Thursday, October 20, 2011

in which i visit a church, visit with my aunt, and see a doctor

I went to church with my wife. This is not the first time I have darkened a church door since I was a child but it was the first time in a while I actually attended a service that wasn't a funeral or a wedding. It has probably been over 20 years. My wife wanted to attend church and has been attending on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights. I opted for the Sunday night but it was still tough to get me to actually stop putting it off and go. :)  I will now actually probably go again and again.

At any rate, I decided that indeed, this church service was not that bad after all. I felt happy in a safe place with friendly people, and there was a spirit that cannot be matched anywhere else. I understand the concept.

However, sitting in the pew, I felt a little like I did when I went to economics class in high school. I have related this before that I learned economics by reading the book because my teacher was so bad at the subject. I read the book over and over. I would sometimes read paragraphs many times to make sure that I understood each word and all the possible meanings. I compared text from one chapter to the other because of my familiarity with the book. It was actually the best class in the world because the tests were based on the book and I knew everything in the book. I would only have trouble on a test when I over thought it. The teacher would chide me once in a while for not paying attention. At first I was doing crossword puzzles, then I found out that while he could stop this behavior, he couldn't stop me from reading my textbook. I remember him asking questions which I had not heard while I was concentrating and reading. I asked if he would repeat the question. He did, I answered correctly. I went back to reading. I'm not exaggerating but he was so awful that I think he did not make up his own tests and went with standardized questions from the book. This teacher gave me a lesson that I was never to forget. Some people do not have a clue about what they are doing and other people may miss or ignore this fact.

(One observation that I found fascinating was the fact that when singing a hymn the "I" and of course all the pronouns referring to God are capitalized. It is really an irony that we cannot give proper respect to God even in our hymns. Perhaps I am over thinking this but I often sign my emails with "michael" or "mike" on purpose. I wish that it was always possible to do so. )

Now this pastor was certainly not my economics teacher, but there was something that reminded me of how far I had come in that economics class by setting aside an hour a day to study. But since I had not attended in the morning, I was in part 2 of the day's lesson. I read the morning verses quickly, then read the verses he was teaching about as I read. At first I didn't really understand what he was saying because he was overlaying a teaching structure on the text. Perhaps this is a theme he uses to teach but it didn't seem relevant to the text. Eventually he started talking more directly about the text itself. The text was about the question of the relative importance of faith and works, something I was fairly familiar with. It was from the relevant portion of the book of James. The guy was pushing the need for faith, saying that faith was necessary despite a verse or too that could trip you up in James. Well, I didn't think James was all that unclear. It was unclear if taken out of context but basically it supported the pastor's words without much argument necessary. That being said there was much spirited argument about something I took for granted. That faith usually came before works. Perhaps I'm too trustworthy but the words sort of spoke for themselves anyway so I was guessing by the amount of time needed to discuss this that they must not be as clear to others in the congregation.

My belief is that faith and works are equally important. While the pastor put emphasis on faith coming first in the equation. I must disagree. Children are often very good and faith in the specifics that churches want faith in, really takes an adult mind. Someone may do very good works, and later come to realize or not realize that it is really an underlying faith that has led to this. A person may not think it is a faith in God, when it actually is. Then there is the obvious problem of a person who is born in another country that does not have a chance to get this particular churchly brand of faith. Well, it is all so difficult to ponder really.
Despite the fact that I disagreed on a few points the pastor made, I felt comfortable there and it was a throwback to my days as a youngster. I enjoyed it. I wanted to speak up like I would often do in class. I remember correcting my Psychology teacher in high school that he had the "id" and the "superego" mixed up in Freud's theory. He dared to say I was wrong without even considering I might be right. I maintained my opinion valiantly and the next day, he went over it again, this time correctly. It wasn't a very good apology, but then he wasn't a very good man. He hated me after that when all I had tried to do was make sure the class was getting it correctly. After that I was fairly silent regardless of mistakes. I remember putting down on the test "you said (such and such) in class but I believe it is (such and such)."  :)   I had studied a lot of psychology by the time I took a class in high school, I was probably pretty full of myself. But I did know a lot about the subject.

