I’ve had a spot of trouble to deal with lately. Specifically, a spot on my forehead that popped up three months ago. As it happens, it is squamous cell carcinoma. Yesterday, Dr. Burry of Valley Facial Plastics and ENT excised it, leaving a quarter sized hole over my right eyebrow. Dr. Burry, by the way, is fantastic. Once we have confirmation that we got it all, he'll be stitching me up. The size would probably have been greatly reduced had the cancer been correctly identified sooner. This is partly my fault. I went to the urgent care because I was working six days a week, dawn to dusk. I had a Saturday pop open and used it to go to the clinic.
The clinic is not staffed by a doctor. Instead, as is becoming increasingly common, it was staffed by a physician’s assistant who did not recognize what they were looking at. My mistake was taking that person at their word. Four weeks later, when the prescribed treatment program failed, I went to my doctor, got a referral to a specialist, and another to Dr. Burry. Fortunately, it hadn’t started to metastasize. If it had, I’d be in pretty deep trouble.
I’m not much for keeping those kinds of secrets, so when people asked what was going on with my head, I told them the truth. Many of these people, including most of my family, are followers of Christ. I am not, though I’m also not antagonistic toward faith. I wish I had it.
It is impossible for a person with any degree of true empathy to attend a worship service of religious believers and not see the beauty that exists in their submission to a God that asks that they live to their highest selves and to love their neighbor. It does not matter that they will fail in that task. We know that human beings are not perfect. They will sin. We all will and, yes, I include non-believers in that statement. Unless a person is so egotistical to consider themselves above any guiding principles (and those people do exist, sadly), they will have some moral foundation that they will subscribe to. The only question is whether their transgression is against a divine or self-imposed law. In either case, people will transgress.
As I mentioned, my family is blessed with faith and I was in their prayers. You expect that of family, accept it. Or ought to, though some resist.
But what of friends and acquaintances?
“Are you a Believer?” I was asked, and I answered honestly, “No.” Then, I explained why, not in detail, but enough.
“Well, I’m going to pray for you anyhow.”
There is a segment of society that would be offended at such a statement. They are militantly atheistic. Some will claim agnosticism while denying the fundamentals of that position. To be linked to religion even tangentially is an anathema. That’s a shame. They deny themselves on a great gift. Just as there is a beauty to a communion service, there is a beauty to the offer of prayers.
When a Believer offers to pray for you, he or she is not just offering a religious experience. They are freely giving you the strength of their hope and belief. In that moment, they come the closest to living the ideal of loving thy neighbor as they ever will.
There is great power in knowing that people care.
So how’s an agnostic to respond to that?
By accepting the gift with gratitude and thanks, not just for the gift of their faith, but of the blessing that they bestow by caring.
To all those that offered prayers and best wishes, family and friends alike, thank you.
Thank you so very much.