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A few years ago I was sent on a photo assignment by the newspaper to shoot a police dog competition. I was impressed by the sudden, on-command lethality of these otherwise harmless, goofy dogs.

I was also impressed by the man who volunteered to be the ‘bad guy in the bite suit’ for the competition. His plan was that the enormous padding would protect him through all twelve attacks that afternoon. He made it through three before a pair of jaws clamped down on to an unguarded part of his ankle. He had to be driven to the ER to stop the bleeding.

Many people I spoke to at that event agreed with my genius observation that you needed to be a little crazy to volunteer for that  job, but the man in the ring had done this before. He had survived the ferocity of the dogs, he placed his hope and safety in the bite suit, and in his experience.

Some would say that it was just bad luck that he got bitten. Others would say it was bound to happen, it was just a matter of time, you had to play the odds, know the statistics, or some other  imperfect predictor of the future of the man in a bite suit.

My opinion of the man getting bitten, and almost anything else you can imagine, especially  after what we endured in 2011, can be summed up in two words…”that’s life”.

Recently, I have been engaged in an Internet discussion. Yeah, I know, they are always a waste of time, but it did get me thinking about one of the arguments some people were religiously presenting that stated that people who believe in God are of weak mind, and that ‘religion’, or more accurately, ‘Christianity’, is a scam and the source of much pain and confusion, especially in America.

I can’t let this slide, especially since I have respect for many of the people involved in this discussion. They are all highly educated, professional, intelligent, and grossly misinformed.

I also have too much respect for God.

Let’s start with Christianity. This one makes me laugh.

The God that I have a relationship with does not need a majority in the House or Senate. Nor does He have a need of a ‘Momma Bear’ rising out of some shit hole in Alaska to restore ‘values’. He does not need his own news network, an 800 number, or a 700 Club. He is bigger than the bullshit and He is better than the headlines give Him credit for. If this is new information for  you then perhaps it’s YOU that’s getting your news from the wrong network.

The truth is that the true mission of Christ is being carried out every hour of every day by people whose names you will never know. It is carried imperfectly on the shoulders of ordinary-extraordinary- intelligent- not-so-intelligent-attractive-unattractive-but-always-well-meaning people worldwide. Regardless of their differences, they are ‘the Church’. And yes, divisive topics that separate ‘the Church’ into denominations and little kingdoms are embarrassing.

But if you think about it, any organization comprised of humans is destined to be flawed, right?

The fact that so much good gets done by so many flawed people without notice is almost…miraculous. In my opinion, true Christianity is the best kept secret on planet earth.

But the cameras come out of nowhere when one high profile, ‘christian’, attention whore falls. Should we be surprised? Shakespeare did well entertaining the masses with stories of the mighty falling just like the meek do.  It’s in our DNA. We’re captivated by the powerful becoming just like us – powerless.

But it just doesn’t seem right to judge the actions of so many people working outside of the spotlight by the failings of the made-for-TV-chosen-few, but “that’s life”, too.

So let’s address this ‘weak of mind’ theory. It states that only those with deep emotional or psychological issues find ‘religion’ fulfilling. It’s ironic to me that so many of those who preach this idea consider themselves ‘spiritual’, but not ‘religious’.

So does that mean that ‘spiritual’ people are somehow more well adjusted and less needy than ‘religious’ people?

Does this mean that even the smallest whisper of ‘spiritually’ is just a muffled cry for help, some deeply masked emotional need being stifled?

No, but my point is that I have run into very few people in my travels who have a completely empty soul, especially when it comes to the unexplained wonders of nature, or space, or mathematics, or physics, or biology. In other words, the unexplained innate beauty that frustrates the intelligent mind often ignites the dormant soul. It’s just frustrating that the quest to know the hows and whys of things seldom drift into the why-nots. Why can’t it be God? Just because the present day scientific method cannot explain Him does not rule Him out.

And speaking of the unexplained,  our sciences are boldly discovering new arsenic based life in Mono Lake puddles and new planets by the dozens…but don’t you get the feeling that we’re just uncovering someone else’s work? Think about it, it all fits together so well, it complements itself,  perpetuates itself, defends itself…it this really the product of a cosmic crap shoot?  In spite of a human history filled with discovery, re-discovery, and re-evaluation,  how can we still have the arrogance to believe this was done by chance? Come on, Pluto was a planet five years ago and now it doesn’t qualify. Yeah, we have quite the handle on things, we’ve certainly earned the right to congratulate ourselves.

