I didn’t want to read this book. Really, I didn’t.
I know both Jake and Erik. Not nearly as well as I would like to, but well enough that I knew I’d buy a copy of this book as soon as I’d heard about it, just because I wanted to support them.
But read it?
I hate cancer. Really, I do. I’ve seen the effects up close and personal. My Mother is a breast cancer survivor and sometimes, I’d go sit with her during her infusion therapy sessions. I have close friends who have lived with cancer. I have close friends who have died from cancer. I have done funerals for cancer victims in my congregation.
So I bought the book, but would have been content to let it sit on my shelf. To open it would be to voluntarily re-engage a world that brings back painful thoughts, feelings and emotions. Why would I possibly want to do that. And besides, cancer scares the crap out of me.
But I also felt conflicted. Yes, I can learn more…yes, there are some interesting writers in this set of essayists…yes, I’m a grown up and I shouldn’t let base fears and emotions drive my actions.
So I picked a time and place to read it where if it got to be too much, I could just look away, and my setting would restore my soul: on the beach in Jamaica. Not bad. And so I read. And I never had to look away.
This collection of essays is full of wisdom. And there were no cliche answers…nothing designed to just make cancer seem “all right.” There was brutal honesty and powerful reflection. Not all of the essays spoke to me, and I’m sure that some of the ones that did wouldn’t speak to others. Our journeys and contexts are unique enough that the beauty of the book is that it will speak to the diversity of our experiences in some way, shape or form.
But what I loved most is that in these pages, even though I have not experienced cancer myself, I found stories of brokenness to which I could relate. Because really, we’re all broken. And while for some, the brokenness may be called cancer, for others it will have a different name.
And in the midst of the essays I still found hope and promise. Even in the stories that did not end well. There was evidence of the work of God in those stories.
I’m glad I read this book. I think you should too. It will help you remember from where you came and to whom you belong. And it will remind you of the promise of the resurrection, lived out in the the lives of God’s people, and of your life. And in reading these stories, the stories of those you know and love who have experienced cancer will resonate. And you will learn how to better connect with those who experience this disease.
I still hate cancer, with all of my heart. And while it still scares me when I hear the word…this book reminds me how to not be afraid.
Networked in Christ
Cancer Theology is edited by Erik Ullestad and Jake Bouma. Erik serves at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church in West Des Moines, Iowa and Jake Bouma is at Faith Lutheran Church in Clive, Iowa. They are both members of the Network. Erik is currently serving as the chairperson of the Network’s Board of Directors.
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