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Language Matters

Disclaimer I:   This is not intended to dismiss someone’s experience.  Just some reflections  following a conversation with another about health and "God is good".

Disclaimer II:   "God" reference in this post is of one's own individual understanding; not in a religious context.

I am coming through a 7-month cancer journey supporting and loving my mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This, however, is not my first cancer journey with a parent.   Thirty-two years ago this very month, my father died at the age of 50 from a 15 month cancer journey with lymphoma.

When my mom was first diagnosed last October, I found myself saying  mom was “battling” or “fighting” cancer.  However, that changed when I realized what if she doesn’t “win” the battle?  Does that mean she didn’t fight hard enough?   That she wasn’t worthy of being healed?   That we didn’t pray hard enough for God’s healing?   That is when I started to pay more attention to the language I used and calling mom’s life circumstance a cancer journey; because that’s what it was.   She was on a journey living with cancer in her body and we as her family were on that journey with her.

During one conversation after mom’s double mastectomy, someone said to me, “God is good!”   Anyone that knows me, knows that I have had my skepticism around organized religion through the years and have searched long and hard for what God means for me.   My relationship with God is simple.  When I am in question, I ask myself “What would Jesus do in this situation” and typically find my answer.   Meditation has also helped me tap into my inner strength and connect with a power greater than myself during these very challenging and emotional months.

In thinking about the use of language, “God is good” when singing praises for positive things I can comprehend.  However, if the outcome isn’t positive, like there is cancer in the lymph nodes or the cancer has metastasized.  Do we still respond with “God is good”?   Or do we question God and think maybe God isn’t good?  Or maybe my mom isn’t good enough to be healed.   Language that suits one set of circumstance can be misinterpreted if faced with a more serious, life threatening, set of circumstances.   I pondered this thought during a meditation questioning if God is good some of the times and only for certain people.   And if we say “God is good” do we say it always or only when we get the outcome we desire?

What I came to realize, for me, is that bad things happen to really good people every day.  In my opinion, whether one gets a better outcome or not, doesn’t have anything to do with God.  You see, my mom died from consequences of her breast cancer and she had a tight connection with God.   But that doesn’t mean God wasn’t good.  And that doesn’t mean that God abandoned her or our family.

As I look back over these past 7 months it seems like I’ve walked through a war and yes, it felt like it was a personal war.  Visions of the past 7 months resurface in my mind and I think how did I get through this?  I was doing what I needed to do in that moment to get through to the next moment in time supporting my mom and managing my work and personal responsibilities.   It wasn’t easy and in looking back, I just know I didn’t do it alone.   There had to have been a power greater than myself walking with me as I found the strength to go on because there were many times I didn't think I could tolerate one more thing.   So how does one survive such horrific life experiences and not crumble?   I found that help arrives.  Maybe through a spiritual connection, meditation, a walk in nature or through others who become Angels.

I am grateful for all I’ve learned over the years to walk this cancer journey differently than I did 32 years ago.   I’ve become mindful of the importance of language.   And I’ve been reminded that there are blessings every day if I seek the good in life.    There are lessons in so much of life if I don’t get caught up in the day to day motions.  It's ironic how the toughest times in life can bring about the most growth in life if we want to survive and ultimately thrive.

I miss my mom every day.  She was a warrior during her cancer journey.  And through that journey I learned that God (as I understand God) is GOOD all the time.  That good doesn't always mean happy outcomes.   And that we are never left in the darkness without some flicker of light … that's hope.

If you are going through challenges in life, find your light so that you can not only survive but thrive through the most difficult of days.   Which for me meant getting quiet, shutting out the noise of life and going within to find my light.

And thanks mom for the gift of wanting to write again … you were always my biggest cheerleader in all I did!

2 Responses

  1. Ann
    Life is about loss. That sounds harsh, put so baldly. We learn one way or another to cope with the losses and every time we do, we are reinforced somehow, and stronger in ourselves. Maybe it's the Buddhist form of detachment. I think maybe God watches as things unfold, but doesn't exist to necessarily change outcomes. I don't think it has anything to do with prayer, other than the prayer of St. Francis. I always resent when someone says God is good in the midst of whatever sadness or crisis I'm enduring. Yes, God is good. And? I don't even know what that's supposed to mean.
    • metjoy
      I agree. I wrote this after hearing someone say "God is good" in referencing a positive health outcome and having to process my initial reaction. Thanks for sharing!!!