Maybe you’re like me (God help you!) and have been blessed/cursed with an analytical, left-brained, sequential mind that never turns off. If so, the desire to “make sense of things” is going to be high on your “to-do” list. And when suffering invades your life, that great logical brain that we live out of is going to go into overdrive playing continual rounds of the classic game, “Let’s figure this out!”
It’s a wonderful game based (very) loosely on the 1987 action-adventure film “Masters of the Universe,” starring Dolph Lundgren as “He-Man.” He-Man went on to become “a tremendously physically powerful male action figure in a dynamic and powerful Battle Action Stance.” Boy, I wish someone could say that about me! Look at that guy! Full of testosterone (yes, I hate him) and a “let’s kick some ass and solve this problem” attitude.
In contrast, I went in last Friday for my 3 month “anti-man” injection that is supposed to be starving my cancer (maybe, but I have my doubts). After the nurse called my name and I stepped forward, she said, “I thought this was for you.” I asked her why and she said softly, “Because of your skin. All the men on this treatment have such beautiful skin.” “You mean,” I replied, ” like a woman’s skin? Soft and rounded?” She just smiled and said she found it attractive. Bleh. Keep your skin, ma’am. Just give me my testosterone back, please.
I want to be He-Man, the master of my universe! If not physically, at least mentally. I want to make things right or at the very least figure things out! I want the damn answers – if not to change my circumstances, at least to understand them (yes, I have control issues – don’t comment about this, please). I am spewing questions like a volcano. Get close enough to me and I’ll shower you with blazing hot verbiage. My wife calls it babbling; I call it processing. Here’s how Victor Frankl, a survivor of a Nazi death camp, explains it in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning,
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
There you go, Victor! Let’s get some why’s answered so I (and my wife) can sleep at night! Let’s figure this craziness out! Why, after more than 60,000 injections of insulin to keep me alive (I’ve also been a type I diabetic since I was 10 years old), have I now contracted terminal prostate cancer at 55 years of age? Yeah, we could start there.
Lately, I have been on a sequential path in the game, trying to piece together the steps that may have led to my diagnosis. My brain does contortions trying to figure out what I could have done differently to prevent the world from crashing down upon my head (before you comment, yes, I had my PSA tested every year for 5 years before all this craziness happened, and to this day my prostate gland appears normal with a clear biopsy (lots of fun!) that stamped “cancer-free” on the side of it).
I’ve been a good boy and this is the thanks I get?
Thinking you deserve something good in this world and then getting something horribly different is an ugly way to play this game, I’ve learned. It paralyzes you with anger, depression and rage. Trust me. And then there is blame. Did I mention blame? This version of the game is called “If only you had . . . .” You can finish the sentence for me with dozens of helpful thoughts. But let’s not play these versions of the game right now, ok? Maybe later we can talk about them. But not now. I am spewing enough as it is.
Here’s a crazy idea to consider, though. What if there are no answers? I don’t mean that in the absolute sense. But more along the lines of the answers not being available to us. Now why would God, if there is a God, place us in a world where there are more questions than answers?
A part from the purpose of driving sequential, logical, left-brained people like me criminally insane, I wonder if it goes back to creation. He gave us so much then. Everything, actually. Only one thing He required of us: “Not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” If I had been Adam in that context, I would have queried, “Umm, okay God, but why not?’ An innocent, simple question that could have been answered by an omniscient Being in a sentence or less, I’m sure. But to this day, this question ultimately goes unanswered. Why rig a newly created universe with a test?
Without getting any explanation, we succumbed to the temptation from which all other temptations gain their strength. We became our own gods. We wanted knowledge more than the opportunity to trust. We wanted answers in order to not need a recalcitrant God. And ever since that day, we have been overwhelmed by life. Trying to understand it, fix it, make it work and figure it out so we can be our own Masters of the Universe, this time with the knowledge to do it right – still without God.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating resigned passivity in the face of evil. I want a cure for prostate cancer! Some of you reading this are scientists and doctors whose work has helped and is helping keep me alive. Please don’t stop! I am also not suggesting ignorance when the world is glistening and gleaming, inviting us to learn of its complexities and mysteries. Instead, I am suggesting, dare I say it, humility.
Humility is that attitude of the heart that sees being overwhelmed by life as a quiet, yet gracious, invitation to stop our clamoring and trust our Creator (if you even believe in such a thing) when nothing makes sense and there are no answers available or forthcoming. Frankly, I have very mixed feelings about embracing this character quality. I hate the idea of having to trust Someone other than myself.
But I hate even more playing, “Let’s figure this out” and losing every time.
“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out – perhaps a little at a time.’
And how long is that going to take?’
I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.’
That could be a long time.’
I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.”
~ Wendell Barry, Jayber Crow
Mercy to each of us,