Word of the Week

"Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing." --Linda Hogan

Last August I found myself in a situation where I needed to have emergency surgery.

I'd gotten a bacteria infection so intense that it required a major surgical procedure to remove the tumor. The doctor told me there was a chance I could have cancer. A couple hours in the operating room and a of inches of an incision later, the nightmare was over. Three days later I learned that I did not have cancer. I am happy to say that I have fully recovered and feel great now, if not better. 

But there is one thing that lingers because of the whole ordeal and that is a large scar. 

I see it every day when I dress, when I shower. It's a reminder of the horror that was August 23, 2013. 

ThoughI thought I wouldn't care if I had a scar, the more I looked at it in the months following the surgery, the more I hated it. 

Such was a reminder to me of an ugly and unexplainable chapter in my story. "Why really do I have to look at it EVERY day?" I protested to Kevin one night. 

My problem solving husband replied, "Well do something about it!"

The next day, I went to a drug store in search of scar removal creams. I talked to the pharmanist and picked out what I thought was the best one. I began using it faithfully twice a day.

But while doing research for a sermon one afternoon, I ran across the Hogan quote:

"Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing." --Linda Hogan

Such wisdom went against everything I'd ever thought or heard about scars. 

So, then maybe my perspective needed to be altered.

What if I looked at the scar and remembered how much better I felt because of the surgery?

What if I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the doctor who diagnosed me and took care of me?

What I remembered the healing both physical and spiritual that took place in me from this ordeal?

Such was a much more helpful train of thought. Being healed, you see, is something to be celebrated, not covered up! 

The human body is quite amazing, isn't it?  And the surgery I had last August probably won't be the last one I have! Our body truly wants to get well and stay well but sometimes in the process scars remain. 

Join me today in  thanking God for healing . . . thanking  God for second chances at life . . .  and  thanking God for the fact that even in our darkest hour we can get better and have marks to remember how far we've come! 

The book of Ecclesiastes opens in this way:

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

The word meaningless seems to go against everything we've heard about spiritual formation, doesn't it?

In classes, sermons and lectures, we read passages of sacred texts and we are asked to make meaning of them.

I can't remember a Sunday School class I've attended when there was not a "life application" section of the discussion.

I can't remember a workshop I've attended where I wasn't asked to report at the end "what I learned today."

I can't remember a time when I haven't been that person who doesn't try to make sense out of everything that happens to me.

Furthermore, how can everything be meaningless? Is this really in the Bible? We might wonder . . .

Well, the past several weeks I've stuck close to meaninglessness even though it seems to go against every meaning-making fiber in my teacher, preacher and writer self.

Because sometimes life just doesn't make sense. Sometimes our "everything happens for a reason" mantras lead us to a God that seems cruel and incompatible with everything else we know about the Divine. Sometimes meaning doesn't come. And we need to keep living life anyway.

When I was in the ER for the first time during my whole surgery ordeal, I started thinking that I should remember all the details of being wheeled down a long hallway for a CT scan.

I told myself I should notice what color the walls were, what the air smelled like, how the lighting fell on my bed and so on-- all the details that my writing brain could use to help make meaning of the situation later. Isn't this what my best writing teachers had prepared me to do in this very moment?

But then I stopped myself. I simply couldn't think like that. I couldn't make meaning.

Will there come a day when I want to make meaning of this situation and other puzzling situations in my life? Maybe.

But my point is that I've learned that we don't always have to.

Ecclesiastes is a wisdom book after all.

It's a book written by a person who I can imagine saw with his own eyes some of the worst of life's troubles. It's a book written by a person who I can imagine looked life's horrors in the face and desperately wanted to find purpose. And, as much as he wanted to throw a "everything happens for a reason" band-aid on life, he couldn't. He couldn't because he needed to tell the truth.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

It frustrates me that we in the church and the larger spiritual community cling to linear thinking to the decree that we're kept from the deeper waters of faith. The deeper waters called the unknown.

We say, "Oh it was so sad that X happened . . . but look what blessing came afterwards!" (As if to assign meaning to devastating and senseless tragedies)

Sure, life has its ebbs and flows. Most human lives have both good and bad on their plates at some point along in the journey. But who are we to say that we always know that X happened so that Y could occur?

Some situations of life can be meaningless.

Meaninglessness is not a reason to plunge into despair, however. Meaninglessness, I am learning is a gift for contentment.

When we come to realize that not every experience in life has to be seen as a puzzle piece that leads to enlightenment right away, then peace of what is can find us.

We call a spade a spade: meaningless. And, then we move on.

After all, didn't the Ecclesiastes writer go on to say this:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens

Meaninglessness is not the whole story.