Disclaimer: This is not a preaching moment for me to tell you that you have to or even that you should believe in a God or Goddess or Gods or have any faith at all. I believe in the freedom of religion, whatever that religion might be, and that includes the freedom to NOT have any religious beliefs and to think the rest of us are kinda misguided. I’m cool with you, so long as you are cool with me. This is just me trying to explain what happened to my faith during my daughter’s cancer fight.
I’m not going to explain exactly what I believe, because that is between me and my God, and no one else, but I do feel it important to put this part of my faith out there, the part regarding what I believe about God’s hand in my daughter’s cancer.
I had a huge question of faith when Sophie was first diagnosed. They finally figured out her liver damage was caused by the Langhans Cell Histiocytosis on November 23, 2008. She was just over a year old. They started the chemo on December 2. That chemo didn’t work well before the 6 weeks of chemo was up. On the 22nd, they told us we needed to do something else. Three days before Christmas. I was done. I couldn’t believe God would kill my baby. I couldn’t fathom a God that gave us a child after two years of fighting infertility, just to take her away a year later. I was wondering whether he or she existed, whether I was wrong all those years, whether anything I believed in was solid.
Well, we went to church. I don’t remember why, we just did. We don’t regularly go to church. Just when I need it, I think. And this was the first church we went to in town since we moved there nearly a year before. And it was Episcopal. I’m Catholic. My husband is a recovering Southern Baptist. (No comments please… this isn’t about how we identify). A friend recommended this church, so we tried, and we sat in the back row for Christmas Mass. We’d left our baby girl with a babysitter, and it was sooo late, and I heard the reverend speak. And then the floor fell out from under me.
This wasn’t a Christmas talk. Not the happy story of a baby being born and being sheltered and bringing hope to the world like the reopening of Pandora’s box to release the hope from the bottom. This wasn’t the singing of carols and eating of candy canes. This was the reverend telling me that Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus because she had to help him push through the rest of his life. He knew that the life in front of Mary was going to be hard and would have heartache and fear, and he couldn’t change that because Jesus needed to live the life he did. But God COULD take the active step in choosing Mary to be his mother. Actively Choosing her. Out of the herd. Her, because she could help Jesus do what he had to do in life.
I think that’s the first time EVER I’ve felt sucked into the story of Christmas and had a religious experience. NOT because I question the story. But because growing up in Suburban America, Christmas is all lights and trees and presents and candy and Santa and the Christmas story which is all hope and happiness and snuggling with a new baby. It’s the bastardized, commercialized falsity of the meaning behind the holiday, but I digress. THIS REVEREND SHATTERED my little suburban falsehood.
I left there in shell shock. I finally got it.
I had someone ask me how I can believe in a God that would give a child cancer, especially as the mother of one of those children. And then there were those well meaning but misguided people that say “God only gives you what you can handle,” or “If God wants to take her, He will, and it will be okay cause she’ll be in heaven waiting for you.” I call bullshit on him dictating those details. How could I even fathom that there is some omnipotent force of good out there that would allow my baby to suffer like she did. I couldn’t follow a God that would take my child… and I have seen too much to NOT believe that there is something in control, at least a little bit, out there. So how can there be a God that would let children suffer and die so horribly and let total @$$hats live long, healthy lives?
After that day at church, this is has been my response: God doesn’t give children cancer. God doesn’t decide when they die. He has NOTHING to do with their suffering or deaths. I pretty sure he or she doesn’t take that step. I think it just happens. Like stubbing your toe or having allergies. Our health is not dictated by God… but by our bodies and our environment.
Think about the size of this universe. The size of all the universes combined. I’m thinking God’s hands are full dealing with supernovas and black holes and the creation of worlds and stars and other people.. I don’t think he or she has the time to go pondering the placement of fast-dividing rogue cells in the liver of one child out of nearly 7 billion people on one of the tiny planets he or she made. Nope… that’s not logical. God isn’t out there, wherever he or she lives, and pin pointing every detail of everyone’s life. I do believe that we all have a purpose, a place where we are suppose to get to, a thing we are supposed to do. And we will get there because we will.
However, I’m also pretty sure that God did make sure to put specific people in our lives. I’ve known this for years because of how I met Daniel and how often God made sure to put him in front of me before I finally saw him… starting at the age of 14.
God gave my child to me. And he or she gave me to my baby girl. And that mattered in the fight. I was supposed to be her mother. Because God knows what I’m going to end up being, what my purpose is, what’s coming down the road at us, he or she helps us by placing us with people, or at least giving us access to people that we will need, and I needed Sophie. She has made me me. And she and her siblings have filled holes in me that I didn’t know were there. And the experience with Sophie has taught me things I never would have known otherwise.
God has far too much else to do in this universe to spend that much time concerning him or herself with every detail of our lives. But the big sweeping things, giving us our soulmates, making sure certain souls are bound together through eternity; spouses, children with their parents (biological or otherwise), siblings; that I can see him or her doing. We were given each other by an act of divine intervention. Whether that is done individually, or if our souls are bound before we come to the planet, I don’t know. It seems it would be easier to just bind us before we are delivered, but meh (~shoulder shrug) … my daughter’s cancer has taught me that sometimes the easier way is not always the best way.
What we do with the people we are given, now that is OUR choice. How we react with those people when the $hi+ hits the fan, totally on us. We have free choice. And while being given these people is not enough to stop suffering or pain or heartache, it is enough to use our best gift, the true depths of our love. For our children. For the people around us. That inner part of us that is purely divine and a part of God him(her)self.
Oddly enough, I think that’s why prayer chains and prayer groups MAY work. NOT because people are asking God to change something and he’s doing it, but that so many people are opening an important part of themselves and giving it towards one common cause. That can be a force in and of itself. That’s how revolutions change the world. So I do participate in prayer chains, because it feels right.
Now I know you might not agree, and I’m okay with that. Faith is individual, and these are my beliefs. It’s cool if you think I’m wrong. You can’t change my mind, so don’t bother trying. But, for parents of sick kids out there, it’s okay to not listen when people question your faith while you hold a sick child. It’s okay to believe that the cancer isn’t from God. It’s okay to hold your faith tight AND fight the cancer. It’s okay to totally disagree when people say “whatever God believes should happen, will,” or “God only gives you what you can handle.” God or Goddess or Thor or Snuggles the Spaghetti Monster, or whatever you choose to believe, that is yours and you should feel safe in your beliefs while you face this down.