J Walking

J Walking


I remember watching the Superfriends on Saturday mornings – back when Saturday mornings were good TV. Aquaman was always my favorite… still is… here is our own Aquaman, Matt:

I’m a 34-year old corporate lawyer, married to my college sweetheart (an amazing woman) and the proud father of two beautiful children– a 5-year old girl and a 2-year old boy.
My parents, both Catholic, gave me a strong upbringing in the faith, but I was one of those people who (to paraphrase Lenny Bruce) had to leave the church to go back to God. I’m grateful God led me to that realization eight years ago; some people spend their entire lives letting the flaws of human institutions stand between them and Jesus. Thankfully, I have since been led to a vibrant, Protestant church community that embraces my family and nourishes my faith.
I don’t care for labels, but the label “progressive Christian” fits me as well as any. I believe Jesus was God Incarnate, died for my sins, and rose on the third day. I accept the authority of the Bible. I look forward to Christ’s triumphant return, when he will place the powers of this world under his feet. I’m also a registered Democrat who falls somewhere between Ted Kennedy and Noam Chomsky on the political spectrum. I’m bemused that so many people see a contradiction here; it seems so natural to me.
My faith was greatly tested 3 years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative disease. The typical life expectancy for a child with her illness is 10-12 years. We’re optimistic she’ll do better than that, thanks to some innovative treatments, but assuming I’m blessed with decent health and luck, I know I’ll bury her someday.
Soon after my daughter’s diagnosis, I realized that nurturing my anger toward God was a luxury I couldn’t afford– as angry as I was, I needed God more than ever. That’s not to say my faith is the same; like every other part of my life, it has changed.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote that “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” I’m slowly grasping the truth of those words. I used to think walking with Jesus was something like a leisurely walk along the beach with a dear friend. That’s part of it, but walking with Jesus also means walking alongside him as he carries the Cross to Calvary.
I’m drawn to this blog because I sense that David’s understanding of “J-Walking” is very similar to mine. Compared to that common ground, our political differences are trivial (though they make for lively discussion).

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posted May 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Thanks Aquaman – I have often enjoyed your posts. I think – very sick kid – is the biggest cross I know – I recall letting go of my anger at God on that one – your words really reverberated.

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posted May 13, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Thanks, Thinker, for your kind words.
I wouldn’t compare my burdens to anyone else’s. I have no idea what it’s like to live with a tumor inside one’s brain, but that has been David’s reality these past several years. I know David would say he’d rather deal with his illness than watch one of his children go through it– just as I would gladly take on my daughter’s illness if that would somehow spare her– but I’m not so sure David’s path is the easier one.
As humans, we are hard-wired to be self-centered. (This is one way to describe Original Sin.) I admire David’s ability, with God’s help, to remain courageous in the face of pain and uncertainty, resisting what must be an ever-present urge to descend into bitterness and selfishness. At least with a sick child, one’s energies and sympathies are directed outwards– whatever bitterness and selfishness we feel (and I feel plenty of both) are tempered by the necessity of caring for another human being.

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David Kuo

posted May 13, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Just for the record… it is easy to think I deal with that tumor with grace and courage and a stiff upper lip but really, I don’t. I tend to bitch and moan during the end of my chemo cycles and I get really grumpy – though I do submit that is ‘chemo brain.’ I don’t trust God NEARLY enough and spend too much time analyzing whether the third toe on my left foot might be, could be, marginally weaker than the day before thereby indicating I have mere moments left to live. Just needed to set that record straight.
So Aquaman, you are the hero here… and all of your family… and know of our prayers for all of you. I think even Canucklehead might be moved with kindness… well, ok, perhaps that is a bit too much to ask for… I think he is now on a 30-day FAST…

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mrs aquaman

posted May 13, 2008 at 6:30 pm

David, thank you for the prayers and kind thoughts.

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posted May 13, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Nice to read about the people in your neighbourhood.

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posted May 13, 2008 at 10:38 pm

There are no words I can give you except that I hope your daughter will be cured. I won’t get into my personal story about my children, but I do have experiences that can actually relate to your pain. Even though I am on the diamtrically opposite side of the religion-political camps from yours, as a father, my heart is wrenched for you. (No theology now.)
Isn’t it interesting that as parents, we go into the child making process exactly the same way as God does. We have children we want “out of love,” knowing that we really have extremely little control over them once they have life. Their OWN life, though we are the ones that gave it to them. Yet we bring them into the world by our force of will and actions. If anything is attained in the way of knowledge through the walking with Jesus process “for me,” is that eternity is already here. We, are already always in it. Your daughter is already 50,000-years old (times eternity), you just don’t have the perspective yet, to see it. You of course, being 50,000 plus (plus), the years you have over her. “Time” is a thing. A created thing. Without time, you and your daughter, and I and my child I long to see again, are always together (until you get bored a bit a want to hang with someone else for a “time”). But, like any learning process, we don’t have the perspective “now,” to know it, until we are shown it. Taught it. I know that I can step out of time – as an experiment – in only one way: Caring for and about others. Do gazelles care that a lioness and her cubs are in danger from a marauding loner male lion? Caring about you is antithetical to the myth-education of chaos to order without a designer. That would be “Designer.” When I tapped the keyboard and arrived at J-Walking . . . with David Kuo, I didn’t “think” anything about you and your daughter because I didn’t know anything about you. I have a daughter. I can never ever not know you (or know about you) for forever. You and your wife desired to create your daughter. And like you are to God, Who created you, she is yours forever. And that is a fact, whether or not you “know it” yet. Love is caring, and caring proves eternity really is there. You look at your daughter and you know forever is the only reality you actually can prove to yourself. And she knows that too. And so does God for the exact same reasons.
I would encourage you to live every moment, but I know you already do.

