Tuesday, June 5, 2007

'Rejoice always': a lesson in dying


The Los Angeles Times has a must read profile of professor David Scholer of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. Many thanks to Mad Priest for leading me to this wonderful article. It gives new meaning to the phrase "living with integrity." Here are highlights:

FOR much of his career studying scripture, professor David Scholer of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena puzzled over a line from 1 Thessalonians:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

He resisted a part of the verse: How did one "give thanks in all circumstances"? In tragedy? Sickness?

Then came cancer and Scholer, a teacher all his life, embarked on what may be his greatest lesson, for his students and for himself.

Every morning, when the 68-year-old Scholer gets out of bed, one of his first thoughts is: " I wish I could have just one more normal day."

But since Scholer was diagnosed with colorectal cancer five years ago that has spread to both lungs, normal days are rare. His fingers and toes tingle constantly, and his voice, once a pipe organ, is hoarse: side effects of chemotherapy and nine other medications he takes daily. He must use a colostomy bag and he requires nine to 10 hours of nightly rest and sometimes a nap as well.

He has surprised his doctors by surviving this long. His oncologist, Dr. Kalust Ucar, says Scholer's case is unique.

"It's off the books and off the charts," he said.

. . .

Students will often hear him say that a sign of maturity is to be able to "live with ambiguity."

As he describes it, he tells each class something like this:

"People who think they have all the answers to all of life's questions are fake. You have no right to oppose women in ministry until you have made a friend who is called to ministry and you've listened to her story. You have no right to make a statement about homosexuality until you have made friends with a Christian homosexual person. The conclusion you draw is another issue."

Clarissa Chng, a former student, remembers what he said on her first day in his class: Seminarians are called to a higher standard and greater responsibility. "You have burned the bridges of naivete, and there is no more turning back," he said.

Chng said she often reflects on Scholer's words.

"Every time I am faced with a difficult decision and find myself wishing that I could take the easy way out by feigning ignorance, I remember his words and realize that I must take responsibility for the knowledge I have and use it to inform my decision-making, even if that means going through a period of discomfort," she said.

Read it all.

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