A friend of mine recently discovered a tumor. Cancer. Stage III. Very close to her heart and pressing on her lungs. She's scared. Her family is scared.
I'm scared... What if she isn't okay?
And a bit angry... It doesn't seem fair. This is supposed to be a very happy time for her. She's fought hard to be healthy in mind and body. She's worked on creating beautiful friendships and relationships. She is one of the nicest, sweetest, most giving people I know. She deserves to spend the next few years just laughing, and going on fun cruises, and LIVING.
Mostly, I feel sad. And helpless...
(A warning to those who find peace in fasting: If you don't want to hear my sad and cynical point of view, stop reading now.)
I grew up believing in fasting and prayer. Someone got sick, you could pray for them, and if that didn't make them better, you could just go without food, and THAT would make them better. I could do something. I could help. If I just didn't eat AND prayed hard enough, God wouldn't hurt the people I loved. If I could just go without food, everyone would be safe.
That kind of teaching... taken to an extreme... sounds like a perfect recipe for a pretty serious case of anorexia.
Five years ago, I was really struggling with an eating disorder. I met with my Stake President, because I believed he would know how to help me. He told me that I didn't need to go to therapy - I just needed to fast and pray. If I fasted enough, God would cure me. I am glad I hadn't starved ALL of my brain cells yet. I gave him a shocked look and said, "Do you know what an eating disorder IS? I have fasted a lot, and I'm still struggling. If all I had to do was fast, it wouldn't be a struggle.... because fasting is what I WANT to do. I could be wrong, but I don't think fasting is the answer."
He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well... then I don't know what to tell you. I guess you can TRY therapy, but without the power of fasting... How can God cure you?"
His words played around in my head for a while. They really messed with my brain until I realized I just don't believe that God cares if I go without food or not. It doesn't make him do things for me that he wouldn't have done otherwise. (Like, ya know, God was totally going to let her die, but now, because you haven't eaten for the last twenty-four hours, He's changed His mind. WTF?)
I can go without food for a long time. I get headaches. I get dizzy. I feel sick, but I can ignore all that. I have the ability. It doesn't make me a stronger person. It doesn't make me a better person. It doesn't make me more spiritual. It doesn't make God do what I want. It doesn't make the world a safer place or a better place. It does make me hungry (and dizzy and sick and eventually numb to the world).
Today... I want that belief back. I want to FEEL like I am doing something to help my friend. I want to believe that I can make a difference...
Reality is, all I can do is love her. Be there to support her in whatever ways SHE needs support. Listen if she wants to talk. Go away if she wants to be alone. Send money. Or food. Or even... if her knowing I was fasting for her made HER feel better, I'd do that too. I trust her, and I trust the doctors that she trusts.
I felt a lot of anxiety when I started writing this post. Somehow, writing the last paragraph, I feel peaceful. Accepting things as they are IS very peaceful.