I am just going to ramble here, reveal an ugly part of myself, and I’m going to swear because this is what happened.
I’m kind of sharing my rant with Lisa during our walk yesterday. A rant against myself. I’m going to give you a peek into it.
The other day a friend posted on her timeline a request for prayer for her daughter, pictured on life support, declared braindead, in a hospital.
Now, I normally don’t see much on Facebook. I have the limit in “friends” because of nakedpastor, and I don’t know 90% of the people, I’m sure. And I don’t see most peoples’ posts. So, I don’t “know” this woman at all. But curiosity led me to her timeline and I read back on her history. There are no explanations given. Her daughter is in the condition she is now, for some reason, and her mother is requesting prayer and believing for a miracle. I read her posts and the hundreds of comments.
Here’s my ugly part, a confession, between you and I in this little confessional we call TLS:
I despised the undying belief in the coming miracle and the countless name-it-and-claim-it posts and comments littering her timeline.
But then something happened.
I started crying. I mean, I wasn’t blubbering, but my eyes started weeping. Her daughter looks to be about my daughter’s age… 24. A young, beautiful woman. Braindead. And here’s her poor mother (I see no husband or any other family on the scene in any of her posts or comments) literally desperate for her daughter to recover and be restored to her mom. The mom is obviously distraught and full of anguish and suffering and just wants her daughter back.
I was suddenly so moved by her love for her daughter, her desperation, and the countless votes of support from her friends. It was a huge rallying response to her plea.
And just as suddenly I thought (here’s the swearing part): “Who the fuck cares what they believe? Nobody’s getting hurt!”
Seriously! People believe all kinds of things because that’s what works for them. You believe what you believe because it works for you. I believe what I believe because it works for me. That poor mother and her friends are believing what they believe because it works for them. Who cares what it is what they believe? Really? No one’s getting hurt. In fact, the mother is probably finding strength in her beliefs and the compassionate support of her believing friends.
Lisa, the palliative care nurse, reminded me that studies have shown that people who believe and who pray do better in hospitals. It’s not necessarily the miracle thing. But it certainly has something to do with the personal strength it provides, the rallying of compatible friends it evokes, and the mysterious but unquestionable benefits of positivity, optimism, and happiness that it delivers.
It reminded me of a book I read some years ago by Chaim Potok, “I Am the Clay”. It’s about an older woman and man during the Korean War, fleeing the war-torn countryside through the bombed-out landscape. They come across a boy wounded in the ditch. She decides, despite her husband’s protests, to care for the boy and take him with them. The husband knows he will slow them down and endanger their lives. But she insists. He waits for the boy to die, but he doesn’t. The woman believes the boy possesses a kind of magic and will deliver them to safety. They do eventually, with the boy, arrive to safety.
It’s an excellent story well written because, on the one hand, you might believe the boy is magic because they arrive safely. On the other hand, you might believe it was all her fantasy and everything just worked out in their favor. The thing is, the boy obviously inspires the woman and even eventually the man to persist and persevere on their terrible journey to safety. Even if it is all in their heads, it worked! Would they have survived without the boy? We don’t know, but we doubt it.
The thing is, I’ve known for a long time that our beliefs are just thoughts and they find expression through our own language and words. We are all experiencing the same reality, but through our own prisms of worldview and words. I’ve always felt it didn’t matter, really, what people believed, as long as no one gets hurt. I’ve believed all kinds of things throughout my spiritual life. Who cares? My beliefs worked for me at the time. And when they stopped working I discarded them. Just like everybody else does. Who cares?
I also thought of Jesus who let people believe what they believed, as long as it didn’t hurt anyone. Where he got fierce was when a belief inspired inhumanity towards others. “I don’t care if you tithe your mint leaves. As long as you don’t forget the more important things like loving your neighbor! I don’t care about your views of marriage. Just leave that poor woman alone!” That kind of thing.
It was a lesson in humility. If I really do believe it’s all just thoughts and words, then adjust my attitude accordingly! Have some compassion, for crying out loud! This poor woman is desperate for the life of her daughter! What would you do if this was happening to you? Give people a break! It all comes down to compassion… not just for people who think like you, but for everyone.
I hope her daughter does recover.
And that’s my rambling rant.
Thanks for listening.