Sin and Chemotherapy
I am not a doctor, but I play one via the US Mail. Working as a Tech in an infectious disease lab affords you the courtesy of receiving vast quantities of advertising mail from potential vendors, who not wishing to possibly insult someone, inevitably give me the title doctor when addressing me. I suppose some of the people working in the mailroom are none the wiser and I must admit I somewhat like the prestige I get from some of these presuppositions. Please reference the self-admonition I always "offer" at the end of my posts.
Working at a world-reknowned cancer care facility has its ups and downs...and one "down" frequently occurs in the elevator when I sometimes make contact with a patient. In one recent case a small family composed of parents, a boy of perhaps two years, and a little girl about 6 years old, joined me for the ride down. The little boy was connected to a series of tubes which left his abdomen and met up with some sort of electronic device which his sister carreid cautiously. Not being a doctor - or nurse for that matter - I really have no idea what this device was for, though I suspect the boy was undergoing chemotherapy. My job is to take his facelss samples and identify potentially dangerous pathogens therein...but when the faces from which these samples originate are seen, my job becomes much more emotionally complex and diffcult.
I could see the boy had been crying and he held in his hand a brand new - not even out of the package - matchbox car. No doubt it was given to him as a reward for dealing with the painful needle sticks he had to endure. In his parents' face I believed I could see sleeplessness, fear, sadness, and profound sympathy and love. On this short little trip down the elevator, my heart was breaking for them and it was all I could do to hold back literal tears. My thoughts: How trivial my problems are....how lucky I am that my kids are healthy...how horrible it must be to see your child suffer...I wonder if the boy will make it....and most importantly: WHY?
Then something strange happened as the door opened to the second floor and the family stepped out to leave. I felt deeply compelled to apologize to them. To tell them that it is my fault and that I was terribly grieved for what I had done to bring such harm to their beautiful son. I imagined myself on my knees, pleading for mercy as if I had struck their child down with my own hands. Truth be told? I did strike the child down...and so did you! We are all to blame for this little boy's suffering...indeed for all the world's suffering. IT IS ALL OUR FAULT!
We are not saved alone or in isolation and neither do we sin alone or in isolation. What we do affects others in ways we cannot imagine. You see this is the paradigm we lack here in America...stupid boneheads that we are, we actually think that we are free to do anything we want in the "privacy" of our own homes "as long as it doesn't affect others."
Everything we do...I'll say again...everything we do affects others! By Adam's sin DEATH itself was brought into existance, and we perpetuate death, sickness, suffering, and pain by enveloping ourselves in more and more sin...calling them "personal lifestyle choices" or "our rights."
We have always been taught that sin is simply the breaking of a law and that the only time such sins affect others is if they were somehow directly involved. But there is much more to sin than that - sin literally alters reality. It kills that which should have once been and brings to life that which should never have been. Sin is not merely breaking a law, it is bleeding the LIFE out of the universe and replacing it with death. It extinguishes light in exchange for darkness...and we in our Matrix-like stupor begin to call the darkness "normal." In our God-designed, Trinity-modeled human community we suffer at the hands of one another whether we even know it or not! THIS, for those of you who are Orthodox, is why Forgiveness Vespers is so important...it doesn't matter whether you pissed off another parishoner or not...we all owe and require one another's forgiveness.
And so when the lust burns and when the anger builds, I will try to remember this little boy on the elevator.
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Sin and Chemotherapy