“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.”–Madeleine L’Engle
Sometimes people ask me outright and others wonder behind me about my pursuit of any kind of better health in the face of great risk and staggering cost to my family. This fight has also begged your own love for us over and over again. I could stop. I could curl up here in suffering and not battle anymore. I am fully aware I may even live longer if I did this. The law of averages suggests something will eventually go wrong in one of my surgeries or treatments. Here’s the thing. I don’t want to live long and not well. Because of my recent plasmapheresis treatment I have the opportunity to grab a few more months of sweet moments with my family and friends and do real work on finishing my book before a relapse or another vertebrae slips into my spinal cord. I am determined. I will TASTE and SEE the Lord is good, and I will tell about it.
While waiting at the hospital for my tunneled catheter to be removed on Wednesday my dad pulled out a book he was beginning to read. He didn’t just suggest it to me in passing. He opened it up to have me read specific treasures he had underlined. My reading life is an entirely different post for another time. Suffice it to say two thirds of most my days are spent reading or writing. I typically read books twice. The first time through is for comprehension and the second for underlining, page flagging and copying beautiful or meaningful passages into a journal or a file on my computer. I also write in the margins. I know I began this practice because of my dad. For as long as I can remember he has always read with a little plastic ruler and a black pen in his hand. The book was The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts by Joe Rigney. In those few moments of his sharing a few key passages and our discussing them I knew I needed this book. Thanks to the wonders of Amazon Prime it arrived late Friday afternoon. I read late into the night.
Much of the wisdom refutes an ugly root of guilt I feel when experiencing good things and especially when producing something that might be considered good by others. I can only explain this as a seed of rogue theology planted in childhood that overemphasized self denial as an unbalanced path to godliness. Happiness need not apply. Joe talks about this uncomfortable tension between dying to self while maintaining a right relationship with the temporal world around us and the very real danger of idolatry as we approach earthly things, but he shores it up with this truth.
“Given the persistence of this threat to true worship of God, one way to address idolatry is to seek to thin out creation, to hold it loosely like a hot potato, and to be wary of its delights and pleasures. We recognize the potency of God’s gifts, so we tread lightly, sticking to the shadows and refusing to plunge into the ocean of earthly pleasures . . . Christians need to be reminded of the goodness of God’s creation and God’s approval of it for our joy.”
Saturday I was blessed to take my Danica and my niece to see Disney’s Frozen on Ice. We bought three tickets back in September when they went on sale. It was our Christmas gift to Danica. Making any kind of future plans is a high stakes gamble for our family. One of the specific goals of my recent treatment was to be well enough to follow through on this. Originally Dan and I planned to go with Danica. The below zero temperatures and snow and ice had me doubting I could physically get ready, ride all the way to Cleveland, park and walk in the frigid cold, be exposed to all that this kind of event necessitates and then make it back to the car and home. Dan offered to drive and drop us at the door and pick us up when it was over. This enabled our niece to come along. It was something rare and special for her and Danica to share together. As I settled in our seats I pulled Danica close and kissed her on the head. I broke down in tears. I was living. I was sharing something oh so good with my girl. No guilt. This was straight from the hand of my Father who delights in lavishing us with blessings. After reading the book the night before I felt free to revel in every detail of this experience.
Sunday morning I had brunch with three beautiful friends I rarely see at The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls. I am a former foodie whose love of God’s imagination when it comes to the possibilities of what we can choose as nourishment runs deep. I’ve had this recommended spot on my two year “40 before forty” list for over a year. (I turn forty in November. I have serious living to do before then.) I ordered house made spaetzle sauteed with a medley of roasted Kumbocha squash, Brussels sprouts, leeks and button mushrooms with a cave aged Gruyere cream and a poached egg. Eating this meal was like worship. Not worship of the food but immense gratitude and praise for the people, the place, the ingredients and the chef’s creativity in combining them and cooking them.
Both the pageantry of the musical ice show and the brilliant combination of ingredients God made are examples of human beings reflecting the image of God. They both inspire me to praise and a more Godward heart. Robert Farrar Capon wrote in The Supper of The Lamb: A Culinary Reflection:
Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers? Why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is an outlandish place, a session in via to a better version of itself–and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We are given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.
Both of these pleasures would not have been possible without my recent plasmapheresis. This is why I fight over and over again. This is why my emotional response to the enjoyment of seemingly normal things borders on embarrassing. This is why my family and I humble ourselves as receivers of good things from your hearts and hands in the midst of continued suffering and loss.
As Joe ends “The Things of Earth” he writes this:
To be a creature is to be a receiver . . . So embrace your creatureliness. Don’t seek to be God. Instead embrace the glorious limitations and boundaries that God has placed on you as a character in His story. May the Father of lights, who knows how to give good gifts to His children, teach you the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need, being brought low or being raised up. May He grant you the grace to do all things, receive all good things, lose all good things and endure all hard things through Christ who gives you strength.
Do you have guilt or spiritual angst when you receive good things from God? If you lose good things or experience suffering do you equate this with a change of your Heavenly Father’s heart toward you?
I am giving away a copy of Joe’s book. To enter please comment here on the blog with some thoughts about tasting and seeing good. In your comment mention where you shared. Each social media share is an extra entry. I will randomly choose a winner at midnight Friday, January 16th.