Disclaimer: This is not a light-hearted post. It’s heavy and I apologize in advance.
May 1, 2004 was the beginning of a year major changes in my family marked by tragedies. It was also a catalyst for my walk away from the term, “Christian.”
I was walking around at “Do Dah Day,” a local festival when I received a phone call from my dad. Dad didn’t make many phone calls so I knew something had to be wrong. He asked is if I was with friends and after I told him I was, the next words out of his mouth made everything around me stand still. “Son, your brother Mark just died.” “Wait, what? Seriously?” I couldn’t form sentences. The next few days were and are still a blur. My 43-year-old brother went out to mow his grass and unexpectedly collapsed to his death.
Needless to say, I had numerous questions for God. The main one being, “Why?” I was sad and upset that my brother, my friend was gone. I was angry and disillusioned with God because my brother, my friend was gone. I couldn’t understand how a 43 year old could just drop dead. No matter how hard or how much I talked to and questioned God, I never got an answer to my question of why this had happened.
Just a few months after the death of my brother, at a family meeting, my parents informed us that mom had cancer and it seemed to be an aggressive form. You see she had already beaten cancer once but now it was back with a vengeance and had spread.
At the beginning of 2005 we were “settling in” to our new normal of mom living with cancer and us less one brother. I received another phone call, this time from my brother in-law. Mom had fallen and was being taken to the hospital with a possible broken hip. I immediately left work and went to Russellville Hospital to be with her and my family. After an examination the doctor confirmed the broken hip and explained the options to mom to determine how to proceed.
Option one: Surgery to try to repair the hip. If that’s successful, she MAY get back to some semblance of normal. The downside was that it might not be successful and she could be confined to a wheelchair. The doctor also informed us that considering her health and age, surgery was a risk and she might not make it through.
Option two: Don’t have surgery and basically be guaranteed to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair or be confined to a bed.
The decision was left to mom and she opted for surgery and made it through but was never able to walk again. I never saw my mom on her feet again.
Another risk that I’m not sure was explained is that if cancer is exposed to oxygen (say during surgery) the growth and spread of this disease from hell is accelerated. This is exactly what happened.
Mom was confined to bed and her health deteriorated rapidly.
My family has always relied on God. I’ve never seen 2 people more committed to God than my parents. We prayed continually for mom’s healing. Churches across the state and country prayed for her. We surrounded her with love and prayers. But she wasn’t improving.
Her bed was in the living room and when I would spend the night, I would hear her crying and screaming in pain. I prayed harder. Nothing changed. Again, I questioned God. I couldn’t understand why this woman, my mom, who was dedicated and committed to serving God and had done so for many, many years could be in pain and He did nothing.
Then it happened on April 12, 2005. I packed my car to go visit mom and my family again, but this time was different. I knew that I wouldn’t come home without attending mom’s funeral. That day, shortly after 3:00 pm, mom left us.
Sad, angry and depressed, I didn’t want to deal with it. I went to work because I had to but that’s all I could do. I honestly don’t know how I functioned.
About a month after mom’s funeral I received an email from a “friend” in Texas I had met at a conference here in Birmingham. Among other things, she informed me that if I and my family, along with mom had more faith, then mom would have been healed and would still have been alive. Just let that sink in. My mom was dead because we didn’t have enough faith? How could someone say that? I won’t go into what my response to her was but suffice it to say, there were no pleasantries in my email.
I could not believe that as I was in pain after experiencing the worst year of my life including losing my brother and my mother that a so-called “Christian” would tell me, in the love and name of Jesus that my mom was dead because we didn’t have enough faith. Not only was I angry with God, but I was furiously angry with His followers.
This was the day that I decided I did not want to carry or be associated with the term, label, nomenclature, identity (choose your word) of “Christian.”
There’s more to this story.
It gets better.
Stay tuned as we continue this journey.