I wanted to speak up when the pastor denigrated "doubt" saying it came from the devil. I wanted so much to raise my hand and have a discussion. "Sir, doubt is the beginning of all learning. A good intellectual doubt of something may, when investigated, lead to a strong faith in that very thing if the doubt is proven wrong. If it isn't proven wrong, then there is more to learn. There are subtleties to learn. If I don't doubt you once in a while, I am not doing due diligence to understanding the Word." However, "doubt" here had only one basic meaning, doubt of God. As I have said before, I'm not in doubt in this basic area. But it has only come through a lifetime of experience, a lifetime of doubt which led to reconciliation, a lifetime that has led me to this particular place and time. It took a lifetime of attempting to do good works. And it was ever so that I would come away from a church service thinking "The [dude] doth protest too much, methinks, " or whatever is the contra positive of that. :) When churches are so passionate about this one aspect of Christianity, belief or faith in God, a basic I-wouldn't-be-here-if-that-was-not-understood concept for me personally, I don't learn much.

I enjoyed the experience and will go back. I may want to switch churches but for now, this man intrigues me. I want to learn the things that he thinks other people need to learn, and just perhaps there will be something that I need to learn as well. Regardless, I learn about an aspect of the world I have mainly known from my childhood.

All this was well and fine. I was feeling pretty good about life. I understood the Bible verse and hadn't actually read it before. I understood a lot of nuance about what was happening around me and it was comfortable and safe.

Then I called my aunt on her birthday the next day. My aunt described symptoms similar to my Mom's and asked me whether I knew what disease my mother (her twin sister) had 30 years ago before she died. In her head was the idea that my mother had had the symptoms only in her mind. I tried to explain the disease we know so much more about now that they did when my mother got it and they knew nothing. I tried my best to understand my aunt but she is hard of hearing, it is getting harder for her to speak, and it is just plain hard to communicate with. I gave her what knowledge and advice I could. I hoped she would be able to see the right doctors and be taken care of. But a little bit more of my faith in humanity disappeared. There are varied reasons I cannot discuss this further but I cried for hours after I managed to make it straight through the phone call I was angry for a while, and then I just let it wash under the bridge behind me. I cannot fix the world. Even if I had the knowledge, I couldn't.

So, while I was looking up how to spell the disease my mother had to answer my aunt's question, I looked at a page with a new list of medicines that can cause this problem. The disease is a man-made disease caused by certain medications. Then I saw it. My main medicine was on the list, albeit, not in the primary list.

I went to see my doctor the next day and here, basically is what transpired:

1. There is a small chance of getting [disease redacted] but it is very small and many times smaller than with the drug my mother was taking.
2. There are no other medications for my problems that do not contain this very small risk.
3. He worded things so carefully as he got really close to me, "I am not God but I do not think there is much risk. If you get the disease, I will be there to help you with treatment." He had a small tear in his eye.
4. He said, "You are doing spectacularly on your medication now. There is much more risk of other problems without these drugs."

I patted him on the shoulder and said, "I trust you."


  1. I hate to hear that you're having to take a medication that can cause you trouble. I just unknowningly took one for nearly 13yrs. And while I am sure that it wasn't totally the medicine that caused the problem, I am glad to be on something different now. Because the medicine also worked against another medicine to combat the problem. Wonderful to hear that you attended church :) .. And most of what you said makes total sense .. I could write further but with this stupid "brain fog" a lot of my ability has went out the window. And I am sure you'd probably be wondering what I was talking about in the first place being I was a very quiet person around you. Might become even more quiet as I can totally understand your aunts communication barriers due to hearing loss. If you want to know or talk more shoot me an email. Best wishes always!!

  2. "Some people do not have a clue about what they are doing and other people may miss or ignore this fact." OH YES, this is a great lesson to learn in life. Then, you learn that "success" can be due to all kinds of things in life, not just direct talent.