Throughout my life, when asked about my dream job, I would always say that it was sitting by a fire in a cabin, on a mountain lake, writing fiction, with my Saint Bernard (my wife and kids are a given so not mentioned in this dream). Yesterday it dawned on me that I was sitting by the fire, in an old house (rather than a cabin), on a mountain lake, writing fiction, with my Saint Bernard at my feet.
If this was still my days of magical thinking, 30 years ago, back in my hard-core evangelical epoch of my life, I would twist this into God did all of this (cancer and all) just to get me here, writing fiction, by a fire, on a mountain lake, with a Saint Bernard at my feet. I would stand up and share this in church with a big smile on my face as a supernatural miracle (but then go home and cry into my pillow where no one could see me).
In those days, we had Romans 8:28 well memorized, although out of context or without thoughtful exegesis or hermeneutics. It was the stuff that made great greeting cards, song lyrics, posters, or cliches when we wanted to look spiritual to impress other evangelicals. But it wasn’t well thought out.
So, if this was God’s plan all along, giving me cancer, destroying my kidneys, giving me this god-awful neurological disorder, allowing me to live through hellish suffering for the first nine months of 2019; then to have me laid off and my career suddenly ending, just so I would be sitting by a fire, on a mountain lake, writing fiction, with a Saint Bernard at my feet; it would make this God very small, ignorant, and profoundly masochistic. It would be like me telling one of my children, “Yes, I chopped both your legs and arms with my axe, gouged out your eyes with a screwdriver, just so you wouldn’t have to go to work any more, and trust me, I did it because I love you.
But more than that, it makes that theology not God-centered as we thought. We would always boast how big our God was, how our relationship with this God was better than everyone else’s, and that he would orchestrate every detail of our lives just to fulfill our wishes. That notion sounds precious, but really, it makes us the chief of narcissists.
For example, if this was all God’s plans for me, then think about the impact it has had on others, just to serve my interest. I can’t begin to describe Denise’s hell this year, for weeks saying goodbye to a husband she was sure she was loosing to death’s grip. That just scratches the surface for her. But then think about other people, my kids, my family, or my patients.
I’ve talked to several of my patients since it was announced that my headache clinic is closing. Some of them are devastated, not just about missing me, but knowing without a doubt (from their previous experience) that they will not get the level of care that they got from Dr. Moren and me anywhere else. It is not boasting, it is factual. So, how does God working this all out so I can sit by a fire, in a house, on a mountain lake, with a Saint Bernard at my feet, writing fiction work out for their good? I could go on and on in this convoluted web, but this over-simplified theology puts Mike (meaning me) at the very center of the universe and God, in a bottle in my back pocket, like a genie, fulfilling every wish and qualm that I have. It is, “It’s All About Me” theology.
But it does make good posters, greeting cards, and shallow conversations around coffee in the vestibule of an evangelical church. I am often attacked by these evangelicals when I dare say that my suffering was not God’s intent, that he feels my pain and comforts me, not as an impotent friend wiping my brow with a wet cloth and saying he’s sorry, but as one of such hugeness and mystery that I can’t even start to think what this is all about. So I don’t bother trying. Certainly, I can’t put him in a box . . . or bottle.
What am I saying?
Of course I trust God in the big picture and if I hear one more evangelical tell me that I don’t have the right faith because I don’t believe God designed this suffering, I am tempted to punch them in the face. I will then tell them that God made me do it for their good. But I know that God could not love me and intend for me to suffer as I have, and certainly not make me suffer so much simply so I can sit by a fire, in a house, on a mountain lake, with a Saint Bernard at my feet and write fiction. We have to stop this silly nonsense of trying to contain God within our thoughts. I know that evil is real and for some reason the evil has touched my life this year. What I do know that it was not payment for anything I did wrong. I also know it wasn’t God’s doing. But I look to Job as an example where God is a willing bystander to evil and suffering. Yes, of course I believe that God could intervene and cure me today and I am continuing asking him to do just that. But, I also respect him when he doesn’t. But in the end, somehow he brings us glory. Believing this is the essence of faith.
Now, one may ask, I must be very content to see my dream fulfilled like this, meaning, sitting by a fire, on a mountain lake, writing fiction, with my Saint Bernard at my feet. In many ways I do! I do love this part of things. But, take away the, now 11 days, of continuous diarrhea related to my chemo, take away my constant myoclonus (twitching and jerking), take away the nasty cancer crawling in my marrow whose intent is to kill me, and I would be as euphoric as hell, without a doubt.
7 responses to “Mini Ramblings: Be Careful for What You Wish For”
I am another one of your patients who will miss your and Dr. Moren’s care. It will definitely be difficult to find someone else to help me with my chronic migraine disease.with the same level of care you two provided. (I am also in the process of finding a new primary care physician since my previous one has moved on. ) Thank you for everything and I sincerely pray that you will recover your health. Suzanne
I am with you in the fantasy about a lakeside, St Bernard scented room with fireplace, alight with a life of reflection as a long standing dream of fulfillment.
Anyone who would hold that the price for this state of being free would be the tremendous fear and uncertainty and suffering we endure , has neither the compassion of Jesus nor the sense of the present moment . Nor does he have the the ability see the arbitrariness of suffering that we have no choice but to embrace.
The tremendous humility that disease and suffering bring is not a prize for good behavior.
IT is the only thing that gives expression to the immense courage and endurance required to continue to choose life.
No purple hearts, no parades of neighbors and fellow church goers. Just the dog who knows as deeply as you do when things are overwhelming and invites calm. He is the prize.
Our illness is a statistical event in the complex world of being , arising and falling with the gifts of genetic loading and an environment that has sometimes seems to have forgotten how to love and be loved.
Giving and receiving love is a core teaching. Love and Beauty Ineffable , to be shared with each breath with all who breathe together.
Love is ever present and we touch it at moments with clarity.
This is my wish for you…and for me… love in every breath.
Breathing in, I am flower,
Breathing out, I am fresh..
Breathing in, I am mountain,
Breathing out I am solid.
Breathing in. I am lake reflecting,
Breathing out, I am calm.
In , out…I have arrived.
The world is scintillating with the thrust of life force. Hug a tree my friend….. taste the apple. Know that you are loved by those who have seen your soul.
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Beautiful response Dr Kaufman!
I followed you all the way on this, I understand, and I agree.
Hope you have a poop free day.😁
I am one of your many many patients that was so sad to hear that you won’t be coming back and not only that, but that the headache clinic will be closing. I used to live in Seattle and the drive to Anacortes was a simple decision because the care you gave was so fantastic…I now live in Northern Idaho and the drive to Anacortes was STILL worth it for the care you and Dr. Morin provided. I am not sure what I’m going to do now…you were truly the FIRST and ONLY medical professional that said to me “we will keep trying things until we find something that makes your migraines better”. The first day I met you was so amazing and I am indebted to you for your kindness and compassion! I can’t tell you how happy I am that so many prayers have been answered and that the complete hell you lived in for the past year is slowly becoming less hellish. I still pray for complete healing and painfree days for you! I am so glad I found your blog so that I can stay up to date on how you are, but know that you will be TERRIBLY TERRIBLY missed by your patients!!!
It would be so cool to be able to see into the 22nd century and find that people are appreciating the collected works of the early 21st century theologian, Mike Jones. Keep thinking aloud, please, and give Denise and Greta hugs.
Hugs! There are no more words!