Tuesday, April 24, 2007

God's Grand Plans

I recognize this post will be about a visit to the hospital, and perhaps should be a Fantastic Aplastic post, but I think it is about more than that. Specifically, the unending number of hospital staff who make sure to tell me that "God has a plan for you."

Hello?! What the f*ck does that mean exactly? Do you hear what you are telling me? Really?

Seriously. God's plan is that f*ckwits the world over are to be healthy, happy and thriving but I (an albeit snarky but trying-to-be a good person) am to be facing a life-threatening disease with the potential of not seeing my daughter grow up? If that is the case, please tell me who I speak to in God's Planning Department, so I can register my total dissatisfaction with His work to date.

I don't want to diminish anyone's else's belief in such a Plan. But, much like when someone close to you dies and you come over time to see that perhaps it is better that they are not suffering, etc, it is really a conclusion that you--the bereaved--have to reach on your own. Someone telling you a day after your kid dies that he's in "a better place now" is barbarically presumptuous if not outright cruel. It's a conclusion that only the affected person can arrive at, if that's where they need to get to. To have someone else tell you such a thing, based on their own belief system, is simply not appropriate or necessary.

Same with diseases, chronic, life-threatening or otherwise. YOU don't tell me that this is God's Plan for me. Who the hell are YOU? Have you chatted with Him recently? Did He tell you something he's been avoiding telling me? And are you seriously telling me that God decided that I should be sick and you should be healthy? Are you TRYING to sound like an a**hole?

I recognize that in many religious traditions, specifically the varied Christian ones practiced by many of the staff at the hospital, there is a belief that "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" and that "He has a plan; this is all part of His plan and we don't get to know why this happens." I recognize that for those who believe that, the notion brings tremendous comfort; a comfort they are attempting to offer me. But here's the problem: I don't believe that at all. And even if I did, it would not be for Mrs. Phlebotomist to tell me what she thinks is God's Plan for me, would it?

From where I sit, if there is to be meaning found in any of life's dramas, heartaches, hurts and tragedies, it is to be found in what we do in the aftermath. There is no reason I have this disease; there is no meaning in the situation in and of itself. It's just life, and this is my and my family's thing to deal with, just as others have different, better or far worse things to deal with in their own lives. There is no Plan that gave me a disease. And if you tell me there is, we are gonna fight. The only meaning to be found is in how I/we handle it, what we learn from it, how we live better or differently or more exuberantly or more compassionately because of it. But there are any number of ways to teach someone that, short of a life-threatening disease, and I choose to believe that the God I believe in doesn't torture humans for the sake of some Global Strategic Plan outlined in a celestial powerpoint slideshow. Which is ironic, considering that we Jews are supposed to believe in the "Old Testament vengeful God" and the ladies at the hospital believe in the "New Testament forgiving God." So why is it that their view of God seems so much more vengeful than mine? In my head, He is guilty of--at most--benign neglect. Setting all these wheels in motion and then letting it all happen according to chance and luck and the laws of nature...and then seeing what we do with it. If I believe that He is actually at the helm, skippering this whole Good Ship Bedlam, then I have to believe that he's either terribly cruel or incompetent or both.

Which is not to denigrate anyone else's religious convictions. I'm not attempting to have a theological discussion or to weigh one religion against another. I'm just saying that in the United States in 2007 it's good to be mindful that the "witnessing" you think you're doing, the comfort you think you're giving, based on your religious beliefs, can actually do more harm than good. I used to like chatting with the ladies at the hospital, but as I've clearly gotten sicker their efforts to tell me to "give it up to God" have gotten more frequent, and I now just say "thanks" and count the minutes till my blood is taken and I can mercifully leave. I have my own religion, I have my own sense of what This All Means, and I appreciate the attempted kindness but despise the assumptions behind it.

My only consolation is knowing that it was part of God's Plan for you that you be stuck reading my rant today on a blog. But don't worry, I hear his Planning Department is open for complaints. :)


nm in mn said...

I think that it was part of God's plan for you to write this post. ;)

Joe Tornatore said...

i never understood God's plan people. I see people who have devoted their whole lives to working with the handicapped and then having an autistic son of their own. Stuff like this makes my mind melt. I argue the unfairness, that they have already gave at the office. then I wonder if God's plan is because they were chosen because they have the lvoe and temperment in raising a handicapped child. stuff like this makes my head hurt. I don't know what God's plan is for you, just get better.

Geoff said...

I've told myself that, at the end of my life, whenever that will be, I'm going to be having a rather temperamental meeting with the supreme being.

I'd be tempted to discuss it more at length here, but I have a feeling that doing so would call down the lightning, not from God, but from the sheep who claim to follow him.

-also, as a side note, I'm in the midst of doing a bit of a site revamp over at T-storm. As such, I've lost my moniker for the time being.

