Monday, June 16, 2014
Wisdom--Out of the Mouths of Babes(ish)
This past school year, I taught a small class in my home. Every week about 10 high school kids would get together for a couple of hours to talk about world history, literature and the Bible. One of my favorite things to do was read through the written assignments they turned in each week. On the last day of class I was doing a mad rush through all of the things that I needed to get back to them before we finished for the year, and I came across this paper by one of my students--one that loves to write and has a unique grasp on language (and the appropriate use of high-falutin' words). Somehow I had completely missed it earlier, and I am not even sure what the particular assignment was for that week, so I read it quickly, made a few comments at the end, and handed it back to him before their great escape out the door to freedom for the summer.
I recently asked him if he would be OK with me posting his words here. He graciously agreed. I keep saying that I am going to write the whole 'where is God when bad things happen' piece from my perspective, but I keep putting it off because I don't want to 'get it wrong' or presume to speak for God. Maybe that is just my excuse for being lazy. However, I love this perspective, and thought you might as well.
It wasn't that he didn't know what to do; it's that he merely didn't do it. Every day, his life was the habitual practice of smiling, of hiding behind seemingly good spirits and wearing a mask so people would assume that he had it all together. It was easy, too. Having lived his entire life as the son of a pastor, it was easy for him to fake what he felt and easier, too, to deny it. Now, it wasn't that he was bad in the stereotypical, rebel-against-the-Christian-life way; he merely wasn't active in his faith. Sure, he was a Christian, and sure, he did his best to not sin; however, his relationship with God had, as far as he could tell, evaporated. That, then, was the problem.
It seems sickening that the relief should have come from the tragedy of another. It was January. Things were normal, even to the strictest way possible. He was, at the time, at his grandparents' house when the news came. Of all the things in life to disrupt the normality of things, the announcement that one's good friend has recently been diagnosed with cancer is amongst the top of the list. Such it was, then, that when he, only twelve, heard the news, he was grieved; not like the simple oh-I-hope-he-gets-better kind of grieved, but more like the deeply felt, heart grasping fear and wonder and all those things that come with the announcement that one's good friend has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Such a thing is cancer, that when it enters one's life personally, one only then understands the reverence with which we should welcome life. No one truly understands this so much, though, as he who actually has the cancer. Still, though, the boy wondered. Still, though, he thought; and still, though, he prayed.
That was something that the young twelve-year-old was not in the practicing of doing. Praying, reading the Bible, actively pursuing God--or pursuing Him at all--these were not things that he did. As I've mentioned, though, he was a Christian. However, if someone releases a prisoner from prison, the prisoner can either live life as a free man or mope about as though he were still imprisoned. So it is with Christianity. When God sets us free, we are free indeed; but all too often, we either fail to realize it or simply fail to care. So it was with the boy. He was saved, but he wasn't actively living out his faith. His life had no prayer or spiritual growth in it at all; and prayer is to a Christian as air is to a human. A Christian should no sooner not pray than a human should any sooner not breathe. Nevertheless, the boy failed to realized this. His life, then, was empty.
However, when his good friend was diagnosed with cancer, it gave him reason that was good enough, he felt, to pray. So began again his prayer life. Soon, he was praying every day. A daily devotion with God became common practice. He began to actively live out his life for Christ.
Why anyone gets cancer is a question that many people have tried to answer. I believe that some of their answers are correct, and that other answers aren't so much. Why the boy's good friend got cancer, I cannot say. Perhaps it was for the friend's own spiritual growth, perhaps it was for the growth of their family relationship. Whatever the purpose, I am without doubt that it was for a reason. And, in the grand scheme of things, maybe, just maybe, the boy's friend's cancer might have saved the young twelve-year-old's faith, because up to that point, the boy felt like he had no reason to pray, and prayer is a vital part of any Christian's life. The boy does not nullify the treachery and the devastation of his friend's cancer. He merely admits that without his friend's cancer, his faith would certainly not be as strong as it is today.
Thank you, Cade, for those beautiful words of wisdom.