Friday, February 18, 2011

The Complaint Department

 But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he will hear my voice.
Psalm 55:16, 17 New Revised Standard Version

Early in my life, I somehow got the idea that I wasn’t to bother God with my little concerns. I had been taught that God cared about the sparrows, that I was to cast all my care on God. I knew people who prayed not only for the sick but also for a parking space or a pair of nylons without a run in them. These prayers seemed to me beneath God’s dignity. There was also the matter of my father, who occasionally threatened, “If you want to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about.” The Bible said God was a father; if God were like my father, and I complained about my lot—a test, a bad cold, a zit—might not God give me something to really complain about? At least that’s how I reconstruct the thinking of my younger self.
            I became very adept at my little game with God. I managed to split my reality from my doctrinal beliefs, which said that God knew everything. So when I prayed, I didn’t bring up my pain, physical or emotional. I figured God gave me a brain, and I should use it to solve my own problems, leaving God free to deal with big stuff like world hunger.
            This passage indicates that God does not weary of our complaining and moaning. The psalmist writes of three times daily lamenting before God, and of being heard. Cancer brings loads of material for the complaint department: physical pain and discomfort; loss of hair, dignity, or income; decreasing time for necessary and pleasurable tasks. In addition, there are the fears about our very survival and our economic situation.
            I’m still more prone to pray for others than for my own needs. It feels selfish to go repeatedly to God moaning because I have another test coming up. (Now, facing medical tests, I wouldn’t mind a college blue book exam!) When I observe my friends in the cancer world, I see people who have had serious recurrences and surgeries. Always, it seems that someone else is worse off and needs prayer far more than I do.
            I can count on the prayers of other people; I have friends who regularly mention my heath and general well-being to God. Yet when I’m overwhelmed, it’s a relief to know I don’t have to hide behind a facade of cheerfulness when I pray. I can tell God the truth, not just because God already knows, but because God cares.

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