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MIT student blogger Gabe B. '13

Faith by Gabe B. '13

Embracing uncertainty as the world changes around us

Silence. Stillness. As I lay on my side, feet curled into my chest, the only sounds I could hear were my rhythmic breathing, my steady heart beat, and a high-pitched beep every two seconds. My sheets were warm and snug. Out the window, giant snowflakes fell to the barren ground outside and the sun’s rays streaked through a break in the clouds as if the earth was catching a glimpse of heaven. I felt safe, warm, and full of peace in my cozy little hospital room. I drifted into a deep sleep.

I startled awake in a sweat, almost screaming. Pain raced through my abdomen like a crazed lion, tearing at every nerve ending within its grasp. I needed help from someone. Anyone. I reached out to God. “God, please make it stop. Please,” I remember begging. But the pain continued. As I lay there, fighting the urge to push the orange nurse call button, I realized that my faith was being tested. I kept calling for God. After a few minutes, I gave in and pushed the orange button. The nurse fluttered into the room and attached another bag of morphine to the plastic tube which disappeared underneath the skin on my left arm. In a few moments I was relieved from the stabbing pain and my head was sent spinning.

The nurse had helped me. The morphine had helped me. Not God. I felt crushed and angry. “Why would a being, all-powerful, ever-merciful, let me suffer?” And it was not just me. It was the homeless man repeatedly stumbling into the Emergency Department asking for more pain-killers, the middle-aged woman, unhappy with life as an unappreciated housekeeper, the neglected baby in my neighbors’ house repeatedly screaming for hours. “Why would God want this for people whom he loves?” In my morphine induced haze I spent the next few weeks staring at the ceiling, pondering life, pain, and the existence of a God who would allow me to hurt. Would He allow me to die? If He didn’t exist, would my doctors come to the rescue? Would they figure out what was wrong and how to rid me of this pain?

My Mom entered the room with my lead doctor, Matt, trailing her. Mom grinned and told me that the team of doctors suspected they had a diagnosis – Castleman’s Disease. They had run hundreds of tests, biopsies, and scans, yet Matt told us that they couldn’t be certain. He said, “Medicine doesn’t have answers, just hypotheses.” He went on to explain that I was one of less than a dozen children ever diagnosed with multicentric Castleman’s Disease. The condition was rare and there was no definitive treatment. After reading all the other case studies, they proposed a trial of treatment with high dose steroids and chemotherapy.

About a week later, I could walk and was released from the hospital. As we merged onto to I-91 North to go to our house, I felt as if I was leaving my home, not headed to it. In four weeks I had developed an attachment to the Intensive Care Unit. I did not blame God for my health crisis. I questioned my faith in Him, and appreciated my faith in humanity – in the doctor’s who had labored straight through Christmas to reach a diagnosis, in the blue-clad nurses, in the friends with clueless, yet hopeful smiles, and in my family, which had rushed to my side during my time of need. Matt’s words resonated with me, and I realized that our world doesn’t have answers. Facts are simply our spin on how things work, our interpretations of the world. As John Whitehorn writes in Education For Uncertainty, “[Society] has tended to inculcate an expectation of certainty and knowledge and a phobic aversion for and intolerance of uncertainty.” I’ve learned to live with uncertainty—my Castleman’s Disease might relapse and God might exist. Embracing uncertainty allows me freedom to thrive, to ask questions that may or may not have answers, to seek truth, knowing it may not exist, to be creative and forge my way, helping to create a better future.

Neutrinos might win the galactic race, Professor Lander may be the most genius man alive today and the MIT football team might have a winning season. Here at MIT, uncertainty abounds. The key is to embrace it and keep pushing the boundaries. If that gets you going, you’re applying to the right Institute.

9 responses to “Faith”

  1. Piper '13 says:

    I don’t understand – why would this cause you to question your faith in God? Certainly you knew beforehand that people get sick, are in incredible pain, and/or die all the time.

  2. Covi says:

    Genuine great post! Thanks, Gabe.

  3. tgfz says:

    I’m truly sorry about the crisis you went through–it seems like an awful experience.

    Have you ever considered that God may have healed you using the doctors? We don’t see God working miracles today as He did in the past, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t heal people through secondary means.

    I’m praying that your Castleman’s will relapse.

  4. José ('17?) says:

    Love the text it’s genuine and greate.
    I hope you’ll get better

  5. Cait says:

    I’m glad you shared this, its inspiring to see that you took this experience and made it into a positive, future-building lesson.

  6. I have to work hard to achieve something i want.Thats logic.Though i have worked hard that doesn’t guarantee the outcome will be the one of my desire.Thats probability.
    So if there is God why would i need to work hard for something.Thats was some of questions popping up in my mind always.

    The worst part was for the Pastor to tell me to give more to the church(money) so as God to answer my prayers.That made me to get out of church one day during the Sunday service because to me it doesn’t make sense.And much more is the real life have taught much different from what the church always tell me.

    So i became unbeliever and a very confident one to express my opinion to people about the non existence of God.
    In my culture people viewed me as i am very insane.Here in Tanzania,we don’t question about God.

    The Turing’s view about the limitations of logic made me to rethink my faith,i began to see its true that logic cant give us the all answers,”The world doesn’t have all answers” just like you said.

    “God might exist but may be we all don’t understand him and his ways of operations”

  7. Peng says:

    For sure nobody like torture no matter it was from humanity or from disease. God bless you. No matter which country you are from.

  8. Rashmi says:

    Seems to me like you have summed up the simple reason for education that we make of so much, but sometimes fail to grasp the importance of…. Beautiful and very inspiring to keep pushing the boundaries. smile

  9. TayS says:

    @ Ashbery
    Yeah, I feel you man. I am a stout believer, yet I do plan on becoming a STEM major. I think the question should be restated as “If God exists, why do we work so hard?” because if God didn’t exist there really would be no purpose or goal to work for – our 100 yrs. here on Earth are meaningless. I believe that faith can be powerful and is acceptable in terms of embracing the uncertainty. Like Gabe said, science will NOT provide all the answers and will NOT lead us to God, because He of course lies outside of our understanding. I do respect science and what it has done to help humanity, but it won’t solve all of our problems. That’s why I love MIT and hope to attend there, because I can join a diverse community that accepts each other while learning more about the world we live in. Good post Gabe, and Ashery if you need someone to talk to I can be there. Faith is not monetary or worldly, it’s something that comes from within.