Bad Stories


Some stories are meant to be written by others and then read, not lived for real. Like the ones involving tumors, cancer, and other such evils. They’re meant to be written in books that you can just put back on the shelf whenever you want – whenever the chapter is too depressing or there’s too much pain. They should be written by bad people who are getting the just desserts for their wicked ways. These stories should never be written by good people, at least not if the stories are true and autobiographical. Because good people shouldn’t ever have to live with such evils.

I’m angry. And hurt. And sad. And a bit fearful. All because a good person I know and love has just started living one of these stories. Been there, done that. I’ve already lived one of these stories; lived it, wrote it, read it. I really don’t want another – not in my life, not in a friend’s life, not in a sister-in-law’s life. Even if it ends well and happily ever after and all that rot. In the midst of the living—in the midst of the writing—it stinks. Not very poetic, that, but I really don’t care. Cancer sucks. Tumors suck. Evil sucks.

But somehow, in the midst of all the rotten, stinking, unpoetic suckiness, I don’t feel anger or hurt or sadness or fear directed toward God. Somehow I know that even when it doesn’t feel like it, he’s still got the whole world in his hands. It’s still his show, his story. And whatever is going on in this chapter…well, it’s only a short chapter in a long, long story.

An old acquaintance recently wrote, “I want my kids to win so that every outcome is for their benefit.” I responded that there’s tremendous benefit in losing, too. Sometimes losing is just a moment in time, soon to be forgotten: a single goal in soccer, one point below an A (or below a D–), taking second in a two-person race. Sometimes it’s much bigger: losing an arm or a kidney or a breast…or a mom or dad or brother or wife. Somehow, in losing, we have a unique chance to gain something, too. Often – even usually, perhaps – we don’t get it or realize we did until much later; but I think it’s always there. It’s what Job said at the end: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” He gained a new vision of God, a new understanding of the Divine. Hmmm…. Just thought of something: I’ve often sung songs that say, “open my eyes, Lord,” but I just realized that’s exactly what God did with Job. Do I really want God to open my eyes, if a Job-like experience might be the means he uses to do that?  I don’t know. Maybe not.

Tomorrow ends the introduction to a new story my sister-in-law is writing. The first chapter is just beginning. I’m praying it’ll be a short story, not a novel. I’m praying for a miracle. I’m praying for healing. But I’m also settling in for the long haul.

Open our eyes, Lord, and show us yourself.

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