This morning, I’ve reached a level of procrastination that is amazing even for me. And, it’s all because I don’t want to write about what I have to write about this morning. My friend, Morgan McLamb, went to hospice over the weekend. I first met Morgan in 2007 when we were both on light duty, me after knee surgery, he while undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer. There are two things I will always remember about Morgan. One, he was one of the most upbeat, happy people I’ve ever known and two, he would come in and work half a day after receiving a chemotherapy treatment. That was amazing to me. I’d lost an uncle to brain cancer about a year before that and my father had just finished up a particularly rough bout of chemotherapy a couple months previously. Seeing someone go through that with the attitude Morgan evinced was eye-opening, to say the least. A few months later, when I went through it myself, it was inspirational.
There are a lot of things swimming around in my head this morning. That, in and of itself, is not unusual. That they are mostly about the same subject, however…, well, that’s a different story. But, there are two I want to share with you, right now. One is that, somewhere, someone is going to talk about Morgan’s “courageous battle with cancer” and the other is that it is somehow God’s will that he and his family are going through this. Let’s take the “battle” metaphor first. I don’t like equating having cancer with a “fight”, a “battle” or anything else that implies winning or losing. I’ll let you in on a little secret, if you fight cancer, you’re going to lose. It may take years, but, eventually, it will win. And, as cancer survivor, I don’t care to be reminded of that fact. Ever. And, as Tony Jones said on jakeBouma.com, “healing” and “battling” are mutually exclusive”.
As for the second thing, that Morgan’s suffering is the will of God, don’t say that. Not only is it wrong, it’s mean, it’s insensitive and it’s, well, it’s just stupid. Think about this for a minute: in numerous places throughout the Bible (like here, here and here), we’re told that God is a loving parent. It’s that last verse I want to draw your attention to. I like the way The Message puts it best:
“As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?”
Saying it’s God’s will that Morgan and his family go through this is incredibly arrogant. It’s saying somehow, our parenting skills exceed those of God. That’s mind-blowing. And, not in the good way.
I don’t know why things like this happen. I don’t know why Morgan and Amy (his wife) and their kids are going through this. But, I’m pretty sure it’s not God’s doing. Whenever I’m confronted with suffering that seems so capricious, so arbitrary, I am reminded of the words of two people. The first is from Nicholas Wolsterstorff,
“God is love. That is why he suffers. To love our suffering world is to suffer…The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. So, suffering is down at the centre of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For love is meaning. And love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history”
The second is by William Temple, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, who said
“There cannot be a God of love,” people say, “because if there was, and he looked upon the world, his heart would break.” The church points to the Cross and says, “It did break.”
And, right about now, God’s heart is breaking for Morgan, for Amy, for their children and for everyone whose life was touched by this remarkable man.