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posted May 13, 2008 at 11:13 pm

Oh, Donny, this is the guy I know and love – the Donny whose heart is so big.
Sounds like all three of us have much in common on that front. Funny how loving kids does it to us.
My son is my current worry – he’ll be fine, but is going through his 20’s with great angst. God is so present to me in the love of my children and husband. Funny enough, God is often present to me in my love of my students. Watching them wrangle their way through adolescence with its drama and pain – well that must be how God loves us through it all.

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posted May 14, 2008 at 1:20 am

Aquaman, do you mind me asking what your daughter’s diagnosis is? I’m attempting to support a couple in our congregation whose daughter has Rhett’s Syndrome (I believe it’s called). Any words of wisdom would be great – what TO say, what NOT to say, etc.
good words, Donny; is that really you? I’ll take Thinker’s word for it b/c she’s a Cubs’ fan and the 6 of us need to hang together.
“…I think even Canucklehead might be moved with kindness… well, ok, perhaps that is a bit too much to ask for… I think he is now on a 30-day FAST…” DK
holee-molee, see if I ever disclose my wounded inner child online anymore; it’s gonna take me a month of John Hagee programs to recover from the shots I’m taking here

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posted May 14, 2008 at 6:51 am

A sword has two sides but one grip. Jesus said we must become like little children for a reason. At one point Jesus is so loving, and then we see another reality as well. I’m not going any further than that in this blog. All I know is to follow the fruit to the vine, and to follow the vine to the roots. That is why I take the stand I do on the issues I comment on.

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posted May 14, 2008 at 9:16 am

Aquaman, I wish your daughter a full life of any length. Your post and Bonhoffer’s quote remind me of the hymn They Cast Their Nets- the peace of God is no peace at all.

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posted May 14, 2008 at 10:50 am

I fell asleep watching my beloved Red Sox, and woke up this morning to see so many kind words addressed to me! I don’t know where to begin.
Thinker, I’ll hold your son in my prayers.
Donny, thanks for your kind and insightful words. I appreciate your insight that time is God’s creation, which God is not bound by and which we are bound by only in this life. A friend of mine who is a skeptic played a key role in leading me to that realization. That realization, in turn, has given me a different perspective on God and prayer. I don’t expect God to be invested in my plans, because God already holds the future. If I hear belatedly that someone is in crisis, I pray for that person, even if I know the crisis has passed– the temporal distinction means much more to us than it does to God. And yes, it does provide a different perspective to suffering and grief, though of course it does not eliminate such things (and you don’t suggest that it does).
Canucklehead, my daughter has MPS, which is a lysosomal storage disorder. I just read a little about Rett’s Syndrome online; there are similarities and differences between Rett’s and MPS. The best advice on what to say (and not to say) is to understand that there’s nothing you really can say. Be present to the parents. Love the child, as well as her (presumably non-affected) siblings. The best things you can do are the most obvious things.
Our pastors have been wonderful to our family. My daughter absolutely adores one of them, who makes a point to find her before or after worship and give her a big hug. My daughter loves to chew on this pastor’s stole, which is multi-colored (almost like a rainbow) and beautifully knit. When I tried to stop her from chewing, I got scolded! Our other pastor remarked that the stole is a symbol of servanthood; therefore, he could think of no more appropriate use of a stole than for my daughter to chew on it! Like I said, we belong to a wonderful church. I can’t say enough about the love and care that all four of us experience there.
David, Cubs fans appear to be drawn to your website. I wonder what that means?? As a Sox fan, I feel as though I speak to Cubs fans from the other side of the eschaton. I lived through 1986, but I never bought into curses– I figured a big-market team like the Sox had to win the World Series eventually. It was only after they won in 2004 that I realized I had been fully prepared to die as an old man without ever seeing the Sox win the big one. Take heart, Cubs fans. It’s not nirvana here on the other side, but it’s nice being just another fan whose hometown team has won a World Series recently.

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posted May 15, 2008 at 8:40 am

Aquaman, I would bet my life that the truth in the testimony of the New Testament witness is solid. But, in all honesty, I don’t really know what I would do if I had to “put it,” in that way. I do know what it is like to watch a child suffer and wish I could sub in or change the reality of the situation. No matter where that tok me. (But man, I got lots of work to do “as” a Christian.)
Thinker, thanks. I will not reply the way you know I want to, here in this blog. Suffice it to say, there is only “ONE” faith delivered “only once” to the saints. In context, that would mean the Apostles that watched Jesus go up were the saints that got the original blueprints. Please note that Paul only affirms them and is used by Christ “through the Holy Spirit and experience and education, to show them what was up “theologically” and, in common sense ways. Of course that is what the Holy Spirit does and a person that “sees the light.” Points everything TO Jesus. I believe in loving as I truly desire to be loved. I don’t like being told lies or deceived. And I certainly do not want to be the bearer of deception. It’s a Gospel thing. And I stick to it. I just need a lot of work in the non-anger department. (But it’s tough dealing with bullies.) If a cop yells at you for running a stop sign and gives you a ticket, you still deserve a ticket for running a stop sign.

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