Last Thursday was Lynne’s last chemotherapy session, the final act of a six month poison play bent on destroying anarchistic, undisciplined cells. The nurses came in with balloons and Martinelli’s and celebrated this milestone with her. The SCCA is all class, but I still say they should have Brie and Champagne at the end of it all.
As I’ve watched Lynne deal with her treatments, I have tended to see only the brightness of her courage, resolve, and discipline. People whose friendship we don’t deserve always ask me, “How’s Lynne?” and I always reply, “What a warrior she is.” And yet, the real truth is she has been suffering. All of this is suffering, and there will be more ahead in the form of surgery and maybe more down the road we don’t yet know. Being afflicted is suffering, and being asked to make hard choices about your body is suffering, and being asked to acutely consider the length of your days is suffering. It’s terrible, but she won’t say that.
I think as disciples we know the way of character in Romans 5 through and through. We are, hopefully from the time of baptism, fairly in tune with the message of Jesus’ suffering and familiar with the history of the early church’s sufferings. We see it between the lines in Hebrews, Peter, and Revelation. Sometimes, caught up in the egotism of prominent and self-important self-sacrifice, we even talk as though suffering, or even martyrdom are things to welcome.
I’m not knocking the embracing of suffering. We must, in order to follow Jesus. But it’s one thing to imagine one’s suffering from afar and say, “yes, I think I can,” and another to have it surprise you, mug you, hijack you. When we can choose to suffer, we feel the humility and the nobility. But when suffering chooses us unexpectedly, the test is daunting and heart-breaking.
Setting aside speculations on the meaning of “omniscience,” for the moment, is it possible that God too must sometimes face sufferings He did not know were really coming? It makes me feel better to think so.