Sunday, September 21, 2008

Violence

The birth of anything new requires the breaking or tearing of something old.

Snakes break through their too tight skin—wriggling and undulating in order to shed their faded, restrictive casing.

Butterflies split the transparent chrysalis—bursting it because their new selves cannot be contained. Their wings must unfold.

Birds crack the ivory shell—emerging so that they might step out on unsteady legs and dry their feathers.

Babies rupture the protective membranes (and sometimes tear our bodies)—entering the world and taking their first real breaths.

Tearing, rupturing, breaking, cracking, splitting.

This is violent language.

And it frightens us.

We don’t want to admit this. We want to avoid it.

We beg and plead for the process to be lessened or averted. We don’t want to be torn or broken.

There comes a time, however, when who we are no longer fits our skin, our shell, our fetal amniotic sac.

Deep inside we cringe because we cannot see beyond the violence. Our vision is too limited in scope and depth perception. We suffer from spiritual myopia: we are near-sighted; we do not see far.

Our fear often blinds us to the reality that this violent passage is essential for our growth toward wholeness.

We can be strengthened through the process of the tearing and the breaking.

The very struggle (if we allow it to happen and embrace it) releases what we will need in order to survive and thrive in the next stage of our metamorphosis.

Correct my vision, O God. Allow me to see far beyond the violence to the wholeness you have planned for me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Twenty Steps

Daily my friend battles a skulking wolf of a disease. This disease has devoured and ravaged her. Because she must constantly battle this disease she is left vulnerable to many others. The disease shows little mercy; often she must claw her way out of its grasp, and the grappling leaves her weary and worn.

This disease has imprisoned her in her own body. She is often confined to a wheel chair and home. Walking is a labor. It is a chore that must be crossed off of her to do list each day. She goes to PT twice a week in order to be able to walk very short distances on a cane or perhaps unaided. Most of us do not have to think about this rote activity, but for her it is a discipline to be endured each day in order to maintain even her limited physical freedom.

Yet she is full of self-effacing humor, bone-hard faith, bold assertiveness, and tenacious life. The disease leaves her no space to be timid or hesitant; instead it has honed her mind and spirit. She is an incredible writer and artist, and she is one of the most encouraging and challenging people I have in my life.

Yes, she is hindered and imprisoned by her body's incapability. She is limited, yet I have been moved by her insightful encouragement. Her blunt exhortation has challenged me to action on more than one occasion.

She has helped me to learn to laugh at myself. She has been quite fierce when I have fallen victim to my own warped perception of myself and situations. I think there have been a few times she considered reaching through the computer and snatching me bald-headed because of my own diseased thinking. She is one of my fiercest dragon slayers (see archives).

In late spring she called me and asked if she could come see me. She drove to my house. This was the first time she had driven in almost a year. Her medication deprived her of that luxury. And of all the crazy things, she came bearing gifts. With a delighted grin she told me to start opening them, and she told me in what order.

At the time I wasn’t aware she had been having email discussions with my daughters concerning these gifts. She had engaged them and her own family in this carefully planned event. I understand now just how strategically involved they all were.

Each gift contained a thoughtfully crafted and worded clue. With each one my heart began to soar. In the back of my mind I thought I knew what these clues were revealing, but I didn’t dare breathe in case I interpreted them incorrectly.

The last clue informed me we were going on a trip. Two forty-something women were going to embark on a journey together. My friend decided to put me right in the middle of the place I love the very most. We were going on a cruise—a seven day adventure in the middle of the ocean.

Her gift to me is full of generosity, but she has offered me more than an incredible vacation—she is giving me the opportunity for an adventure. She knows the soul of me. As she, her family and mine constructed this trip, she opened the chance for some of my dreams to become realities.

Despite the challenges of her disease she is the leader of this trip. She has been on several cruises, but someone else planned and led. This time she has made all the preparations, plans, itineraries, activities, plane rides, transfers, and excursions (and managed to get us a balcony room). I have simply watched and listened and smiled. (Actually I have shouted and laughed and grinned.)

We sail in October, and her goal is to be able to walk twenty steps alone before she will need to sit in her wheel chair again.

Twenty steps.

Count them. Get up from your computer and count out twenty steps and see how far it takes you.

She is concerned.

But I say twenty steps at a time, and I will be waiting with the wheel chair.

When she is ready we will walk in twenty step increments until we reach the plane. We will walk in twenty step increments until get to the ship. We will walk in twenty step increments until we get to our cabin. And then after I throw open the balcony doors, we will plop on the beds and laugh from our bellies.

We aren't going to think about the multiple sets that will be needed to circle the ship. No, we will think about each set of twenty steps and conquer those first.

Hopefully she will lean on me as I have often leaned on her.

We will ride on glass-bottom boats, and sit on the beach under umbrellas, and play with the sea lions. We will collect shells, sketch and write in our journals, drink something with a funny little umbrella. I hear we will eat a lot of good food! I will push her through the streets of the exotic towns we will visit, and she will help me haggle on prices for gifts for my daughters.

But there are some things she simply cannot do. She planned for me to do them anyway.

On an island in the Caribbean I will visit a lighthouse and climb to the top.

As I wind upward, I will stop every twenty steps and pray for her. When I reach the top and feel the warm breeze on my face and smell the briny salt on the air of the vast ocean below and beyond—I will laugh. Perhaps the sound will carry across the waves and come back to me.

And I will remember. I will remember the lessons God has taught me through her.

With his grace we can overcome by walking twenty steps at a time.

Twenty steps.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hollowed and Hallowed

I am clay.
Raw earth
Dug from a miry pit.
Unprepared, unready.
Pocked and punctuated with debris.

I am clay.
In order to be useful to the potter
I must be washed and filtered
until my murky water runs clearer.
Pounded, then wedged—
readied for the wheel.

I am clay.
In order to be something more
I must be given into the potter’s hands.
I must trust and allow him to position me.
My form will not be true
if I am not centered on his wheel.

I am clay.
In order to be something else
I must be molded by his controlled pressure.
I must be marked by his chosen tools.
I must be distinguished by the touch
of his capable and skilled fingers.

I am clay.
In order to become what I am meant to be
I must be malleable to the insistence of his hands;
I must not resist.
In mercy the potter will add water
to reduce the friction of the whirling wheel
and to increase the smoothness of my texture.

I am clay.
In order to have a greater capacity
The potter’s hands will plunge--
pushing out the interior of me.
The potter will form
the walls of this muddy vessel.
He knows my walls must be

extended

expanded

elongated

I am clay.
In order to hold more
I must be emptied.
The potter will hollow me
and gently increase my capacity.
Only then can I hold
(even for a brief moment)
more of him.

I am clay.
In order for me to be more than raw earth
You must hear my prayer, O Potter!
Enable me to surrender to your ministrations.
Help me to yield to your design.
Do not allow me to hinder you
as you create in me—
A vessel for your
hallowed purposes.