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    I write and speak on all sorts of topics: ancient Christian spirituality and the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Jesus Prayer, marriage and family, the pro-life cause, cultural issues, and more. You can contact Cynthia Damaskos of the Orthodox Speakers Bureau if you’d like to bring me to an event. This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.

 

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Tuesday
May281996

Proof's in the Pancreas

[Religion News Service, May 28, 1996]

 
I found out the other day I have a pancreas. Not that I would have ever denied it; I know that the existence of such things is generally taken for granted, and one would disagree only at the risk of looking foolish. If the phone rang and it was a pollster inquiring about mine, I’d know the correct answer: "Yup, got it right here."

Where, exactly, I wouldn’t be sure. In fact, that whole arrangement of complicated, slippery items on the dark inside of the torso is a mystery to me. I can’t see them, so maybe they aren’t there.

This is an example of the half‑formed, illogical assumptions we can hold, without quite being aware of them, like my certainty that I’m only 25 years old. Sure, my driver’s license says 43 and I have a 19‑year‑old daughter, but challenges like these confront my faith regularly. I nod, but on the inside murmur disagreement. The point they’re overlooking is: I’m 25.

Doubting the existence of the pancreas is a luxury only for those who enjoy sterling health. My insides have never given me any trouble, so it was easy to believe they weren’t actually there. What was there? Stuffed animals are full of cotton batting, and some candies are filled with marshmallow. No, too squishy. Chocolate Easter bunnies are hollow; that didn’t seem likely, judging from the numbers on the bathroom scale.

The best I can tell, I’m filled with the stuff inside Snickers bars, that pleasantly soft yet firm nougat. If I turned out to be stuffed with Snickers filling there would be a very good reason for it.

Which leads to my pancreas. The other evening I rushed into the kitchen while my husband was cooking dinner and began slicing some cheese. He protested that I’d ruin my appetite; I showed him that my hands were trembling. When I go too long without food, my vision goes hazy, my concentration takes a stroll, and I start to tremble. Doesn’t everybody?

Apparently not. The next morning I was seated in the doctor’s office, answering a stack of questions, and yielding vials of blood. (Where does the blood come from, if I don’t have organs? Maybe I fool doctors by maintaining a narrow cushion of blood all around my body, just under the skin. They seem to expect to find it there.)

A few days later the doctor called. The blood test was normal, but the symptoms sounded like hypoglycemia. The pancreas was battling for all it was worth, but it wasn’t able to process sugar the way it used to. Without help, it would eventually lose heart, like an obese jogger on a treadmill. As it fails, diabetes develops.

I felt sorry for the little guy, who apparently was in there after all, unappreciated. I looked him up in the kids’ anatomy book. There was the liver, a large red triangle that looks modern and bold, like the jazzy new logo for an "All Bile, All the Time" radio station. The stomach and its connections are blue and, I regret to say, look silly, like a badly executed balloon animal. The pancreas lurks behind it, a tapered form, yellow and pebbled like an ear of baby corn.

I think the fact that I have a pancreas is one proof of the existence of God. I could never make this up. If I had to set up something inside me to process sugar, it would look like a tiny, busy factory, with a conveyor belt to move all the sugar bowls along. An ear of baby corn? I don’t think so.

It brings to mind the passage in Whittaker Chambers’ memoir "Witness," in which he describes the epiphany he experienced while looking at his baby daughter’s ear. All those whorls and swells ‑‑ who could think of it? Who could design it? For Chambers, this perfect, beautiful creation was evidence of a Creator.

I didn’t make my own pancreas (and it’s probably a good thing); God must have put it there when I wasn’t looking. I’ve tossed it too many Snickers along the way, and now have to take better care.

But if there’s a pancreas, there are all the other organs too, working together in their complex ways, doing things I can’t even describe, much less engineer. None of us made ourselves. Somebody else had to do it. We couldn’t even think this up. I’m grateful for the One who set all these parts in motion; they’ve served me well for every one of my 25 years.

 

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