Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Face to face with the consequences

Monday morning, I had to face the consequences of my sin.

No, I wasn't in court...well, not exactly. But I was being examined and cross-examined - at the University of Chicago hospital, taking a thallium stress test. Recently, I've been getting winded pretty easily doing even moderate exercise - and since I am closer to 50 than not, significantly overweight, and having diabetes and high blood pressure, it seemed that getting checked-out was just the next right thing to do. Almost sensible, you might say. (Almost...)

But let's face it: I didn't end up taking this test because I sang too loud in the church choir. I was there because of the cumulative lifetime effect of two particular sins - gluttony and sloth - and because I don't deal with grace well.

For most of my life, I have had two active prayers. The first is, "Dear God, get me out of this and I will never do this again," and the second is, "Phew! Thank God that's over!" But somehow repentance - the act of turning away from sinful behavior - doesn't come until just immediately before the knot at the end of my rope unravels. I have never ever in my life been one to see the light, but somehow always hold out until I feel the heat. "Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly..."

Well, I started feeling the heat over the weekend, as I was contemplating the upcoming test - and I came to the conviction that if I got what I deserved on Monday, I'd get on the treadmill, get up near my maximum heart-rate, have "the big one," and die right there. (As my dear mother would say, "You're not wrapped right, or tight.") I hate to admit it, but I still hear the voice that says, "It would serve you right if it did happen that way..." So I admit to fretting a bunch about it over the weekend. Fretting didn't help as much as praying might have - but I still did more fretting than praying. Which just goes to show what a spiritual Goliath I can be at times like this.

However, I've been thinking about this more than usual because of a seemingly unrelated story that hit the news last week, but somehow I didn't hear about it until I was blogsurfing during my "sleepless in Chicago" spell Sunday night/Monday morning. Seems a girl at a Catholic school got pregnant, and was told in March that she could no longer attend school because of safety concerns - and that she could not attend graduation, presumably for the same reasons. You can read the original story - and what I feel is the school system's lame excuse - over here.

Alysha Cosby is 20-some weeks pregnant - she can't hide the results of her indiscretion any more than I can hide mine. But somehow, her condition is getting her treated differently. The end of the story (which you can read here), is that she was told not to attend graduation, then chose to defy the school, and walk across the stage and announce her own name at the end of her graduation ceremony anyway. She, her mother and aunt were then escorted off the premises (presumably for their safety, as well).

How does my obesity relate to her pregnancy ?

Well, I just get so tired of this sin or that sin being somehow objectionable and needing additional protection/exclusion (like having a teen-aged unwed mother around) and other sins (like mine) being somehow tolerable or acceptable. As many of you know, the one that really honks me off is how a significant number of churches have much less trouble with having Jimmy and Susie getting out of the same bed, coming to church and coming to communion than they do when Bob and Joe do the same thing. Jimmy & Susie, Bob and Joe, and I are all unrepentant sinners - along with Jack, the handsome high-school quarterback who's washboard abs are augmented by steroid injections, and loads of men like my late father, who went to church on Sunday, and then left to visit his girlfriends on business trips on Monday. If we exclude all the unrepentant sinners, who's gonna be left?

But Alysa Cosby's situation is particularly irksome to me because she is a pregnant teen who's chosen to preserve the baby's life, in keeping with Catholic teachings! Unless I missed something in the articles, she's not walking around her parochial school flaunting the fact that she's pregnant. From what I've read, she's just trying to go on with her life, and do the right thing - completing her education. If I were her, I think I'd be wondering whether a quiet abortion wouldn't have been a viable alternative to having my desire to attend graduation become a national media spectacle. (No, actually, I'm sure I'd be wondering about that - even though I know, to the core of my being, what the answer should be.)

Is this really the message we want to be sending? I have to wonder....

As for me and the results of my sins, I survived the stress-test in reasonably good form. There obviously wasn't anything red-flagged enough during the test to send me straight to a hospital bed or operating room (which was what I was afraid of happening) - and I give thanks for that. I won't know if there's anything less-sinister hiding in the results for several days...so for now, I need to just get to bed, and trust that God will give me another day, and fresh mercy, when I awake.

And if I don't get another day, then I will thank God for this day, and this life, and years and years of undeserved grace and joy. Even if I die tonight, I'll still go out in the bonus round...

Update, Tuesday morning 8 AM: my doctor called this morning, having already received the test results back (talk about speedy!). Results? Clean. Not "no minor blockages," not "we'll need to watch that, and check back." No discernable plaque deposits, period. The angel of death has passed on by, this time. (And I didn't even have to smear lamb's blood on the doorframe.)

So I guess it's time to start living like a believer. Thank you, God.


