Haircuts and Anniversaries

I have a haircut coming up with Bledi-with-Scizzors. Bledi has been my hairstylist for at least fourteen years now, which is ridiculous. By now he owns the salon, and I’ve had three jobs since we met at Starbucks. Also by now we’re comfortable enough with each other that sometimes he will tell me what he thinks I should have done to my hair, and I will tell him I don’t care what he thinks or if it’s stylish, I just want long hair. But sometimes I get bored with the long hair (recently, I just haven’t had the patience to dry it–or the time, because we moved and my commute in the morning is 15 minutes longer). And so, when contemplating my upcoming haircut, I thought, “I think it’s time to get my occasional bob.”

Also because it’s October. If I ever get a bob haircut, it’s in October. There are two reasons for this: 1) By October it’s cold enough here I don’t feel the need to pull my hair off my neck in a ponytail; while I like to braid my hair in the summer. 2) October (appropriately, as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month) is when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had my hair cut in a bob to take an incremental psychological step toward readiness for shaving my head for chemo. Then I didn’t end up needing chemo, but sometimes I still get my hair lopped off in October.

2008 cancer haircut

I was thinking about this the other week, which is why I suddenly remembered that today is the tenth–tenth–anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I don’t often talk about my cancer because honestly, most of the time I feel like a “fake” cancer survivor, since, at the end of the day, it wasn’t really that bad for me. I had surgery and radiation, but no chemo. I had to take a hormone suppressant which gave me migraines with which I still struggle. I went back and read the relevant blogposts from my Original Blog and discovered that at the time, I really was pretty freaked out and it was a tough process emotionally–but it also was a pretty quick one, relatively speaking, and I had some amazing support around me.

Meanwhile, I have a friend who’s still trying to recover after a year of harrowing treatment, and another friend who has had cancers of various types at least 11 times. (I’ve probably lost count, I’m ashamed to say. It may have been more, at this point–but I hope not.) Also another friend was diagnosed within the last year; her diagnosis sounded really similar to mine, but she does need chemo, and she has a husband and two little boys and the chemo is doing a number on her. Stories like these brave women’s make me sad, and also make me uncomfortable about publicly celebrating the fact that I have basically been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and officially so for five years now.

On the other hand–I’ve been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and that’s ten years. And while I don’t understand why the above, and other, friends of mine haven’t gotten through their diagnoses as easily as I was able to get through mine, and while it would be ungracious of me (particularly since I had nothing to do with it) to brag about it, it would also be ungrateful of me not to note and celebrate it. I don’t take my cancer-freedom for granted. I know I could get it again. But I haven’t yet, and I’m deeply thankful. And so, in honor of my diagnosis and celebration of my current freedom from it, I’ll be pampering myself next Friday–and getting a haircut.

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Shall I Receive Evil at the Hand of God and not Good, Also?

Theology Thursday

Potter's HandsAlert readers will realise that title is not really how the Bible verse goes.

Job has just had all the good things of his life ripped away from him, and his wife (who, debatably, might not have been one of those good things) counsels him to “curse God and die.” Job, having been fairly newly–and excessively–bereaved, nevertheless says to her,

Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Later on, after being browbeaten some more by his unimaginative friends, Job maybe doesn’t quite curse God and he certainly doesn’t die, but he just as certainly gets really ticked off at the injustice of his circumstances, and he lets God know this unequivocally.

We could analyse the book of Job and protest that he was treated unfairly and point out sagely that the really unjust piece of the story is that God never even tells Job about the wager between Himself and the Accuser, and we might be right or we might be wrong, but right this second I just want to talk about Job’s question to his wife: Shall we receive good from God’s hand and then reject the bad times when He brings them instead?

Last week in class we talked about whether or not God was inherently and completely good, and our professor pointed out other passages in the Bible outside of this Job one, where it states that God “creates evil” or even “does evil,” even though elsewhere (sometimes in the self-same books, even) God is described as completely good and having no evil within Himself. I don’t believe these statements necessarily contradict each other or are mutually exclusive, but I do think they can bring up a huge load of questions, including all of the “Why me, God?” (or “Why not me, God?” depending on the scenario) ones. If we’re suddenly giving God the responsibility for the unpleasantness of our lives, those questions seem really well-justified. But I have another question.

I used to have an atheist friend who had an ex-wife who was, out of spite, going to prevent him from refinancing his house by refusing to sign certain papers to remove her from being a part of the proceedings or something. My friend was stressed and grumpy about his ex-wife’s hardheadedness and hardheartedness, but completely confident in it. There was absolutely nothing on earth that could change this woman’s mind, evidently, and he knew it. He also, as was his wont, used this as yet another nail in the coffin he was constructing for God. I, on the other hand, thought I knew differently, so I prayed that his ex-wife would sign the papers.