DMR said...

E, I am so sorry that you and your family have to travel the road that you are all walking at the moment. I shall pray for you and your family and that is all I can offer. Except, that I do undertand your writing in regards to people just assuming and making the most stupid comments that you have ever heard.

The reason I can understand it that this Friday will be six years since our youngest child was killed in an bus accident. She was 13 years old (only by a number of days). As soon as we received the news of her death, it was as thought the a**holes were given permission to say and do whatever they wanted - in our home, in our place of work, and even in the street.

Again, I will pray for you and your family to be spared any more hurtful statements and for you to be able to get to the place that you want to be with your illness.

May G-d watch over you through all the procedures. No loving, caring, and giving
G-d would have chosen this as 'your plan'.

Anonymous said...

Wow- people try, in their own way, to express compassion and interact with you (E and the commenters), and they are suddenly a**holes? I've suffered through chronic illness, family deaths, and more, and I always looked at it as someone's attempt to make me feel better, which I appreciated for what it was. They're not trying to convert you to Christianity!

E said...

Hey Anonymous,

I know what you are saying. I get that. What I was saying was that the people saying these things aren't my friends and family. They are people who work at a place I have to go to get treatment. We don't really know each other. I don't think they are trying to convert me. What is bothering me is the assumption that something more than "I'm thinking about/praying for you" is appropriate. My point was that if you truly want to be nice to someone you don't really know very well (and therefore don't necessarily have the standing to say whatever comes to mind), perhaps leaning off the specific religious beliefs would be a kinder way to be kind. They think they are being nice but they are building a wall a mile high between us. Not specifically because of the Christian/Jewish thing but because of the (what I consider to be) presumptuous nature of the "god's plan" statement. I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes the best or kindest way to show support is to say nothing, say as little as possible, or to think before speaking (ie, how can I best be of comfort to this person in a way that is meaningful to her rather than to ME?) If you can't answer that question due to not knowing me well enough, then perhaps it would be merciful to avoid grand pronouncements of what you think my illness means in your religious tradition, and just say, "I'm thinking of you and wishing all good things for you." And my further point is that, yes, sometimes people can say some very a**holish things while thinking they are being nice. I've been one of them and only in retrospect have cringed or wept at what came out of my mouth in the name of comfort. More often than not, it was because I was focused more on assuaging MY need to be helpful rather than on THE OTHER PERSON'S need to be heard/supported/left alone. We've all been guilty of it; it's just tremendously unbearable when 75% of the staff at a place you have to go to twice a week feel compelled to keep torturing you in the name of kindness without ever wondering if its appropriate for them, professionally speaking, to be doing so.

Anonymous said...

So you'd prefer it if people said nothing at all out of fear of not saying exactly what you'd want and how you'd want to hear it...instead of encouraging you in likely the only way they know? That's pretty sad. I'd so much rather the walls came down around this bs political correctness. You don't get to decide the where/when/and how of any of this. Let the tension go, and just accept the effort at face value.

I'm guessing you're going to hear a lot more commentary during treatment and might want to get to a happier place before you tear off a nurse's head after a sincere comment. Either that, or wear a sign that tells people what you want them to say. Be sure to tell them what expression to use and coach them on tone of voice too.

E said...

You sound so angry about this. I'm thinking you've had your head torn off a couple of times for sincere comments? Nowhere in this did I ever say that I respond to "sincere comments" with anything other than polite silence. I think it, but I don't say it. I have never once torn off a nurse's head in my life, anonymous. I don't understand the 'political correctness' reference. What about this has to do with being PC? Why has this post gotten under your skin so much? Why is it unbelievable to you that I wouldn't be 'comforted' to hear that someone I don't really know believes that God has intentionally given me a disease for some good reason that I need to appreciate? That was the point of my original post, that it's not a comforting thing to hear, even if someone perhaps thinks its comforting to say: You are marked by God Himself for disease and death. My point was that it seems to the person speaking to be a throwaway quickie expression of comfort; what it can sound like to the person hearing it is anything but when you follow the statement to its logical conclusion. That was my point: It was a heads-up that it's not necessarily "encouragement" in the least even though it seems like it to some people.

Like I said, something about this topic has gotten under your skin beyond anything intended by the original post. By your own advice, you really shouldn't be taking my head off about this since my original comments were well-intentioned, regardless of how you interpreted them. "Let the tension go and just accept" my effort to express my own opinion at face value.

You might want to get to a happier place too, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

My name is anonymous, and I disapprove of and disassociate myself from the comments made above by another anonymous, who is actually impersonating me.

E said...

Thank you, (The Real) Anonymous! You're bringing us back to the ranty, though ending with a ";)" intent of the original post.

Vigilante said...

LOL, LOL! You're welcome, E. Entirely!