This task I set myself of writing a diary of only one day is proving harder than I thought – and I’m sorry if I am overloading your inbox. Should have picked a slower day, so you ought to feel free to hit the delete button. Fortunately for me today has been a little easier and I have had a couple of chances to catch some zzz’s. I did have to travel in the afternoon to the physio at Prince of Wales. Had coffee with a former inmate of the hospital, Paul, and we shared things that only make sense to fellow SCIs. Nothing much else to report, except a very perceptive young man on a bus who noticed me overheating and offered to take off my jumper. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to ask. But I am supposed to be talking about yesterday.
1 PM, I arrive at Hillsong church and try to find some shade to eat my lunch. Rachelle, my carer – have I described her? 22-year-old trainee nurse. Superefficient and supercool. She is capable, clever and pretty but doesn’t believe it. And if any of you are worried that my personal care is being done by a beautiful young woman she is also a proud lesbian, and I am already married to a beautiful woman. Rachelle has this bizarre habit of saying sorry all the time. It’s become something of a running joke and it gives us a good laugh – where was I? Rachelle has packed me a peanut butter sandwich but it is stale and scaly and while I may be trying to economise I am not poor enough to persevere. I head off to the shopping centre and buy a sushi roll. I am super careful about what I eat. I get absolutely no exercise sitting in this chair all day, aside from forced gym time that is not as regular as my physio would like (don’t tell her). My life expectancy is already potentially compromised without giving myself cardiac problems and it’s probably not a good idea to force my carers to lug any more weight. So I eat like a pigeon. No mean feat when your wife is as good a cook as mine.
By the time I get back to Hillsong it is about 1:20 PM. That gives me 40 min before class and time for another brief kip. I am expecting someone to come and help me set up my computer at about 1:45 and students to arrive not much later. The class is to be held in what is known as “the basement”. Hillsong Auditorium is a multipurpose facility and most of the teaching rooms are made up of soundproof screens that enclose the tiered section of the auditorium. For obvious reasons that does not work for me so the basement it is. At 2 PM no one has arrived and I suspect something is amiss. I make a call and it turns out the students had not been informed I was teaching. I trundle over to the lift ,head up to the top floor, poke my nose into the alternate classroom and discover my students. We all shuffle on back downstairs and the class gets started only a few minutes late.
In case you are not aware I teach theology and this is a three hour class. Before you groan too loudly, don’t worry I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account. This is a first year theology class and this week has some elements of interest. The lecture was creation, providence and the problem of pain and if this topic is not familiar to you, it is one of the central challenges of faith. While the wonder of creation and the graciousness of God is one of the reasons motivating belief, the corollary – the bloody horror that sometimes frames human life – is sometimes the basis for atheism or agnosticism. For obvious reasons this is a topic about which I have something to say. Aside from the fact that I was writing on the issue prior to the accident, I have also spent seven months in hospital wrestling various Christian responses. I also had the pleasure of weekly visits from my friend Prof Neil Ormerod (Australian Catholic University) and we spent considerable time mulling over the topic. So what is the answer to the problem of pain? You have to be kidding don’t you. This is a blog and not a systematic theology. But for those of you familiar with the issues I will say this. John Calvin is way off base! Hah, I had to get that in there for my reformed friends.
Whether, after three hours, I made any sense at all you’ll have to ask my students. I am bloody exhausted. It’s a little after five and to get home I attach a bus from Baulkham Hills to Parramatta, a train to Granville and another train Ingleburn. I sleep most of the way but one interesting titbit. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I face the back of the bus. On the back seat, presumably assuming that everyone was looking the other way, a couple were going at it. I swear they had their tongues down each other’s throats and their hands all over each other. This went on for about 10 min until they got off the bus. So here is yet another compensation of life in the chair! I arrive at Ingleburn at about 715 and Jeremy picks me up with new licence in hand. Home sweet home.
Michael RumendeFebruary 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm
Hi Shane, I’m a Southern Cross College alumni 2003. I really enjoyed reading your blog.
