Today’s Ignatian reading is taken from Jeremiah 17:5-10, and the question was asked, “Do you extend your roots to the streams of water? where do you find it hard to trust God?” I have an autoimmune disease that is beginning to show more outward obvious signs of its nefarious campaign against my body. It has been a decades-long journey making the rounds of specialists in each city in which I’ve lived (10+). Disparate symptomology coupled with negative test results make an overarching diagnosis problematic. While I currently see a wonderful physician who understands there is a definite rheumatologic factor underlying my condition, “proof” as sine qua non pervades my psyche.
Faith is a quality of being human.
And proof does not indicate that which we often expect it to. That is, proof does not mean that something is indisputably what one purports. Rather, to offer proof is to provide a piece of evidence that one’s claim is true. It occurs in a series (math), in succession (law), and a test run or sample image (print, photography).
The medical specialist occupies her position by the very fact that a single set of blood tests or outward physical signs are not the only evidence or proof that a certain condition exists. Except that . . . other evidence is often trivialized when those certain proofs are not in evidence. And so, I have to repeatedly build a case. Again. And again. And one more time. No wait! Please see this other specialist now and repeat your story. Meanwhile, my condition worsens and I cannot wear shoes that are even remotely attractive unless I want to reopen that ulcer on my toe because, oh, I do not have hardening of the arteries—for which I now have “proof” in the form of a long succession of pulse oximeter readings from a test that was performed on each limb and each one of my twenty digits yesterday! But there has to be some reason my lungs randomly seize refusing oxygen’s entry, and other bewildering symptoms are worsening.
Because these outward signs cannot be disregarded physicians are now stating that, yes, this is something. They have given it a handful of provisional names. And I do not want to necessarily take any of the medications that are indicated for such conditions. It is only that I so just long to give it a name—and offer it with “proof” to back the diagnosis.
So, it is after a particularly discouraging several weeks of re-engaging the specialist-circuit that I entered today’s meditation. And I wondered. I do not believe that God inflicts evil on God’s beloved creation, and in order to “teach a lesson.” (The existence of evil is a topic for another day). I do believe that God is intimately acquainted with our suffering and will alleviate that suffering at times, and will always be present in my suffering, trusting that I will trust that God’s presence is enough. Solo Dios basta, as St. Teresa of Avila often declared.
Today I view my condition and the lack of the kind of “proof” for which I crave as a sort of metaphor for God’s faith in me that I will have faith in God. Regardless.
From day fourteen of our Lenten Prayer Practice:
John 3:8,16-17 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit. For this is how God loved the world: God gave God’s one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent God’s Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. [NLT]
I cannot explain the wind (okay, science has advanced our knowledge considerably. Still.) I cannot explain my illness. I cannot explain God’s presence in the world, or God’s love and mercy and grace. But I can make a case, list the evidence. Every time someone seeks to understand me before passing judgment, there is God. When my sister-in-law texts me exactly what I need to hear after I rant about my hospital experience, there is God. When one doctor affirms, “we are going to get to the bottom of this,” there is God. When my husband sits with me at breakfast intentionally attentive to every word I have to say, there is God. When my son’s response to my encouraging word is, “I love you, too,” there is God.
Where do you see evidence for God? I would very much like to participate with you in your praise!