For quite some time I have claimed I Corinthians 2.2 as a favorite passage of mine, For I have determined to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. . . . Then I was diagnosed with that rare cancer that nobody wants (desmoplastic small round cell tumor — sarcoma) — you can read more about that HERE — and this verse took on a whole new perspective (one, in the moment, I really didn’t want); which is what I want to talk about in this brief post.
Martin Luther articulated what he called The Theology of the Cross (in contrast to The Theology of Glory a la the “scholastics”), in short, what Luther was after was the idea that knowing God, whose life is cruciform in shape, happens best when we are suffering; when we are in complete dependence upon him (or we’ll perish). This is who God is, the God who is shaped by being other shaped, and dependent upon the other (within the God-head) as the place where His being finds shape and definition. The cross is the ultimate externalization of such a life; a life which does not think equality with God somthing to be grasped. I knew all of this before I was diagnosed with cancer (I had previously gone through a few years of deep depression and some other “spiritual battles” . . . so I knew something of suffering), but like I said, this “theology” took on (and still is) a whole new life for me.
Here’s what I want to highlight in this post: When I was going through all the chemo, the terrible side effects, the surgery, the recovery, more chemo, and the terrible side effects (which I still have some remnents of [neuropathy in my feet]), in the “moment” of all of that knowing the Lord in His ‘inner-being’ through suffering didn’t seem like a reality. Just physically I was so beat, thinking about anything but feeling better was really the first thing on my mind. Mentally and emotionally I didn’t have the wherewithal to begin understanding or even to contemplate who God is in the midst of that. It started seeming like much of what I thought before, about suffering, was just a theoretical or theological platitude. At points it seemed like there could be nothing worse than what I was going through (even the cross); in other words, when we’re suffering, or at least when I was suffering, I was so consumed with not wanting to suffer anymore that it was hard to see the Lord (of course I’m saying all this with the realization in place that all I was doing through that season was really resting and trusting in Him, crying out to Him, constantly — and just hoping for a miracle). It seems like when we suffer, at points, in the midst of it, that all we really desire is to not be suffering (and I don’t think this is a bad desire); when we’re suffering, all we can do is look away from ourselves, and if we know Jesus, look to Him in desperation; since we know that He alone has overcome our current situations as He Himself penetrated the depths of human suffering (as a human) and overcame all of this “nothingness” and “non-being” with His resurrection life! That’s really all I could do in the deepest parts of those most desperate moments; it’s not an intellectual gaze that we have in those moments, it’s one of desperate need of the Other. This is the place we know Christ and Him crucified, in those moments of pure desperation and utter need for something or someOne outside ourselves!