Shane CliftonFebruary 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm
Thanks Michael, trust post scc treating you well
LizFebruary 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm
Ps Shane, I love reading your posts. I had the honour of sitting through you DVD lectures and felt like I got to know you over the Semester and then you had your accident. It just breaks my heart, to hear of all that you have lost. You do inspire me the way you have kept on and tackled your new challenges. All the very best to you and your family. Keep blogging please.
Shane CliftonFebruary 22, 2012 at 9:42 pm
Thank you Liz. Can’t watch those DVDs myself. Too embarrassing.
mpjensenFebruary 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm
Calvin off base? Ouch! 🙂
Actually, I think David Bentley Hart is pretty good on this question.
Shane CliftonFebruary 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm
ha ha! which book Michael? The doors of the sea?
Cathrin from NorwayFebruary 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm
Oh Shane! I am so happy that you are still teaching. I am so sorry you had to be in that stupid accident. But everything you continue to give and poor out is an excample, and make every other “problem” in life a piece of cake, so thank you! You thought me so much when I was your student, I know I wasn´t the best academically, but everything you said in class and everything we discussed went straight in and I COULD NOT LIVE WITHOUT IT!! I almost start crying here I am sitting, because you are so amazing and I am so lucky to have known you. I am also writing a blog, a health blog, but it´s in Norwegian so you won´t understand.. But can I please recommend you one thing? Extra virgin coconut oil! It helps maintain a balanced cholesterol and high cholesterol gets lowered in treatment, in the process it speeds up your metabolism. Something you might want? I wish you all the best Shane. So glad I can read your blog and follow you in that way. By the way I am a happy girl, married to a wonderful boy and we have a little beautiful 1 year old, her name is April 🙂
Shane CliftonFebruary 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm
dear Catherin, it is so delightful to hear from you and wonderful to hear of your growing family. The love of the family is at the centre of what life is all about. Thank you all so for your encouragement – I am extremely humbled by it. I pray peace and blessings on you, Shane. PS I should get my wife to look up the oil
Kathryn FarrellMarch 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm
Do you have a ‘favourite’ resource or book – or something you have written yourself, which may help a not-so-academic Christian in the ordinary trenches of life to answer The Question of ‘Why Suffering’? The older I get the more I realize the fragility of life and the more I seem to be asking this kind of thing… especially as I face anxiety attacks over trying to raise my six children in physical, mental and spiritual health!!!
Your blog is refreshingly honest. Kelly and I feel for you deeply but we are even more inspired by you and Elly. Love to you both.
Shane CliftonMarch 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm
Great to hear from you Katie (is that still acceptable). I have not yet written on the topic, but I should and will. Not even sure what to recommend. The word you use is the key- fragility. The issue is not just evil but the challenge of life in a finite world. Sorry to not be more help but if I come across something I Wollongong let you know.
Kathryn FarrellMarch 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm
Thanks Shane. It would be great if you would write on the topic. After I commented I read some of your older posts and noticed the book on healing by Joni Earickson Tada, which looks good. I have been feeling recently that it must be a good thing to systematically teach our children (my congregation you know ;)) how this life is not all there is and to somehow give them a healthy perspective on suffering. If we raise them to be too idealistic for this life we may be setting them up for a fall when trouble strikes or if they lose someone close. Which makes me also interested in ‘worthy’ (ie, scripturally sound) books about heaven (I think Joni has also written about heaven, years ago).
Kathryn (aka Katy:))
PS it would be interesting in your research topic about virtue to see how people’s philosophy/theology of suffering affected their ability to cope with the suffering.
JS0613January 28, 2017 at 10:40 am
Ok. I feel sort of embarrassed..
YOU ARE A THEOLOGY INSTRUCTOR..
of course you are a great writer…
Like everyone else I enjoy your posts.
Just got two books by Lee Strobel. Case for Christ and Case for the Creator. Really like his personal story about becoming a Christian.
Love learning about the bible and history…(trying to start with the basics) also reading Bill Bright How Can I Understand The Bible..