Thesis 5: We Do It To Ourselves

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.

"5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons."
I never wanted to go to any sort of support groups for cancer survivors. Why should I go, I thought? My cancer isn't even life-threatening. And so I took a new marriage and an entirely new life to New York City with me. And my disease almost ate us both alive.

When I connected with my friend about her health problems (see my previous post), I recalled one of the most distinct memories from right after my surgery. Since your thyroid regulates so much of your normal metabolism (Let's say "normal" is a rate of 10.), when you don't have one, everything just dials down considerably (Maybe down to a 4 or 5): your cognition, your energy, your alertness, all of that. My radiation oncologist wouldn't let me start on my new hormone for two weeks after my surgery in order to prep my body for maximum uptake of radioiodine.

I remember standing in line at the grocery store. My wife had had to drive me because I was in no way fit to do so. I grabbed whatever couple of things I thought I wanted, though it was more just an attempt to get out of the house and run errands like normal people do. The magazines on the rack at the checkout caught my eye for some reason and I guess I must have zoned out. When I snapped out of it, I realized that I could have curled up right there on the floor and fallen asleep, though I'd gotten plenty of sleep. I couldn't remember exactly why I was there, nor if I'd gotten what I came in for. I couldn't completely recall if I'd driven myself against doctor's orders, or if Sarah had driven me. And if she had, where had she said she'd be waiting?

A wave of dark isolation came over me. I was the only person in the universe.

I'm not sure what happened next. Maybe I concluded that whatever was in my hands was good enough for that errand and just put myself on autopilot. I paid and got out quickly.

I don't really remember talking about this incident. Rarely, if ever. I allowed myself to stay isolated. Part of this was surely the vastly different way I was brought up to communicate about my emotional life than those around me.

It's crazy to think about now. Even at the most intensely difficult and emotional stage of my life up to that point, I was still bottling all that shit up inside, afraid of what it might admit about me.

But I was doing it to myself.

The pope can only pay remittance, Luther says, for things that he himself has control over. We are foolish to think that a human authority holds the key to the lock upon our ability to become deeper disciples.

In the same way that I had allowed my cultural norms (around masculinity, around gender roles in marriage, around those who have cancer) to define my ability to process my illness, I believe we are allowing our cultural norms around leadership to hinder our call as individuals and our communal liberation.

Too much emphasis is placed on our pastors and conference administrators as arbiters of vision. They (and we for them, if they cannot see fit to do so) need to act as spotlights towards the margins, wherein God's true vision lies. How long will we wait for our leaders to catch up on issues of justice, while the Holy Spirit is two more turns around the corner? How much more of our money will be spent on building renovations while God's children are sleeping in the snow tonight? We must stop waiting for our leaders to catch up to the murmurs of Jesus, already on our lips though we're afraid to speak them aloud.

The United Methodist Church (and many of its mainline cousins) does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any church trial decisions other than those which it has imposed either by its own authority or by that of the Book of Discipline.


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