether or not the information should be shared with the public. My brother countered with chastising me for not giving more credit toward those who were trying to call on faith and the power of prayer to help lift up my mother during this time. We stopped the exchange after we discovered that we were at a complete impasse.
During our conversation I challenged my brother to reach out to our mom to guarantee that it was appropriate for this information to be made public without her approval. Once again, I was shocked find what followed. At just a few minutes before midnight, 24 hours after I learned of the diagnosis, an email hit my inbox just as I was getting into bed. It was from my mother to the rest of my immediate family. In the email she apologized for the relay of information and explained why she authorized it to be delivered this way. She cited a moment back in 2005 recalling when her young son Brody said, “Don’t you think people may want to pray for you?!” I nearly dropped my phone when I read the sentence. Up until that point I did not recall saying those words. The same action I had demanded in the past had been granted to me and I did not like the results. Almost instantaneously I realized that it was not my call and I was in the wrong. This was about her. She went on to parallel some of my brother’s statements from our text message fight: a prayer army is better than a prayer group.
I have not publicly shared about my mother’s condition until now. My brother and others have shared her situation with others on social media asking for prayers of hope, strength and faith. After thousands of likes and hundreds of comments I am beginning to realize that this is something I can’t take on in my own small group.
Faith is funny. It can be inward or outward. I prefer to be inward. Together it can be extremely powerful. You may ask – if you are so inward, why are you sharing all of this personal information? The answer is that I am still learning to own my faith beyond something bigger than myself.
WORRY STOPS WHERE FAITH BEGINS. – GMa’s Journal
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