The next time I talked to this friend, his ex-wife had signed the papers. He couldn’t explain it. I thought I could. “I prayed for her,” I said, thinking, Surely he has to acknowledge God’s presence now . . . at least a little bit?

And he did get quiet for a minute, but then he said, “Why would God show me grace through my ***** of an ex-wife, instead of through you when you’ve been trying to preach to me about Him for so long?”

I wanted to bash my head against a wall–and maybe bash his head against one, too. First of all–why wouldn’t God do that? Who really cares who the instrument of God’s grace is, as long as the grace is delivered? In my experience, God prefers to utilise the unlikely in His plans. This seemed like a signature God-move to me, but maybe this friend of mine, who was so intent on not-believing, wouldn’t have known that. Second–God did show grace through me (also unlikely), because I prayed about it and He answered it–and then allowed me to be there to interpret the answer. I guess He hadn’t guaranteed that even the interpretation would be understood, though.

It was this interaction, and many others like it, both with this friend and a few others like him, that made me start reversing Job’s question in my head. I wasn’t simply reversing it in self-righteous judgment of my doubting friends. I was reversing it because of my long-term tendency to blame God when things go wrong, myself, and my equally long-term inexperience with gratitude to God for the things that go right.

Should I receive evil at the hand of God and not good also?

By which I mean–if I believe God is sovereign, maybe it’s fair to say God is somehow in or connected to even the situations I find unbearable, though it may not be in the way that it immediately seems. This is something that I need to work out, surely–and something I may still get in God’s face about from time to time because I haven’t yet learned how to be that malleable lump of clay that He can make into something beautiful. However, if God is in some way attached to the difficulties in my life, how much more is He responsible for the good in it?

I’m pretty sure God can handle my rants, but what I suspect is unjustifiable are all those times I rant at Him for the “bad” things (which quite often turn out all right anyway) and take the good things for granted. When it comes right down to it, it’s the good things which should take me by surprise–not because God isn’t good, but because I’m not:

Ranting or not, I rebel against God every day. And this isn’t a question of simple obedience or disobedience. This is about insurrection–about a created being trying in little ways to usurp the role of an entirely different kind of being–and uncreated one–the only Uncreated One. I highly doubt God is threatened by my feeble but stubborn attempts; nevertheless, trying to be something I’m not and trying to take over a role I cannot fill can’t be good for any relationship, not least the relationship with the One I’m trying to become. I don’t deserve the good I receive from God. But He still gives it and gives it and gives it, and it’s pretty arrogantly foolish for me not both to receive it and to thank Him for it.

I suspect, the more I grow in gratitude, the more beautiful and useful He will make me. And that is a good in itself.

Ready for service?

Ready for service?

Yay!

I’m not sure if it’s a function of thinking too much or what, but as a self-described hopeful cynic, I have a little trouble with that attitude of gratitude that some less complicated (or maybe more spiritually faithful) souls often enjoin. The cynical part of me is always looking for the downside of things so as not to be taken by surprise, and even the hopeful part of me is always looking future-ward, which isn’t necessarily bad but does kind of lead to some blind spots about current blessings, sometimes.

Yesterday, for those of us in the United States of America, was Thanksgiving Day, a holiday which I recently heard someone describe as “the most American of holidays.” I might, on a day when I’m not trying not to be cynical (like tomorrow), write a post about why this is and isn’t an apt descriptor, but one reason it might be is that I’m pretty sure almost every American celebrates it, no matter what religion they espouse, and even whether they believe in God or not. And . . . I like it. I should probably (make that definitely) be more consciously and overtly thankful than I am, but I like that there’s at least one day a year that affords anyone who wants to take it with the opportunity to consider that they’re blessed, and articulate it.
And so . . . here are some of my things I’m thanking God for (since I do believe in God), in no particular order and off the top of my head:
I’m thankful that:
1. even though I crashed my flawless Nissan at the beginning of the year, I got another one quickly that does a decent job of getting me from point A to point B and even fits most teenagers for youth group outings.
2. I have (and still have) a job.
3. said job still keeps me interested.
4. I get to work with such a great group of teens, growing group of elementary aged kids, and stellar team of adult volunteers.
5. I am a part of the Women’s Bible study at Now Church.
6. I’ve had three super-fun visits with the BroFam this year.
7. we have family closeness, even if not geographically.
8. I have parents who give a constant example of gracious self-sacrifice.
9. I met The Boyfriend, and that the Matchmaker helped make this possible, humanly speaking.
10. Oscar and The Boyfriend’s dog get along and Oscar doesn’t have the chronic tummy trouble he used to have.
11. The Boyfriend’s and my friendship and relationship is growing and deepening. And also we go on hikes and watch Dr Who.
12. This is the 100th blog post on this blog.
13. The Readership.
14. Friends all over the world.
There’s more stuff, of course. But that’s enough for a blog. I just hope I keep saying thanks, even when no one can see it.