Jane Arie Baldwin

Personal Tools and Techniques for Unwinding

Month: October, 2011

If God loves me…

If God loves me:


Thought #1

Cancer happened to other people, older people. 

At twenty-eight years old I could not have dreamed in my wildest nightmares that I would find out over the phone – while I was driving – that I had cancer.

I had been questioning the existence of God for some time at that point.  I prided myself in seeking empirical evidence for the existence of everything and I saw no empirical evidence of God, an omniscient overseer, anywhere, especially in my life.  There were others such as my mother who believed in God and had all the proof they needed that God existed.  I was happy for them in their unabashed trust in their faith.  What did they see that I did not? Or, had they created an illusion in their minds that made them see things that weren’t really there?

Mom had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic when I was three or four.  I remember her raging tirades with imagined demons in the walls of our house.  In one particular event she pleaded with them to leave her alone, let her love her children, and live in peace with her family.  She spent Christmas of that year locked within the walls of her own mind behind the doors of a local sanitarium.  When she emerged after a few weeks she looked rested albeit worn down and she had found her new anchor, Jesus Christ.

Thought #2

Why did God leave me out? Why did he not pick me? 

I wasn’t even sure I wanted God to pick me.  I wasn’t buying the God that I had been introduced to in my childhood and I questioned many parts of the stories told about Jesus.  Some of them sounded flat-out made up to me. Really?  God mysteriously planted his seed into Mary’s womb.  This was the big one.  Now how does that work?

Or another one,

Jesus disappeared for most of his life only to resurface just long enough to be put to death so that he could float up into the heavens?  Really?

The character arc of Jesus’ story seemed too polished to me.  The more I knew about the story of Jesus the more it sounded like a savvy marketing campaign that had been watered down over the course of two thousand years by a team that worked in secret to create hyperbolic storylines to get great ratings.  Jesus did not need this type of embellishment.  His message sells itself.

Thought #3

There is nothing after THE END.

The first few nights after my cancer diagnosis I lay in the dark feeling utterly alone, devoid of all connection.  Suddenly, I needed to know – Is God real? What’s all the fuss about God?  Is this it for me?  Is this the end of my existence?

I repeated the words over and over again, “I have cancer.  I have cancer.  I have cancer…” Did I feel different?  No.  I felt exactly the same.  I had no pain and no outward evidence of cancer.  I ignored the voice that said, “Oh, so you can’t see God either, does that mean there is no God?”

I wanted to get in touch with death, to embrace it and not be afraid of it in case it came before my thirtieth birthday.  As I lay there in a completely black space I imagined how I felt in many scenarios.   I imagined myself in a coffin, I felt myself being buried alive, I let the walls fall away and pretended I were floating in timeless space, I felt myself sink to the bottom of the ocean.

 Thought #4

God did not do this to me.  Cancer is, biologically, the reproduction of abnormal cells.  Normal cells need oxygen to grow and I was not providing that.  I was providing the opposite of support.  I was providing anger, negativity, skepticism, and contraction from anything nurturing or supportive.  I wanted God to show me and then I would follow, yet I rejected the idea of following.

Then my wonderful great-aunt, a true angel and messenger, brought over Rabbi Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.  When I took the book I knew I would find a trail of breadcrumbs, nuggets that would lead me to the castle.

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted – a paved road or a washing machine?  If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul. — Rabbi Harold Kushner

I found out that God is love, plain and simple.  My need to anthropomorphize this all-encompassing energy is what humans do to understand better.  What a relief!  I no longer felt I had to find an old man as if playing hide or seek.  Rabbi Kushner’s words resonated with me and gave me a perspective I could grow from.  I began to retrain myself that the ugly and hateful stuff is not God.  Thus it should NOT keep me from seeing God and feeling God and knowing God in my heart.

So then I had to start trusting my heart and it was like, “Oh, shit!  Wait…wait!  I think I liked it better when I had to search for something OUTSIDE of me!”

My Cancer & My Faith

Jesus loves his Momma

Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  For many years afterward I said in the back of my mind that “some day” I would write about it.  One of the first things that bubbled up from the depths of my being was the poem “Cancer Raped Me.”  I dropped my pen on the table like a hot potato or a powerful wand that I didn’t yet know how to use after I wrote that poem.  I knew that when I did write my story it would be very uncomfortable to do because it weaves the timeless themes of sexuality and spirituality from my perspective.

To inspire my writing I recently visited a few cervical cancer support websites.  “Wow,” I thought to myself, “there is so much more awareness and support here than a decade ago.” (thanks internet!)  Many sites had sections where women shared their stories about their experiences.  I immediately felt a tinge of guilt that I had not written my story on one of these sites and then had to laugh because I’d been so focused on writing A BOOK that I never thought to try to sum up my story in a couple of paragraphs.

I read a few of the women’s stories and almost immediately realized why I had not “joined in the conversation” around the issue of my cancer.  Every single one of these women, by the third sentence of their story had acknowledged Jesus Christ as THE source of their strength during their darkest hours.

I love Jesus…but it’s complicated.  My experience with cancer played a HUGE role in renewing my faith. I resisted this notion at first, though, because I didn’t want to fit into the cliché – Girl stopped believing. Got cancer.  Found her faith.

As a child I was a student of religion.  I went to a Catholic Elementary school taught by nuns, my family attended a Methodist church, and we lived across the street from a Baptist church where I attended Sunday school. In Catholic school I learned to fear God, at our Methodist church the sermons preached the patriarchy of God (patriarchy didn’t go over too well in our family where the women always had the last say), and at the Baptist church I learned that judgment was an important part of faith in God, that God was jealous and his wrath strong.  I remember the images on the walls of Sunday school with God as an old man in a white robe looking down on the sinners and a peaceful Jesus coming to bring the message that his dad is not as mean as he is portrayed.  It felt so good to be able to abandon the mean Dad for the kinder, gentler Son.

As I got older I continued to pray and believe in Jesus.  Then I started to ask the BIG questions.  No matter how much faith I put into the Son, the Father still haunted me: If God is so benevolent, why are children starving in Africa? If God is PEACE why are the Jews and Palestinians still fighting over the Holy Land?  If God is LOVE, why is there murder?

If God loves me:  WHY-DO-I-HAVE-CANCER?

To be continued…

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