How do I tell this story? It’s not about money, doctors, pharmacists, and insurance companies. Yes, they have their role to play. Even if you have decent health insurance and money in the bank, being diagnosed with cancer at the end of the calendar year is frightening. You know how some criminals are sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole? Getting a cancer diagnosis in December is akin to receiving two death sentences at this same time.
This is because everything you’re required to pay out of pocket to begin your life-saving treatment in December, you’ll have to pay the exact amount again four weeks later in January. Although you’re only being treated in one month of 2022, you’re paying a copay (several thousand dollars) that is set for 12 months of treatment. You’ll pay that same exorbitant amount for the next 12 months in January. It’s the double whammy of double whammies. The following 11 months should be less of a financial burden. However, you’re starting with one heck of a hit. You and I know that poor people without financial means die every day when they shouldn’t. They could have accessed a life-saving treatment if they’d only had a few thousand dollars in the bank. What’s money when it comes to human life? Everything.
People will make hard moral and ethical choices to decide whether to buy food, find shelter, provide for their children, or pay for the medicine that might prolong their lives. We’ve created a world where these polarities exist and are far too comfortable living within them.
My dad can pay his copay for this year and next. Some people would use the word blessed. I prefer to say lucky. I like the old expression, “there but for the grace of God go I.” When I look around and see hardworking people struggling to make ends meet, struggling with life-threatening illnesses, and still getting knocked down each day, life seems random. Bad things shouldn’t be happening to these good people. They’re doing life right. They’re paying their taxes. They’ve raised kids who aren’t a drain on society. They’re in church, praying and helping their neighbors. Yet one wrong blood test, MRI, or CAT scan and their world can unwind in the blink of an eye. It’s not fair. Life ought to be fairer, but it’s not.
Yesterday, my father cried. In 48 years, I’ve never seen or heard the man choke up or cry. Someone from his church, simply out of brotherly love and God’s grace, came to him and gave him the money to pay the entirety of his copay for 2022, so he could immediately begin his treatment. His friend knows he could afford it, but he also knows that it’s not a gift my father (a man who would give anyone the shirt off his back) would give himself. My father had never received such a tangible display of God’s grace and love.
Grace makes you uncomfortable and overwhelmed. It will throw you for a loop. Words like “how” and “why” are the only thing you can say. You will believe that you are not worthy to receive it. Grace looks like a gardener, not a risen Savior. A man walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus appears to be a random well-informed traveler, not the risen Lord. Your first reaction to Grace is disorientation and disbelief. Grace is a big deal. It is unmerited, and it just shows up. Thank you for sending it. It’s my job, your job, to pass it on. Spread the awkward, uncomfortable, overwhelming Good News of the Gospel of God’s Grace. Life may not be fair but grace, by God, is.