First published 2012 by B&H Publishing Group
What drew my attention to this book as it sat there in the library was the peanut butter on the front cover, as I have been a peanut butter girl since early childhood. At first glance I thought I was looking at two slices of toast, one with peanut butter and one with vegemite, still a breakfast I enjoy, but on closer inspection found it was jam or ‘jelly’, not vegemite, and I was looking at bread, two halves of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in actual fact. But I took it home anyway because it dealt with the crap that life throws at you from a Christian perspective. Michael Kelley’s crap was the three years he and his wife dealt with their first born son’s leukaemia, which he thankfully survived.
As soon as I read the first chapter I loved the book, especially the reference to “those people”, people with big problems, because for many years I have been one of those people. First I was ‘the lady with all those kids whose husband has the brain tumour’, then I was a widow. I thought this an extremely ugly word until my stepson committed those murders, and at that time decided that being a mere widow wasn’t so bad after all. Anyway you get the picture.
I loved what Kelley says about becoming one of ‘those people’, “the ones you don’t get too close to, not because you don’t care but because you don’t want to think about what life would be like if that happened to you. You know, those people.
“The worst part is that we were not those people – we were the people that were supposed to ‘be there’ for those people. I went to seminary for crying out loud! I was a professional Christian.”
All the way through the book Kelley covers the different things that are going on internally when life is no longer ‘normal’, in a very human way, so that even though my crap was not the same as his crap, I was pretty much nodding and saying amen all the way through. He also weaves in Bible stories, the parts where a person or body of people, ie the Israelites, are going through the similar sorts of things, but does not get too bogged down in too much complicated theological stuff.
Kelley’s writing is wonderfully accessible, and he also has a great sense of humour which shone through here and there, such as when his wife is eating “freaking pizza” just after being given their son’s diagnosis (she was pregnant with their second child).
During the past six years of our crap – Edi was diagnosed six years ago today – the preaching I have been getting has been heavily influenced by that of Andrew Wommack. And while he has a lot of good things to say about how we go about healing etc and I love his funny sayings like, ‘how dumb can you be and still breathe’, I have an issue with the message I’m getting about God’s will.
My grandparents used to say that there were four answers to prayer: yes, no, wait, I’ll give you something better. They said things like ‘some things we’re not meant to understand’. My dad used to be annoyed by this, and assumed they were mindlessly believing God’s word, when the truth was they had probably given up trying to figure out what was going on upstairs years ago.
In Wommack’s book it is God’s will for everything to be awesome, for us to be completely healed every time, and why are we praying for something when God’s already done it (I say that to myself when the house is dirty 12 hours after cleaning, ‘but it’s already been done!’) With this kind of message is the implication that if the healing doesn’t happen, that you, the human being, have failed in some way. Kelley also touches on this topic, after being told that if he had enough faith, then he wouldn’t have to watch his son suffer through the chemotherapy. And while the Wommack teachings are inspiring, there seems to be no room for a bad day, or even a day when God’s answer is no.
Andrew Wommack seems to portray a God sitting up there on his hands, waiting for us to do everything. Now that sounds like an awful load on my shoulders, the opposite of Jesus and his “come to me and I will give you rest”. It also denies a verse I love, Daniel 4:35: “all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘what doest thou?'”
God does know what he’s doing, and as devastating as it was for Edi to die aged 46, when his three youngest children were 3, 5 and 7, it turned out God did have our best interests at heart given what his firstborn child got up to a few years later. I am also thankful that Kelley’s son did get to go to Sea World in the end!
And being one of ‘those people’ is not all bad – it means you don’t have to cross the street to avoid the lady whose kid died in a car crash, and it means you can offer the new widow a hug where others struggle and fail to find the right thing to say. That is why God needs Christians who have done it tough.