I think that had I met Ed Dobson twenty years ago, we would have annoyed each other. That was before he was diagnosed with AML, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and before I had my own peculiar area of suffering and grief in my life. Wikipedia says that Ed Dobson, who used to work for Jerry Falwell and who used to be a leader in the Moral Majority, went on to pastor a large church in Michigan and became a mentor to Rob Bell, the Love Wins guy. I freely admit that I find aspects of the Moral Majority’s agenda and of Rob Bell’s teaching to be suspect and annoying.
Nevertheless, reading Mr. Dobson’s reflections on facing his own mortality and suffering, Seeing Through the Fog, was an encouraging, life-affirming, God-glorifying experience. This book is not Rob Bell speculating on things beyond his understanding (or mine). It’s not a legalist Christian giving a list of rules to be kept and sins to be repented. Seeing Through the Fog is the honest, painfully honest, meditations of a man who is facing a slow deterioration of his muscles and of his ability to care for himself and for others. And he’s not thankful for all the horrible, life-sucking symptoms and disabilities that manifest as AML. He’s not happy all the time, and he doesn’t know why God doesn’t heal him. However, Mr. Dobson’s memoir is an inspiration because he continues to embrace the life that God has given him, continues to serve others, and learns to accept the help and service of friends and family, with thanksgiving.
The book reminded me a somewhat of The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher. Mr. Dobson pursues healing, too, like Ruthie did. His life gets smaller, and richer in some ways, as the disease progresses. He learns to appreciate his family, his wife in particular, in new ways as he must depend on her for help with daily tasks. And still the disease itself is not a good thing. No one has to feel as if reading this book will make them feel guilty for not embracing their own personal suffering as unqualified blessing. Instead, in Rod Dreher’s book about his sister and in Mr. Dobson’s essays on his experience with AML, we are called to see the suffering and disease as realities that may be used by God to teach us and mold us and even bring us into His presence.