~m2~ said...

ahhh....now in understand your comment on my blog about your, uh....appearance! i've already admonished you in a private e-mail, so i won't here, too.

the image that comes to mind about the young lady, aside from the fact that she is brave and doing the noble thing by keeping her child (at least her pregnancy, i don't know if she is going to surrender the child for adoption), is the image of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, bending over and reaching His hand down to mary to help her up off the ground. i've imagined myself as mary on occasions too numerous to count.

it is a shame the Catholic church, in this instance at this school with this girl, could not imagine that scenario because instead of sending a message of forgiveness and love, it sent a message of shame.

and that is a shame, really, said the convert to Catholicism.

Steve F. said...

I almost left out the word "Catholic" on this story - because I've heard this same kind of story about Baptists, Lutherans, you name it. It's a pan-Christian disease, but this time the RC's got caught at it.

My struggle is that we as Christians loudly proclaim that we hate abortion as murder, and make grand gestures to have it done away with. And then, by a host of actions (reminding me ever so much of The Scarlet Letter), we do everything socially to encourage women to abort their unborn children.

That, as Brennan Manning would say, is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

In one of my seminary classes, a young woman from Germany observed a morality debate in class about abortion. After a while, she spoke up, saying, "You know, in Europe we don't see these kinds of debates - because both the pro-life and pro-choice sides want to see the need for abortions to cease. So there is more sex education on preventing pregnancy - and there are more charitable agencies focused on supporting and caring for unwed mothers. Evidently you Americans can't stop fighting long enough to get to that point. And until you do, the problem will persist."

It was all I could do not to cheer when she stopped speaking.

Deanne said...

"Evidently you Americans can't stop fighting long enough to get to that point. And until you do, the problem will persist."

No kidding. When I was cleaning last weekend I came across a letter that I clipped from a paper sometime back, and I'm going to type it up and send to you...it falls along these same lines.

And amen to your comment of some sins being acceptable while others are not...I am so tired of the "sin spotlight" being shined on homosexuality/gay marriage...sooooo tired.

Danny said...

Great post. It reminds me a little of the movie Saved, which I've shown to my youth group. It's a good and funny movie, but sad that Christians continue to exercise this type of judgment.

APN said...

Question -- who told the Religous Right that their code of ethics represented ALL Christians/followers of Christ everywhere? And who said that they were the grand determiners of "Right & Wrong?" And who said that, if you DISAGREE with the powers-that-be, you were wrong? Did I miss something? Was their some national edict stating that you have to toe the line of American Christianity/Patriotism or you're wrong? Did I miss that episode of the "O'Reilly Factor?"

But I know what you're referring to here -- I think of how many conversations that I've had or I've attempted to get people to realize the hypocrisy of holding one or two sins as worse than others. They don't get it. They just don't get it. Thus, I must ask, "What can we do about that?" I don't want to exist with bunker/defense mentality all the time.

So I Go said...

powerful post.. i'm tracking with you (as usual)..

glad to hear that good news came from the test.

Adinah said...

great post and point well sent out to all Christians. Glad to hear you got that clean bill of health.

Im A Foto Nut said...

What I also find disturbing is that the boy that helped create this child was not held accountable for his participation in the conception of the child.

Does that mean that I only get excluded/punished if my sins show?

What a poor example that school gave to non-belivers everywhere. Certainly, not a very chirstian way to handle it in the first place.

Tom Scharbach said...


I'm glad that the tests came out well.

I went through a similar situation a month or so ago, when my first chest x-ray in 30-odd years turned up a "shadow" on my lung. Naturally, after 30 years as a smoker, my mind went right to Stage 4 lung cancer.

As it turned out, two months and CT scan evaluation later, it was not lung cancer but a tissue leftover from a military injury. So no harm, no foul.

The "scare" however, was an opportunity to think about the ways in which I was abusing my own body and to quit smoking. I've been on the patch and smoke-free since the end of January, and I feel a lot better for it.

Quitting smoking doesn't significantly reduce my chances of lung cancer long-term, but the fact that I feel so much better is reward enough.

Good luck on your weight-loss program.


Michael said...

I tried to post this yesterday but the blogger ate it again. Lots of little glitches with it, so it may just have been my connection.

ANYWAY, so glad things came out well on the test, and I am praying you will follow your own good and healthy advice. We want to see you around for a long time, bro.

Your German classmate's remarks remind me that I have heard Belgium -- a very predominantly Catholic country -- has the most permissive abortion laws in Europe and the lowest abortion rate, precisely because the social structure protects the mother and baby financially and is not shame-based culturally. While we pat ourselves on the back for being sooooo Christian for opposing abortion but do nothing to lend practical assistance to those whose lives are actually touched by the realities of teenage and other challenging pregnancies.

I'd be tempted to move to another country, but I would have to take ME with me, so it wouldn't help.

bobbie said...

good news steve! i love your 2 prayers - laughed out loud!