Goofing Off or Enjoying Life

Goofing off again. That’s what it feels like. Anything that doesn’t have me stressed and hitting the ground running by 6:30am, feels like “goofing off.” But on “goofing off” days, I work in the evenings. That is not a change. I’ve been doing that since I started the side business of t-shirts and party accessories. So, when I’m cutting the day short for a lecture, a walk with a friend (two walks on Wednesday), visiting George Fox to watch football practice on a beautiful fall evening, I am reconciling the change of pattern and hoping that what today feels like “goofing off” will someday become what is also known as, “enjoying life.”

What a luxury it is to enjoy life. The email from George Fox came through and normally I hit DELETE, but this time I paused, considered, and committed to going. In the life I’d create for myself, I’d study full time, something like theology, ethics, human behavior, cause and affect. I love all of that and I’d get some initials behind my name. The initials I can put behind my name now are ok though… LOL – Learner of Life, which is funny.

I attended a Q&A and lecture at George Fox with a good acquaintance who is a nurse and a Christian. I met her about a year ago and we’ve not seen each other since, but formed a strong bond when I co-lead the Rooted group at church. I’ve so wanted to spend some time with her, and I was glad when this opportunity worked for both of us.

The headliner was Ray Barfield, who lost his Christian faith after witnessing so much suffering of children with cancer. He is a Professor of Pediatrics and Christian philosophy at Duke University. The three other panelists were equally impressive. The very first question from the audience was the famous one: “How do you explain God to your patients when their child has just died?”

Last week I referred to that same question that a friend asked me. I know kids who have the same question, except about their parents. My friend’s husband has ALS and their lives are changed forever. Friends fiercely battle cancer, and some have lost. We all lose, when we lose them. These are unbearable scenarios, and I didn’t have an answer for my friend, but neither did the panel of 4 professors who presented at the the William Penn George Fox lecture

Each of the panelists answered from their own unique experiences with God, their education, and who they are individually. They explained their struggles with that question, and their peace with the struggle. For me, coming to peace with that question only happens when there is a real struggle. To grapple with confusion is to dig deep for an answer and to wrestle with God. If we turn from that option to secure our own answers, we will never know who God is. Wrestling with man to secure those answers won’t get us closer to God. I think we should explore the questions with each other and learn from the discovery. But I’ve come to learn that if I expect that man can answer a question so complicated, then I am expecting more from man than of God.

Right now I am reading the book of Job. Most of us know the reputation of his struggle. But while we know of Job, by studying his story, we don’t just know of Job, we know him. And in this way, we also know God. Whether it’s Job, or John or Leviticus, or the Psalms, this is how we discover the depth and truth of who God is.

One of the panelists (Kristen Lakis) shared something with which I could relate. She said, “We find our peace (these are not her exact words, but my interpretation of her message and how I related to it) when we lament our grief (as Job did) and from that lament, praise erupts.”

Sometimes the change of a mans heart is the biggest miracle of all.

When my life changed as I knew it, I dwelled on specific scriptures that friends sent my way. One friend decoupaged scripture on to a wooden vanity tray (oh, wait, now I can’t remember if she did that part or if I did it!). I devoured those scriptures every morning. They were promises that would get me through the next hours. They didn’t promise that my husband would repent and all would magically recover, but they were messages of hope, that all would be well. There’s a song that pierces my heart when I hear or sing it. It’s called, It is Well With my Soul.

My Go To journal of verses, like my spiritual 911.

When we are intimately communing with God, his Spirit tells us, in the most quiet place deep in our soul, that all will be well.

Eventually I removed those verses from the vanity tray and have them tucked into my Go To journal of verses that I keep on a shelf to grab when I need a reminder of who I am and where I’m going, especially when I’m stopped in my tracks by hurt or confusion.

I think God’s words were a bandaid to protect me until healing took place, and that occurred as I read the Psalms. I’d sit in my favorite chair and read one after another,

Answer me when I call to you,

    my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

    have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1

It was as if a friend was holding me as my heart cried out in pain and anger. The tears would slow and I could say, “Thank you, God. Often in a whisper. I had no answers, but I could get up, and move forward with what I knew had to be done.

It was such a pleasure to hear these people share their experiences with many of whom are nursing or physical therapy students, seeking a way around complicated situations they will face. The panelists recognize their humanness and the tension of a loving God in a world of hurt, pain, and confusion. They don’t present as knowing the answers, but it was clear that they individually seek answers. They’re curious and want to know how to reconcile their questions and pass on their discoveries so they can help people in their most vulnerable and fragile moments.

I don’t anticipate a life where I will study ethics or theology all day, but getting to listen to those who do, is a very nice way to “enjoy life.”

I hope to post the link on my blog when GF posts it.

Panelists in order the listing in the email I received from George Fox: Ray Barfield MD, PhD (Duke); Pam Fifer EdD, RN, CNE (GF); Kristen Lakis LCSW (Duke); Daniel Kang PT, DPT (GF)

October 25, 2019 Update: The links on SEEKING GOD IN THE RUINS I promised to post when George Fox shared them.

Dr. Ray Barfield Lecture

Panel Discussion: A Clinician’s Guide to Re-Conceptualizing Death, Dying, and Suffering


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