A common thread among the patients and families was that they were forced to address existential questions. During our support group including both patients and family members, it was not unusual to get questions and comments related to faith, the goodness of God (or lack thereof), and the process, hope, and promise of healing.
ALS can be a great equalizer of people. We saw all races and socioeconomic statuses. Both genders were well represented. While it tends to hit people in the second half of their life, we had a good representation of the under 40 crowd. We occasionally got someone under 20. And the process of ALS is different for each person. Some die within months of diagnosis. Others, like Hawking, can live for decades.
Medically-speaking, there is virtually no explanation for the etiology or the reason for continued degradation of the body. There was one lady whose hands were essentially paralyzed. She explained she and her congregation prayed hard and the ALS stopped partway up her arms and has been stable for years. Others have just as much prayer, and the disease seems to move faster.
This can impact one's faith in so many ways, as anyone can imagine. So when I saw Ed Dobson's book, Seeing Through the Fog, exploring, in part, his journey with ALS, I was intrigued. I was even more interested in hearing reflections from this pastor who worked closely with Jerry Falwell and yet voted for Obama.
What I particularly appreciated about Dobson's work is his complete honesty. Emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually, he discussed the journey of his life pre- and post-ALS.
Ultimately, this is not a book about ALS, although I can be very helpful for those suffering with ALS and their loved ones. It's also not a book presenting a formula for how to deal with challenges in life. Rather, he beautifully explores how to see God in the midst of the mundane parts of life. And find joy in those moments, growing ever closer to Christ in the process.
It seems that ALS really helped Dobson particularly see the complexities of life and find the joy in the nuances. He does not minimize the challenges of the fog that so many of us face in different ways, but he also reflects on the beauty of God's incarnational love that takes us through that fog. There were many times I left the support group I was co-leading wanting to cry. Not out of sadness, but because of the beauty of the deep, sacrificial love these families display. Like so many tragedies, ALS can destroy a family, or it can bring them together more powerfully than ever, gloriously shining the love of Christ for everyone to see.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”