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.
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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