Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm just a big dummy.

Yesterday I attended a debate; the topic concerned the possibility of limiting the availability of liver transplants to known alcoholics. The debate centered on a perceived injustice -- that those who were simply victims of circumstance should be given preference over those whose behaviors precipitated disease. Arguments were lively, as you might have guessed, both pro and con. Data was most supportive of no restrictions when long-term viability of the transplant was assessed; alcoholics fared as well as and often even better than the overall transplant sample. Nonetheless, anecdotal testimony of those who died while waiting for transplants created an atmosphere in which data sometimes took a back seat to emotions.

One young female member of the debate panel spoke with particular conviction and acrimony in support of denying liver transplants to alcoholics. She cited the editorial comments of a physician and others in which poor choices and behaviors justified denial of suitability for transplant. She had no hard data, but her certainty of position was compelling, even if morally reprehensible.

A classmate of mine leaned over and whispered, "She obviously doesn’t know anyone suffering alcoholism." How could she? She looked like a child, no more than nineteen. Of course, I have no idea how old she is, or if anyone in her life has been touched by alcoholism…but I considered that her convictions revealed a certain immaturity.

I remember a time when I knew everything…

When I was a younger man I was, quite frankly, brilliant. I had in my possession the means to live a model life: my children would be perfect, my career would be one stellar success after another, my relationship with my spouse would mimic the holiness of Francis and Claire, and my faith was a rock of certainty and strength. As I cast a critical eye at my elders I could easily point out the errors that led to their present suffering and difficulties… the health decisions that precipitated obesity, hypertension, cancers and heart ailments; the laxity in their parenting skills that opened the door to alcoholism, drugs, pregnancy and conflict; the self-centered behaviors that bred marital strife and divorce; the lack of perseverance and faith that left room for despair and godless behaviors.

I held a quiet complacency that my life would be so very different, so much better, devoid of the suffering around me.


I have discovered that no one, not even the smartest man in the world, can avoid suffering. It is here, omnipresent, indifferent to intelligence, sincerity or faithfulness. Now the focus changes; I no longer hope to avoid suffering. I now must learn to use it to grow in grace. My character is defined by my response. Easily said; tough in application.  I write this in a moment of test and ask your prayers.
Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD, nor punish me in your wrath.
Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are trembling.

In utter terror is my soul-- and you, LORD, how long...?

Turn, LORD, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.
For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol?
I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.
My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes.

Away from me, all who do evil! The LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my prayer; the LORD takes up my plea.
My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.
Psalm 6


  1. "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
    - Mark Twain

  2. Hm. This is a really interesting post, on a really interesting topic. Lots of food for thought.

  3. Very interesting debate. As far as the young lady is concerned, I used to know everything, too. Now I can see how stupid and judgmental I was. Suffering is the way to wisdom and the opportunity to grow in charity. I will pray for you in your time of need.


I am always interested and appreciative of your comments and thank you for taking the time. God bless you.