As some of you know, the pig valve they placed in my heart 7 years ago has been misbehaving as of late and it appears I'll need to replace it earlier than I had hoped. Since I'd been told it would last closer to 15 years, I had not placed open heart surgery on my agenda for 2014 or 2015. And, frankly, I'm booked. If I must have surgery in the next year, I believe I can arrange it in the first week of August. It's penciled in.
In another development, I've seen some stuff this year that has challenged my ideas of how God works. Or, more accurately, he has destroyed the large box I placed around him. I thought I'd given him a big enough box to move around in, but, as it turns out, he refused to be limited by what I could comprehend.
This year I've had the honor of meeting people who experience God in ways I only dream of. Like Jackie--whose stories of God's power in her life of serving the lowest of the low in Beirut is surpassed only by her personal story of physical and emotional healing. Or, the many Muslims with whom I've conversed who've had dreams of Jesus and miraculously experienced his power and love. And I could go on for hours. These men and women from Egypt and Turkey and Iran and Jordan and Israel have lived in much more uncertainty and much more faith than I, and the result is a different experience of the Trinity. One of dependence and hope and love. And, its an experience I desire.
So I decided to pray for a miracle.
Half-hearted Prayer (no pun intended)
About a month ago I decided to regularly pray that my thickening, hardening valve would reverse its disease and once again become the healthy, pliable piece of tissue its supposed to be. And, I asked a few others to pray this with me.
This is going to tell you a bit about my own weirdness, but I had a hard time getting excited about praying for this miracle and I couldn't figure it out. It wasn't that I didn't believe God could do this--I really did believe he could. But still, the prayer just didn't 'fit'. I had a hard time articulating it, but I didn't feel like this was a prayer God was inviting me to pray.
This brought up a deep, theological question for me--does the Holy Spirit help tell us what to pray for? I mean, on a personal level. Hmmmm.
Signs of Hope
Over the last month I found exercise to be more enjoyable and fruitful. Even with my damaged valve, I was able to run regularly, even increasing my pace and mileage slightly. I began to think it might be happening. Perhaps surgery would be put off indefinitely or...become unnecessary. I stopped obsessing about my heart when I ran and began again to live in the present moment. That was a gift.
But, last week I was reminded of the sporadic nature of my condition. With no warning, the tiredness, light-headedness and breathlessness reappeared. Nothing dramatic, just subtle reminders of my humanity. So I kept praying.
An Unexpected Answer
And then came the answer. "This isn't what I desire for you."
I stopped praying for this miracle today because God told me to. I think. Sometimes its difficult to discern the voice of God. But, best I can tell, this is his desire.
In a phone conversation with a friend I hadn't spoken with in a while, I shared the news about my heart. I joked that I didn't have time for surgery so I was praying it didn't have to happen. His response?
"Kelli, maybe you need a time of being cared for. I know you prefer to be the one giving, but maybe you need to receive. All this busyness and performance and activity may need to stop for a bit."
I laughed nervously as I confessed, "You know this is what I do for a living, right? I teach leaders how to rest."
"We have a name for someone like you. It's 'hypocrite.' This was not an accusation. It was a mirror.
And I knew these were God's words to me. In teaching others to submit to the realities of their physical, emotional and spiritual capacities, I must become the student as well. As I pondered this for a bit longer, God reminded me that one of my most powerful times in ministry was after my first open heart surgery. I spoke at a women's conference in Dubai 6 weeks after my surgery. And, after 6 weeks of complete rest and solitude and more rest and submitting to the care of others and the gradual process of healing, I experienced miraculous power as I traveled and spoke.
Probably not coincidence.
So I've stopped praying for my heart to be miraculously healed--at least physically. Instead, I'm asking for the grace to submit each moment to whatever God has for me. I really do hope I can wait until August to have my surgery, but I can entrust my schedule to God. Because he loves me. And he is continuing to perform miracles in my heart.
Katy Perry's song Roar hit the airwaves en force last month. Since then it has become an anthem for discouraged, seemingly-defeated-but-resilient people everywhere. Just yesterday Richard showed me a YouTube video with kids in a children's hospital lip-syncing to this song. There's no way around it--I'm inspired.
Given my 'no love' stance toward Taylor Swift, you might assume Katy Perry was on my 'do not listen' list as well. But you'd be wrong. If I were interviewing nannies, I would go with Taylor, but otherwise--Katy's my girl. I can't help it. She has talent and soul. And, every once in a while I see remnants of holy in her.
With the release of her new album, Prism, this week she's been widely interviewed about the inspiration for her songs. It doesn't take a degree in poetry to gather that she's writing about a time of difficulty in her life. In her interviews she confirms that she went through a period that took a toll on her self esteem. But it was out of that darkness that Roar was birthed. (Apparently hyper-sexuality was also part of the healing process, but I'll leave that alone for now.)
As a woman who has a daughter and who works with women leaders to help them find their voice, Roar should be my theme song. You can't hold me down! I'm a fighter! You hear my voice...like thunder, gonna shake the ground! I'm a champion! Roar!
But I tell you...
