When I first became ill I talked and wrote about it with my Christian friends. And I watched as the two Christian forums I participated on quickly responded in a singular way, “I’ll pray for you” while at the SAME TIME, talking, emailing and communicating with me less.
Yes, Christianity doesn’t know how to deal with disability. And they didn't know what to say so they said nothing at all. Do you know what that sounds like someone going to tests every day: silence. In not more than a few months I was mostly housebound (without Linda’s assistance), and yet had no one to email or PM, had no Christian church which I could reach or would accommodate me. Yet, all of them would “pray for me.” as a response when I approached (after a few times of that, you realize it is the ultimate conversation defense, they don't need to know anything about you, aren't even asking but they "care" so please GO AWAY!)
I AM a Christian so I have nothing against prayer, it is just I never expected “I’ll pray for you” to be synonymous with, “I am about to sever all communication with you.” And indeed since then I have noticed that for some people, people with ample availability to do more “pray for you” actually came with a pride in their apparent helplessness ("sorry, dedicated to the XXXXX Ministry, I leave this in our loving Father's hands").
For those who don’t know the story of Jesus after “the last supper” Jesus went up to a garden taking with him three of his closest friends. Why? Because he knew he was to be in pain, and soon die and was scared. He went up and prayed, crying and so depressed that he wished to die and when done returned to find his friends….asleep. With a certain anger and desperation he said, “Can’t you even stay awake with me for one hour?” Now THAT, was Jesus’ prayer to his friends. A prayer saying “be with me, comfort me.”
I went on one Christian board and said, in plain terms that I was in pain. That I was scared and right then what I did NOT need was a lot of people saying “I’ll pray for you.” I BEGGED for support, anything from human contact, to emails; some sign that I was not alone, that my fear and pain were not to be carried alone.
The response was over thirty people writing “I’ll pray for you” or posing a “praying icon” or posting some creepy “My Father has his hands on you” message. For able bodied Christian music singing group, I couldn't get enough company. For my body ripping itself apart? Alone.
Then I got the terminal diagnosis. And the word “miracle” came up. I’ll pray for you, I’ll pray for a “miracle.”
And you know, if you are a person who is housebound and have a chronic condition and all you can do is email me to say you are thinking of me and that you are praying for me; that’s is GREAT. If you come to this blog, which is for people to read and you choose to post that you are worried for me or love me or pray for me, that is ACTION. That is not stepping AWAY from me while washing your hands because you “prayed.” That is not openly ACKNOWLEDGING that I am in pain, afraid and going to die while you are going to sit back and watch, watch for a “miracle.” Even God herself got SICK of people acting this way and talked repeatedly about it, in Isaiah, in Hosea 6:6; No more empty sacrifices, God pleads, but ‘mercy’, love for each other (or in God shorthand, "What the FUCK is wrong with you people, you treat each other horridly and then come to me expecting me to fix it and try to bribe your way into my love.....you SICK FUCKS!").
Even Jesus repeated (from Isaiah), that people “come near me with their mouth….but their hearts are far from me.” So when God says that God is tired of empty prayers, what do I feel about those whose hearts, bodies, attention, compassion and memory are FAR from me. Again, repeating, if you commented that you are praying for me, I am not attacking you. I am thankful. But beyond that, perhaps I am the thorn in your mind because quite honestly, those who are least able to reciprocate are often those who NEED it the most, from a card, to an email, to a phone call. Is there really no one you know that needs to hear that they still matter, that someone out there is thinking of them?
I was going to tell you a story or two about my virtue in visiting those who others forgot. Blah blah. But I want to tell you a BIGGER story, I want to explain to you about a miracle. See, that’s the great opt out these days, to wait for God to deliver the “miracle.” And yet, if you read the accounts of miracles, they were mundane. Jesus’ first was because a wedding ran out of wine. Then there was Jesus needed to get to where his friends were (so he walked on water to get a boat - then made someone else walk on water because.....they wanted to); there was giving lunch to someone who was hungry. Yup, that’s it, someone was hungry and Jesus fed them (and a few friends). But that was a miracle.
So when a person, before heading out for their night on the town and prepping for their weekend in NY to see the shows posts on some Christian board that “gosh, too bad, I’ll be praying for a miracle.” I think of a woman with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome who when I felt most alone, felt most abandoned SENT me a miracle: a package which was a cornucopia of little things from buttons to CD’s which said, “You MATTER.” THAT was a miracle. I have had many miracles this year, most from people I never met, from cards to gift baskets telling me that I was NOT alone. When I needed a phone because my hands were having problems pushing the buttons, one arrived: THAT was a miracle (I bet you thought I forgot – the “I” right now might have but I wrote it down, so that I would always remember). And I have tried to pass it on. A miracle is a card arriving in a sucky week; it is someone listening and hearing and acting. That is a miracle. When someone says, "you need me, just call", THAT is a miracle. These are “miracles” coming from people who have chronic conditions and/or families, who have their own issues they struggle with. These aren't from people sitting around, no these are people struggling too. Which is why I am OBLIGATED to act, to pass on what I have learned...from them.
Jesus told his followers that when he comes back he will say, “Thank you for that drink when I was thirsty,” “Thank you for the food when I was hungry.” And people will say, “When did we do that?” And he replied, "Every time you do it for the LEAST in society.” I think a lot of us realize that we have slipped, in our Health and Wealth Western Worship into that status.
So this is a message for the several dozen/hundred Christians who wrote me off, to all my ex-friends and relatives in blood only who are in a hurry on their way to church (or a coffee house, which seems a North American equivilent). I am the closest you may ever meet on earth of Jesus the Christ, the person you follow. No, not because I am wise, or immortal but because I have asked, like Jesus, “Can you not BE with me for a time” while I was scared, and while in or facing pain. And if you are waiting for God to do something, passing the buck with a “we’re praying and hoping for a miracle” I will tell you. Miracles happen to me all the time, but YOU are not part of them, prayers are answered all the time, but YOU are not part of them. In fact, it seems you are part of nothing.
This week a woman snuck my racing chair at her facility to fix what BC wheelchair racing Ass. had left unworkable and fucked. She did it on the sly and her and her techs were happy to get me so I could wheel the chair up the driveway and arrive back with a smile. While I off testing and wheeling with gusto if not accuracy, she said to Linda that she wanted to help me do what I so clearly wanted, “to LIVE until I die.”
She offered. She answered a prayer, she and her team performed a miracle. I know, I remember. She went home having made a difference in someone’s life…mine. The person who offered an empty “Yeah, heard you were sick or something…..pray for ya!” – they just wasted half a breath and 10 seconds of their life. I guess the question is who you want to emulate. I know who I am trying to emulate, who I am trying to repay, who I am trying to “be there” for as much as I can. Sure, I fall, I fail, but I hope that before MY end, I can “be with” a few people for an hour, for their hour of need or fear or being alone.
On nights of extreme pain or when I wonder if I will make it through the night, I say to Linda, “Pray for me.” And she holds my hand. I am sure she prays too, I don’t ask. I just know that she doesn’t grunt a “yup” and roll over. She holds my hand.
Miracles happen everyday....when you are able....be part of one.
16 hours ago