Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not better, but different

I have written about this before: the proposition that having lived in the world of childhood cancer with my daughter, that I will be a better minister.

Almost as soon as she was diagnosed, some person made that point. "Gee," this person said, "I know this is absolutely awful, but ... (the significant pause of one who feels they are saying something profound) ... this will make you a better minister."

Well, piss on that, I thought at the time.

It's been a difficult thing for me to work my way through, as I had to get past my maternal emotions -- I don't want to benefit, or the world to benefit, in any way from my baby daughter getting cancer! -- and my confusion as I tried to reason it all out:

a) There was something deficient in you before that only childhood cancer could fix
b) A person who has experienced childhood cancer is inherently a better ministerial prospect than someone who hasn't

Both of which I reject.

And yet ... life gives us experiences. I don't believe they happen for a reason, but I do believe we should pay attention to all the accompanying lessons they bring.

Have I learned anything from my child having cancer twice? Um, 1097 lessons at last count.

You know how someone can say, or write, something very simple that puts it all in place? Well, of course you do. That's one of the beauties of our religion and a reason why I loved our old "Church of Myrtle" ads. (Wasn't it Myrtle? I can't remember her name.)

Anyway, the New York Times has an article today about M.D. Anderson cancer hospital. One of the patients they talk to is a doctor who had cancer. He debated this same concept, was he a better doctor for having had cancer?

“Then I realized I am not better, but I am a different doctor,”
he said.

And I thought, Yup.


ms. kitty said...

I just read that article too, LE, and was profoundly moved. The doc you mention said a mouthful---not better but different, more open perhaps to the experience of others.

ogre said...


Not better, different.

New eyes. Different eyes. A perspective. Insight.

Earthbound Spirit said...

Different, yes. I have a different perspective, a deeper appreciation for certain things, and an ability to connect with certain people. OTOH my experiences have colored my biases in ways that will affect my ministry in negative ways as well. Everything we experience makes us unique, be it cancer, or any other challenge.