There's only one problem. God isn't asking me to roar. I'm not saying that having some fight isn't often what's called for, I'm simply observing that the way of Jesus is, more often than not, a much quieter path.
Today I wanted to roar. I'm physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I meditated and prayed this morning I secretly hoped I would emerge from this time feeling energetic and ready to take on the world. After all, isn't that how the agreement works? I plug into the power source of the Holy Spirit and, just like my iPhone in the morning, I leave fully charged and ready for another day of productive activity?
I'm currently taking a class on the Disciplines of the Spirit and one of our textbooks is a favorite of mine...The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun. This week we completed a brief assessment designed to surface where God might desire to shape us. I faithfully completed the assessment and moved on to the reflection questions. What I hoped would come out in my reflection was a sense of deep rest and encouragement. I found myself drawn to the disciplines of Sabbath and listening to God.
Inwardly I crouched, waiting for my time to roar.
And then, he spoke.
"Kelli, ask a friend to show you your blind spots."
"Kelli, you've wounded another friend. Ask for forgiveness."
So, let me clarify. I feel tired and vulnerable and God wants me to invite someone to point out areas of weakness of which I'm blissfully unaware. And then he wants me to admit to another that I've neglected our friendship.
Just what I was hoping for.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
After accepting his invitation I am more amazed at God's faithfulness and grace. But I do not feel like roaring. On the contrary, I feel more dependent, quieter, still tender.
I love Katy Perry, but, for now, she'll have to roar without me.
Reality hits in waves as I age.
At 20, my eyes were opened to all I could be and I embarked on realizing my greatest potential. This wasn't about vocation or notoriety. I simply wanted to fix my unhealthiness. To work through all of my issues and get my "healthy" stamp. I showed myself to be a hard worker emotionally and the future looked bright.
There were moments when I admitted the impossibility of my goal. I would never be perfect. But couldn't I be a really, really good version of myself?
But today, I'm aware again that I'm more than a tweak away from "dealing with my issues." Admitting this has seemed unspiritual to me. Isn't God able to redeem my unhealthy patterns of relating? Isnt that just a cop out? An excuse for bad behavior?
I don't think so. In fact, to deny this reality is to live inauthentically. Hopelessly dependent on my own strength or ability.
I've got intimacy issues. I often prefer to be alone. Yes. Some of it is introversion. But some of it is just plain fear and the result of past wounds.
And, my humanness.
I'm making progress, but in the end the chasm is too vast. Ultimately, there will be no closure on my self-improvement project and much of the good that comes from my life will be in spite of who I am, not because of who I am. That doesn't mean these imperfections and idiosyncrasies can be redeemed. It just means they don't result in my perfection, but in the perfection of God's purposes.
I put myself in the very uncomfortable position this week of relying on other people. Not just relying on them, but asking big things of them. Big things. And it was awful! Okay, not really, but it was hard. And hard and awful are difficult for me to separate.
I flew into Denver on Sunday evening in preparation for two six hour recording sessions during the week. First, let me clarify that I’m not a recording artist (duh). I sing as a way to worship and because I enjoy it. But having a nice voice in a live setting does not always translate into a beautiful recording. I know this because I’ve done it before. Recording is hard ( hear “awful”). There is no audience energy, no buffering of the raw sound of my voice. The first night I was in an isolation booth so I had no feel for the rest of the band outside what I could hear in my earphones. It was like singing under a blanket.
We did take after take after take after take. I couldn’t get it right. And every time we had to start over I was imposing on this group of musicians to stay for another five minutes or ten minutes or two hours. They were being paid (not much–they’re musicians), but I still felt guilty for taking up their time. They didn’t know me, but had volunteered to be a part of this project and I was immensely grateful for their talents and willingness to participate. But also wracked with guilt for needing them. (Please don’t read my post on Kerri Walsh Jennings because you’ll realize what a hypocrite I am). And this was just the beginning. My friend, Scott not only engineered the whole project, secured the musicians, accompanied me on every song (with original arrangements) and gave up two long and precious evenings during his week–he also opened up his home to me and I displaced his son for the three nights I was there. His wife made me dinner the night I arrived and provided fresh squeezed juice for me each morning…not to mention giving up her husband for the nights we recorded. That’s a lot of indebtedness!
I prefer to not need any help. Or, if I do need help, I like it to be effortless, painless and enjoyable for the person assisting me. I know…I live in a very sick reality. Especially in light of my salvation. For the last two evenings I’ve sung verse after verse about the cost of my freedom. What it cost Jesus to purchase my pardon–to restore me into relationship with God. To demonstrate his deep love for me, his beloved daughter. His messy, sinful, ungrateful, beautiful daughter. It required effort, unimaginable pain, separation from the Father, humiliation and death. Not the kind of help I like to need. But that doesn’t change the fact that I was dead; unable to make myself worthy without his intervention. It wasn’t just a helping hand he gave me…it was everything. And he keeps on giving.
On second thought…I love help! This week I’m praying I will be be able to enjoy the gifts of others as tangible reminders of my absolute inability to make anything work without “help”. And to joy in my Savior who became nothing and endured the cross so I could live…and sing.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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