I have a unique opportunity this evening. I am sitting in my husband’s office at the church, pretending to be professional. The children are in the nursery, my husband is at the satellite campus working on technical issues for Sunday, and I have two hours to myself in a real office just to be an adult. (I am a giddy, excited, child-like adult right now.) I am currently rocking out to the Mark Swayze band, and my mind is like simmering pot boiling over with ideas for writing. Where to begin…
This adult time is excellent timing. There is much to say. God is so incredibly at work, and I haven’t the foggiest idea where to begin. Jordan (my husband) and I attended a conference last week. We boarded an actual airplane, just the two of us, slept through the night, and had the chance to finally go on our anniversary dinner (only a month late–our eyes were falling out of our faces and we were crying blood on our real anniversary–not an exaggeration, I promise!).
Jordan had to talk me into attending this conference. I was set on attending one closer to home. I relented after some cajoling, and I am so incredibly thankful that I did. I knew it was going to be an awesome conference when we encountered many obstacles as we prepared to leave. When one is on portable oxygen and has to fly somewhere, the process of flying is complicated. The portable canisters are charged and pressurized. They are not allowed on airplanes. In my head, I picture massive explosions and bodies flying throughout the cabin . I don’t think that really happens, but you never know. So instead of my normal oxygen canisters, I have to rent a portable oxygen concentrator. If we were to purchase one, it would be thousands of dollars. Insurance doesn’t cover these devices (they are considered a luxury, because, well, you know breathing is a luxury). So we had to rent one. Honestly, I was not surprised that mine decided to malfunction before we boarded our first flight. Every minute, the blasted machine would alarm furiously until we shut it down. Everyone around us would stop and stare. Who knows what they thought we were harboring as we made our way through the airport. The problem is that I need oxygen. Thus, turning it off was not an option. We finally found a way to outsmart the machine. May I add that my husband is a genius? In order to prevent the machine from alarming like it was about to explode, I was forced to push a button to change the flow about every thirty seconds for the entirety of our flights and layovers. Oh, and you can’t just trade it out at another oxygen supply company when you arrive at your destination. No. That horrid machine has to be returned to the location where you rented it. Thus, the process of pushing buttons every 30 seconds for six hours was repeated on our way home. Snag one.
The other snags were somewhat expected. My throat developed that telltale scratchy feeling that always results in a nasty cold the night before we flew out for the conference. So began my cold that continues to this day. Picture this: Your oxygen is delivered through a tube that goes into your nose. Your nose is a snotty mess. You can’t breathe through your nose. Bad news. The day that we arrived I also got a stomach bug. We are talking constant diarrhea. I had no idea that a body could produce so much crap. And now I know. Totally bad for POTS. It lasted the entirety of the conference. True to form, however, I pushed through. I attended all of the sessions, times of worship, and prayer meetings. I’m not saying this is good. It is in reality kind of crazy. But I didn’t really consider staying back at the hotel and sleeping. Not when I came this far and God obviously had a huge plan for this week, as evidenced by all of the obstacles that were jumping in our way. I was way too curious to stay in bed. Thankfully, He sustained me while I was being psycho. Hopefully, I didn’t infect too many poor souls while being reckless.
So here’s what happened:
God affirmed me so beautifully. He told me that He is proud of me. He revealed to me more fully what I am passionate about: Prayer, writing, and worship. He told me that I didn’t have to try so hard. I don’t have to try to exceed my body’s capacity. He is using me in the here and now, in my broken body, to expand His kingdom. He said that I am gifted and He delights in me. He said over and over again that He loves me. I learned about what He is doing in the global church. Guys, it is MASSIVE. He is totally at work, like all over the world. I want to be in on it. We can be in on it. In order to be in on His work, we have to start with prayer. Prayer is the starting point. Without prayer, the church is dying. With prayer, like true repentant, travailing, awe-filled, desperate prayer, we have hope for life. We have to wake ourselves up.
I struggled too. I have lived a life marked by weakness that is evident to others. I find myself desperate to prove myself as strong and capable. I feel chronically less than the other people around me. It is almost like I have to look up to them from my stooped down position. This position does not lend itself well to symbiotic relationships and friendships. I so want to feel equal to others. I want to be able to keep up with them, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but I have lived a life that has felt stunted and dwarfed. We knew many people at the conference with whom we attended seminary. I feared that they would see me this time as they saw me in seminary: limited, pitiful, not friend material. With 1,600 people attending this conference, I was the only one walking around on oxygen, clearly underweight, malnourished, sickly. I got the pity-smiles, lots of sympathetic compliments on my glasses, and curious stares. NOT WHAT I WANTED. I wanted to scream, ” I AM TOUGH! I AM DOING AWESOME! DON’T YOU DARE PITY ME.” People who knew me from seminary lovingly asked me or Jordan what was happening that I had to be on oxygen. Jordan was excellent at presenting a concise and accurate story about my medical situation. I, on the other hand, somewhat (ahem, totally) in denial, hemmed and hawed and tripped over my words, trying to minimize the situation and diffuse any concern that might arise from others. (Concern makes me squirmy). This led to the blockage of real conversations. I was just so desperate to be normal, for once. Not to be pitiful and weak.
So if you are tracking with me, here I am, being loved and cheered on by my Lord while simultaneously wrestling with my core identity issues which really trip me up in my interpersonal relationships. God obviously knows what He’s doing. As I write this, it is clear that He was telling me exactly what I needed to hear. I am enough. I am complete. He is proud of me. He is at work in me. He loves me. I am beautiful to Him. I, in the mean time, am wrestling these lies that have followed me through the decades that scream that I am worthless, pitiful, and ultimately a black hole in the world. What contradictions! I’m pretty positive that God is a truth-teller. I asked Jordan to fact check the messages that God was giving me. He said that they are in line with the God he knows and with the Word. And I got this cool book mark that also says all those things that God was telling me. So it was legit. The bookmark proves it.
Now I have a responsibility and a gift. My mission is to be set free from the shame. I am commissioned to begin to believe these truths about myself as a daughter of God. He is re-framing my personal narrative and cleaning up my resume. I asked Him in the shower this morning if I am a mistake, and He said that I am absolutely not a mistake. He again said how much He loves me. I am asking Him to show me what it may look like for me to be set free from the self-hate and shame. He is providing glimpses. In response to our shower prayer time this morning, God sent two people to tell me today that I look like Jesus. Yep. He’s pretty amazing. And I believe that He is transforming my identity. This is the healing that He has for me. The dawn is coming, and the night will soon be over.
The Lord your God is in your midst. A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.