And speaking of having a handle on things…Carole and I had a tight handle on our lives until we were mauled by cancer.  We lived as low risk a life as any two people could. No skydiving, no smoking, not even speeding tickets, yet everything we ‘knew’ was destroyed.

Our story is one of wandering from ‘expert’ to ‘expert’ seeking a diagnosis and a treatment. My wife was examined by the most sophisticated technology and the most distinguished doctors. Even our Radiologist from the Stanford Cancer Center was unhappy with his treatment options and pushed us down another path.

And let’s talk paths for a minute. My wife’s surgery is so specialized that it can only be performed at three medical facilities in the United States (Stanford, Mayo Clinic, and Johns Hopkins). OK you statistical scholars, break out your slide rules. Please divide three (the number of qualified facilities)  by the number of total medical facilities in the US.

I’ll make it even simpler, divide three by the number of cancer facilities in the US.

Oh, and factor in the total area of the United States, too.

So, what were our odds of us being within 200 miles of one of those facilities?  What were our odds of being within a three hour trip in the car considering how far spread apart those facilities are?

Did I just use mathematics to argue against the sciences? Oops, my bad.

And just so we’re being honest here, I have a confession to make.  I’ve not been fair to you.

You were not there for the uncountable number of times I’ve sat behind a piano keyboard and beautiful music poured out that was not from me.  You were not there when in the midst of the worst emotional pain I’ve ever known I was pushed to sit and write about it. I bled oh-so-beautifully onto the page and discovered for the first time in my life that I could write. Didn’t write in high school. Didn’t write in college. Never felt moved to even try, and now I have a book coming out this year. How’s that for a muse?

I also didn’t tell you that the ‘Hollywood’ miracle never happened to us. God didn’t appear to us in a parting of the clouds or with bolts of lightning. Some people think that’s what miracles look like. It wasn’t even close.  It was the constant stream of heartfelt prayer that was answered in a series of small events that added up to my wife being very much alive and able to walk.  Again, God disappoints. No breaking news story or film at eleven. When will He learn?

In short, it wasn’t a fair fight because you don’t have the time in the trenches that I have.  You have not been close enough to actual death or unexpected beauty as often I have to witness the long string of coincidences that, when viewed over time and from afar, don’t seem so coincidental anymore.

And for those that still insist on relying on man alone, consider this: the medical science at two labs and three universities have still not identified the cancer that attacked my wife.  Nope, no scientific answer, yet here we are.

Some will argue it wasn’t God, it was the doctors that saved her. So am I to believe that they’re all in it for the money? Am I to believe the follow up phone calls by one of the best neurosurgeons in the country months after being discharged from his care are because he’s big on customer satisfaction, and not the actions of a ‘good’ person, you know, one of those quiet Christians working away from the TV spotlights?

I admit that life is not an absolute. We freely admit that we believed in God and medical science to carry us through. We believed in the people who promised to heal us and the promise from God that we would never be alone.  When we were mauled by cancer we prayed, and continued to pray because we’re just that weak, just that superstitious to believe that this creation we live in is not accidental, and neither is her survival.

You can believe in God and science. It’s a simplistic construct that insists on dividing the two. Just as simplistic as only believing in something that can be seen by the naked eye or proven in a lab. And come on, if ‘accidental’ is the best answer you got for the big questions, then I get to live with my silly ‘faith’.

I will leave you with this one thought and I sincerely ask that you spend time considering it…

If whatever it is you value has no value when life mauls you, then perhaps what you value doesn’t have near the value you thought it did.

Best of luck on your journey, but keep in mind that chances are high that you will be unexpectedly mauled to some extent someday.

That’s life.

I ‘hope’ it goes well for you.






2 Responses to “Hope”

  1. Arminee says:

    Beautifully written Bob. I hope you are going to use this as a foreword to your book.

  2. Marie says:

    An absolute wonderful message Bob! I am sorry to hear about Carole and will keep her(both of you) in prayer. Our Father GOD is the Mighty Physician. He heals and performs miracles. There is no match for Him. Praises to GOD and let us rejoice in Him! Many blessings and GOD First!

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