inside the story

Posted: July 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

I was gone for the last week, serving with friends from church at Royal Family Kids Camp, doing our best to “make moments matter” with abused and neglected foster kids from our area.  I’m not ready to write about that yet – it’s a holy thing and I’m holding it with quiet reverence and oceans of tears. It’s beyond the touch of my words for now.  Be warned:  in the coming year, I’m going to use my platform here to urge every last one of you to help, whether that’s with your funds, your prayers, or your hours of service.

Last time I was here, I wrote about the surprise discovery of a deep well of anger within me about the arthritis in my feet.  I’ve been sitting with that anger since then, not every minute of the day and night, but intermittently.  Overall I’ve been joyous, but moments of white hot rage or sharp bitterness have risen up in me from time to time as I’ve wrestled with this.  Generally the mention of exercise triggers it.  A friend asked G in front of me if he is a runner, and I went from gooey happy to almost too angry for words, the pit in my stomach hard.  What I’ve been doing about that is letting it be what it is, and not trying to reason it away or pretend it isn’t there.  My reasoning for this is that I know anger is a stage of grief, and I have suspected that’s what this is about.  Grief, in my experience and observation, can be delayed but really cannot be avoided in the long run.  It has to be walked out.

Meanwhile I’ve also been conducting a thought experiment, asking myself what it might be like to stop waiting to get my weight issue resolved, stop looking forward to “someday when I get in shape,” and just decide that I am me, just as I am, fat and all.  I’ve had encouragement on that at every turn, in a way that has felt very much like a God conversation.  There have been too many examples to list here, but among my favorites has been this:  once upon a time I worked with youth in a number of settings, and a group of those folks are now adults who showed up to serve at camp with me.  In praying for them and watching them minister, I had the sudden and shocking epiphany that they have always and only known Fat Karen (since my “normal weight” years preceded their very existence), and they have liked, loved, and looked up to me just like I am.  Some of them have even named me as a “hero” in their lives.  They haven’t needed me to be physically fit for that to happen.  That’s not surprising from my own children – kids love and need their parents basically no matter what, with only the rarest of exceptions – but it really kind of shocked me as I considered it from these people who could have easily dismissed the fat lady as not worth their time, attention, or respect.  I didn’t win them over with coolness.

I’m still in the midst of that thought experiment.  I’m not there yet.  But I’m looking at photos of myself differently, and I’m dressing with more freedom, and I feel like I’m well on my way on the journey toward acceptance of myself, even if I never drop another pound.  I am responsible to take good care of my body, and I’m not setting that aside…but at this point I’m not sure my best plan for that is any kind of focus on my size or weight.

And then there was this morning in church.  More God conversation.  A friend gave the message, challenging us that, “What we believe is how we will act.”  It’s a truth with pretty sharp edges, showing us from moment to moment what we really believe about God, ourselves, and others.  After the message, we stood to pray and sing.

I had the thought that I should get prayer for the arthritis in my feet.

Which instantly made me furious.

I pushed back against it.  No point in getting prayer.  It is what it is.  It hasn’t gotten better before now.  It’s not getting better.

I’ve seen the x-rays depicting what’s going on with the bones in the top of my feet.  It’s real.

Stories from the Bible tumbled into my head.  The lame being healed.  The blind seeing.  Bigger stories than mine.  More “impossible.”

I dug my heels in.  Definitely not going back for prayer.  Definitely not.

And then a memory rose to my mind, clear and unbidden.  I was new at my church.  I was single.  I was tired of being single.  The church worshiped and I tried to sing along, but a complaint was loud in my head.  Tired of being single.  So tired of it.  Made worse by the loneliness I was suffering as I adjusted to life away from the commune, living by myself in a quiet apartment, missing meals in that big ugly dining room at JPUSA.

And then:  God’s voice, gentle but sure in my head.  “You complain to Me about being single, but you won’t ask Me for someone for you.”

I sat RIGHT DOWN.  The words scared me just about to death.  I picked up my pen to write in my notebook, processing as I prayed.

He was persistent.  “You’ve willingly ministered to many from a measured distance, carefully protecting yourself from hurt.  What if the next ministry I’m calling you to is the ministry of marriage?  What if I’m asking you to let someone in close enough that you could get hurt?”

I wanted to get up and run out of the church.  I sobbed.  I knew He was prompting me to ask.  I could not ask.  Until that moment, I had not understood how wounded I was on this front – how afraid, how unhealed.  I hadn’t realized that my 15 years of singleness were largely my own self-protecting choice, made with blind unknowing.

I didn’t ask Him for someone for me that day.  But we did start talking about it.  I listened for days.  I sat with my fear and pain and let it be.  I waited on Him to empower me to ask.  And then one day while I was out running, I was suddenly light and bold.  In the space between two steps, I asked.  In that very moment I understood that my “Mr. Right” was on the way – that God wasn’t playing a game with me.  I even told my accountability group at work about it, prompting them to cross their arms and tell me in their most brotherly fashion that Mr. Right was gonna have to come through them to get to me.

It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.  Not much later (a few weeks?  a couple of months, maybe?) I got a phone call from a JPUSA friend that opened the door, and (long story short), G and I came together and were married about a year later.

So I’m standing there in church this morning, fighting tears, angry, scared, stubborn, and God is showing me this movie of those events in my head, and He’s relentless but gentle again.  “You complain to me about your arthritis, but you won’t ask Me to heal it.”  I pushed down hard on my feet, feeling the pain, feeling the impossibility, holding on stubbornly to what is.  The question came:  “What if I’m calling you to ask Me?  What if I want to show you who I am?”

I knew I needed to go back for prayer.  There was NO WAY I was going back for prayer.  My friend who had spoken was back there praying for people, and she’s a runner.  She gets to do the thing I miss so deeply.  I felt the longing in me to get to run again, and it made me mad.  There was NO WAY I was going back.

Only there was this push.  “Hurry.  Get back there for prayer.  Go quickly.  Don’t let your heart get hard.  Go.  Go NOW.”

So I went.  And there was my pastor, ready to pray for me while I fell apart.

My feet were not instantly healed.  But then again, G and a marriage altar didn’t appear the day I prayed between steps out on that sidewalk.  It came, but/and it took time.

What is God going to do?  I don’t know.  I’ll hang on to the bit my pastor gave me, that stuff from scripture about, “I believe, help my unbelief.”  I’ll push into his encouragement to let God love me.  I’ll tell the unbelief NO and I’ll ask Him some more about my feet.

I want to run again.

I want it so much.

Whatever He’s doing, it’s worth the push.

Meanwhile, I’ll just live here inside the story.



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