Thursday, May 4, 2017

Grace is a Preexisting Condition

I don't want to write about Congress.

I don't to write about this latest horror show of a bill, a bill I won't call a "healthcare bill" because it is whatever the opposite of that is, a bill about not caring about people's health.

I don't want to write about the group of white men who just blithely voted to threaten my health coverage, while making sure to keep their own (taxpayer-funded, government-provided) coverage.

I don't want to write about the stunning hypocrisy -- frankly, that's too generous of a word, as hypocrisy requires some sort of consistently expressed set of values to violate -- of a party that's run on the image of "traditional family values," yet is just fine with defining sexual assault and domestic violence and postpartum depression as "preexisting conditions."

I don't want to write about any of that. It makes me sick, and other, more politically savvy people have already put out plenty of analysis.

What I want to write about is grace.

In 2011, when a doctor first told me that the awful experience I was having might be a mental illness, the diagnosis came as a relief. I am a person of words, a person whose purpose, whose vocation, has always been caught up in a love of words. I write stories, I sing songs, I preach sermons, I love theology -- theo logos, words about God. To hurt without words was, is, terrifying for me. Some people hate the label of a mental illness diagnosis, and I understand the resistance to a simple, narrow label. But me, I was relieved to have words.

There was, I know now, a naivete to my relief. I didn't know, then, that bipolar disorder constituted a "preexisting condition" which would allow insurance companies to categorically deny my applications for coverage. Over and over again.

Or don't, I'm getting bored with it. 

Of course, my prior indifference to this reality was privilege, plain and simple. The maladies considered to be "preexisting conditions" were -- and are again -- Legion, and innumerable are those possessed of them. I was shielded from this particular thorn in the side until my mid-twenties; most Americans are not so lucky.

I had a brief respite from this under the Affordable Care Act -- which, simultaneously, expanded Medicaid enough so that I was eligible for coverage under it while still a student -- but Congressional Republicans, apparently lacking any real guiding set of values, any real compassion, and secure in their own tax-payer funded, government-provided health care coverage, could not let such a thing stand.

But I don't want to write about that.

I want to write about grace.

Grace is the welcoming, the reconciling, the transforming love of God.

Grace is a preexisting condition.

Grace is prior to what we do and what we say.

Before bipolar disorder. Before words -- words about politics, words about mental illness, words about me. Before me. Grace is.

Grace creates us, grace forms us, grace breathes life into us. Grace is the original intention, the creative and unitive force, that goes before...everything.

We are breathed, formed, by grace. Nothing to be done about that. But what we can do, what we are in fact quite stunningly capable of doing, is getting in the way of grace, restricting and blocking the channels by which divine love flows in and through us.

Here's some ways to do that:

We can refuse to listen to people who are sick and suffering, people struggling with cancer and with mental illness and with diabetes. That is a way to block grace.

We can refuse to listen to the stories of those who have been sexually assaulted, raped, abused. That is a way to block grace.

We can shut down our inherent capacity for empathy and connection, can see people as problems to be solved, sickness as personal failure, suffering as moral inferiority. That is a way to block grace.

But people are not problems. Sickness is not failure. Suffering is not immorality.

When we cut off grace -- when we purposely block the preexisting rhythms of creation and compassion -- that is a problem. That is a failure. That is immorality.

That is sin.

Grace is a preexisting condition. Choosing to hurt people, to reject people's story, to refuse care for people -- that's a choice. That's us. We do that.

But we don't have to. We could make different choices. We were made for love, for empathy, for connection, for the sharing of stories. That's what we were intended for.

Because grace came first.

Perhaps Congress should remember that. Perhaps they should remember that their actions will be weighed on a cosmic scale. But my faith isn't in Congress, that is for damn sure.

In the beginning, before words, there was the Word, and the Word was Love. Grace is a preexisting condition.


If you found this post to be helpful, or inspiring, or interesting, then you might want to know that I'm working on a book that touches on a lot of these themes. It's called Christ on the Psych Ward, and you can find out more about it and pre-order it by visiting this page.


  1. I haven't finished reading this post,yet. But so far, one thing stands out. You keep mentioning tax-payer funded,government provided health coverage for the group of "white men, Republicans".Isn't your health coverage "tax-payer funded, government provided? Isn't that somewhat hypocritical? Where is the grace you speak about, the fairness, in requiring others to pay for your health care when they are barely able to care for themselves? Where is the fairness in a working, middle class couple seeing their ins. premiums go from $400 a month to $1,600? Where is the fairness when her critically needed medication goes from $100 a month to $4,000 a month? This to give you and others on Obamacare your "tax-payer funded, government provided health care. It's not free.....someone, like this couple, has to pay for it. Just curious why you are critical of tax-payer funded, government provided health care for some but not others?

    1. A fair question. What I would point out is the assumption that "tax-payer funded, government-provided" is some sort of insult. Why is that? What's wrong with tax-payer funded, government-provided?

      I would say: nothing is wrong with that.

      It's what I think everyone should have.

      The frustration is, a group of people whose health care is provided by tax money passing legislation on the basis that it is somehow an irresponsible or bad thing to use tax money to provide health care.

      If tax money can't be used to support my health care, why should it be used to support the health care of the members of Congress who pass this kind of legislation?

    2. I'd add one more thing, just to respond separately to a separate point: there were a lot of problems with the ACA. I have said that, consistently, from day one. What I want is a system that works for everyone.

      But to be clear: before the ACA, I could not have insurance, period. No insurance company would give me coverage. Period. Because I have a condition which is no fault of my own.

      So -- let's find a system that works for everyone. If that looks like tax-payer funded, government-provided healthcare for all, then excellent. But it sure doesn't look like insurance companies "keeping costs low" by only covering people who aren't sick.