Preface: it’s possible that there will be more personal and dark stuff to come. On the one hand, I need this space to reflect myself and also be genuine to my friends about my faith and doubts. On the other, I’m truly sorry if anyone finds this discouraging – if this is the case, please stop and read something else, including many of the good reads under the second sidebar tab.
Not too long ago I reluctantly went on a church social outing to some “tree-top adventures”. If you’re not familiar with this, the activity basically involves walking on wobbly planks and doing obstacle courses up high in the trees. I hate heights and what seemed so easy a foot above the ground was petrifying in the trees, especially when the rain made everything slippery. Even as I sat up in bed the next evening I could picture what looking down from the trees was like, and had palpitations all over again. So I had a somewhat irrational fear of falling, even though I knew there was a safety harness to catch me (although I maintain it’s only somewhat irrational because like everything else, things can go wrong!)
I’m feeling like this now. I’m so scared. I’m scared about what we know and the unknowns, the living and process of getting treatment as much as death itself. What about my sister, she’s young and needs you. And I want you to be around for lots more things even though I’m technically grown up and able to look after myself. I’m scared even though I believe in God more than no God, in the Bible as truth rather than something else (or nothing) as truth, in eternal life through Jesus Christ rather than death being the deep dark pit image that came to mind this morning.
In my ICU weeks last year, I didn’t feel as sad as I expected to about the almost daily end-of-life discussions and not infrequent diagnosis of unexpected terminal illnesses to shocked family members. I sympathised deeply but the emotion was overwhelmingly (and perhaps selfishly so) one of fear that something similar would happen to my immediate family. I guess eventually something unwelcome happens to all families.
I can pray about work – for patience towards difficult patients, to wisdom in dealing with slack colleagues, to viewing money and career in their proper places, and more. Actually I can pretty much see God in most aspects of hospital life except the specifics of my dealings with health and sickness, patients and their suffering, living and dying. In the hospital, try as I might, I really struggled to see dying as a spiritual issue as well as a physical one. When I started clinical school these questions about prayer really bothered me. But I became busy with doctor-y things and these question only resurfaced to the forefront of my mind again during those days in ICU. I don’t know and I’m still finding those prayers difficult.
In a way I feel especially reluctant to talk to well-meaning Christians. Please do pray, but don’t say “I’ll pray for you” just because it’s a Christian thing to say without actually doing it, or use the phrase to cut a conversation short without really listening. Do remind me of God’s love and our hope in him, but please don’t say calm down or expect me to agree with you that it’s okay.