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January 27, 2005

Popping Cancer Job Update: It's okay to be sad.

Somehow we got this idea, and Christians are the absolute worst about this, that being sad or angry is a bad thing.

Whenever I post something to the effect that "Cancer is bumming me out today," I get a bunch of emails and comments to the effect of "Buck, up, little camper - God will provide! God loves you! Be happy! I'll pray that you stop being sad!"

Well, sad is an appropriate response to cancer sometimes. My doctors are all saying I have a great, healthy, positive attitude about my disease, but they are also aware that I have a potentially fatal illness that has spread far and rapidly and that sometimes I'll be less-than-joyous about that.

Sad is ok. Feeling the way you feel is ok, until it becomes destructive. I'd worry about me if I went around all day with a goofy grin and never looked at the negative consequences of cancer.

I say all that to say this: I'm sad right now.

My doctors have said I am forbidden to visit shut-ins, crowds and especially hospital patients. The dearest old lady in our church (this lady and her equally-dear husband "adopted" Stephanie and I) had a heart attack today.

I, as her pastor, couldn't visit her.

How in the world can I pretend to call myself a pastor and NOT visit people I love who are ill? Answer: I can't. I am filing for disability as soon as the denomination can get me the papers. Any trained monkey in a suit can preach. That's not my calling.

My calling came when I had cancer a long time ago and found myself, remarkably, pulling myself up the hallway by my IV pole to visit the other cancer patients who were in the same foxhole I was. I would sit with them through their treatments and sometimes just quietly BE with them.

Upon being healed, I found out that the world is full of people, all of whom are hurting in their own way. I didn't have any real pastor skills, but I hoped I could make a difference in their lives, and so here I am.

Except that now the center of my call has been taken from me.

So don't tell me God loves me. Don't tell me you'll pray that my spirits will be lifted. Don't tell me you're rooting for me.

Something central, and defining, in my life is gone, and I miss it. Just let me be sad.

Posted by Dan at January 27, 2005 05:45 PM

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Dan over at Popping Culture has cancer. Not surprisingly, this makes him sad. Writing about that, Dan has touched on an interesting tendency in our society to minimize, gloss over and generally try to fix sadness. [Read More]

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Dan -

I love your commentary on being sad! If you like the blues, try "The Healer" by John Lee Hooker. Sometimes, there is no peace like getting in touch with the sadness in your own soul.

Here's a poem by Milton that you might enjoy (Milton, who was an active - if not hyperactive - Christian, lost his sight in his later years):

"On His Blindness"

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

Posted by: Kirk at January 27, 2005 10:05 PM

Well said, Honey. Now get off the computer and vacuum, or something.

Posted by: Mrs. Popping Culture at January 27, 2005 10:59 PM

Kirk rocks.

For those of you who don't know Kirk, he is a student at the seminary I attend. A very poor student.

Actually, I'm not sure the term "student" applies when you are on academic probation.

Or in jail.

Posted by: Big Dan at January 27, 2005 11:15 PM

Dan, that just sucks that you can't be as effective a pastor because of the cancer. That must be one of the hardest parts of this.

And oh, how twisted the world can be. You became a pastor because of cancer and now cancer is interfering with your ability to be a pastor. Guh.

I have more to say about your entry, but it was long and I posted it on my blog. You can check it out there.

Posted by: Joel Caris at January 28, 2005 05:33 AM

That Mrs. Popping Culture is one tough cookie. I mean, even Martha Stewart discourages BEGINNING vacuuming at 11:00pm. Your tough little Mrs!

Posted by: Doug at January 28, 2005 09:21 AM

I feel the same way, actually. It's hard to be a reverend when you've been a shut-in for five years. The world is very sad and I can't do anything about it, and that makes me incredibly sad.

Sorry if it's depressing, it's just weirdly comforting to know that I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Posted by: Danielle Taylor at January 28, 2005 11:59 AM

Give a guy a few Yogi Berra and General Patton quotes and he gets accused of being overly optimistic. Is it OK if I'm sad with you?

Posted by: Ralph at January 28, 2005 05:39 PM

Find a recording of Yo Yo Ma playing Suite No. 1, S. 1007 In G Major: Prelude by Bach.

Watch the clouds. If it's snowing, that's even better.

You're not alone.

Posted by: Ara at January 28, 2005 05:41 PM

Dan. I didn't know. I've been away. That's all I have right now. I didn't know and now I do and you're in my thoughts, my friend.

Posted by: Jheka at January 28, 2005 08:15 PM

Dear Dan,

You have continued your ministry by sharing yourself online. There are masses of people who only have access to others of like mind and circumstance online.

Yes it's no reflection on your strengths or weakness to be sad, angry, afraid, terrorized, exhausted; but none of those states of our emotional life are particularly constructive. They do take energy, better used for constructive offerings, away from our ability to cope. They are coping mechanisms, but they are tapping very primitive abilities, such as the ability to literally run away, or to literally strike out physically, (neither which are rarely legitimate answers to the problems which the body is trying to cope with in today's world) for which the body generates adrenalin, which unused, is a toxin, particularly with the relatively abstract information that you have cancer and that you will 'probably' die from in some unknown amount of time.

In the seventies and eighties, they used to promote 'expressing your rage', but that promotion ended when they finally realized that not only did it not help, but that it seemed to increase those emotion's hold over us.

That's not to say that these emotions are not real, and do not need to be dealt with honestly, but it is to say that only when you can overcome them, can you make a here and now of peace, love, groviness, and creation again.

I loved reading your page; you have a great sense of humor.

Be well, Bea

Posted by: Bea at April 8, 2005 10:27 AM

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