I remember a ropes course a long, long time ago. I was in my 30s vs. my current 50s. It was a bonding thing. I worked at a private school that believed it was important to bond with the classes you were going to teach. I interpreted that (in my cynical way) as I needed to be willing to humiliate myself before my students in order to bond with them.
First of all, I had just met these kids and they were holy terrors. It was my first teaching job and a rude awakening to the profession I had idealized. I could see myself in my cute power suit standing in front—wait—no, sitting on the edge of my desk answering questions and asking them deep, meaningful questions about Fitzgerald’s stream-of-consciousness style or the metaphysical conceits of John Donne’s poetry. But they were freshmen. They were ornery and somewhat hateful freshmen. One of the first guys to walk into the class on the first day immediately looked at my seating chart and said, “That sucks.”
Then there was the “farter.” I had been warned, so I had my Lysol ready for him. The can was used. By me. (Excuse the passive voice!)
These freshmen also jumped on me immediately wanting to know what political party I belonged to. I wouldn’t tell them. I refused. It was none of their business. So they decided I was a Democrat and thus was going to Hell. Eesh. Freshmen.
It wasn’t what I’d imagined and now I was going to go to a ropes course and humiliate myself in some horrid way involving climbing walls and walking on ropes. I was going to have to trust these hormonally-dysfunctional, judgmental, self-indulgent rich kids! I was not happy. I was terrified. (*I grew to love these kids and taught them for four years! They are still precious to me in my memory.)
But I survived. Wait. You want to know what happened? Ok. It wasn’t that bad, or it didn’t seem that bad until THE WALL. You had to use the kids as footholds and others as a net to catch you on the other side of THE WALL. I weighed 150 lbs. These were freshmen. Their linebackers weighed 150 lbs. I did it though. Laughing and giggling like a freshman as they shoved my tush over the wall and the guys grabbed my hands and helped me over and then caught me. It was fun—sort of. I had built up such fear over THE WALL that I was sick about it. I had tried to figure a way out of doing the ropes course by working on developing a disease, but to no avail.
BUT I stepped out. I got in my car. I drove to the ropes course and quit thinking about. I just acted.
Trust. It is stinkin’ hard for me to trust people and God. I had a really rough 13 year marriage that shattered me. I had a four-year-old daughter that was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Shattering pieces of my body fell to the floor. My trust in a faith that I’d believed in since I was seven years old shattered, as well.
God fixes shattered souls and shattered faith, BUT I have scars. And sometimes those scars ache with remembrance and doubt. Like now.
If you read any of my other blogs, you know I had to quit teaching due to what I call the “triple threat” of arthritis. A type of rheumatoid, psoriatic, and osteoarthritis. My unholy trinity. Autoimmune diseases are tricky beasts. Mine ate my cervical discs. Drat those varmints!
From July to November 25, 2013 I was an invalid. Constant nerve pain in my left arm and left foot left me unable to walk well. Steroids. (Bloat). Steroid injection in my neck (3 of them). A nasty invention called a discography where the doctor shoots four needles one at a time in your neck through to your epidural cavity and viola—releases dye. Finally surgery on November 25, 2013. Double disk fusion in my C7 and C6, and C6 and C5. I have a metal plate and bone grafts from my hip. Just to be clear—I NEVER WANT TO HAVE SURGERY AGAIN EVER!.
Now, a month and a couple of weeks later, I’m doing better. I can walk every other day for 40 minutes. I’m losing some of the steroid bloat. I’m off my pain pills These are good things. I have my little foam collar to wear when I’m working at the computer or driving. I have this rather awkward black horse collar thing with a magic box on it that supposedly stimulates bone growth. (A very expensive little machine, that one.)
I can read. Re-watch Sherlock on Masterpiece. Watch every episode of Call the Midwife. But I have no job. No real direction. I don’t know what is going to happen to my life. I can’t go back and teach in the classroom again because of all this stuff going on in my body.
I stepped out on faith. I threw up my hands and fell on the floor and said, “I GIVE UP! YOU WIN!” Well, maybe not quite that dramatic. My hubster—a patient man as ever was born—suggested getting my master’s degree on-line. Wise man. So I am. I’m on my third class and I enjoy it. A Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Adolescent Literacy. I have no idea what I’d going to do with that degree. None. Master’s degrees in education are a dime a dozen. But teaching is what I know and what I love. Oi vey. What’s one to do, I ask you?
Here’s the stepping out part—the part about trusting the kids to catch me when I climbed THE WALL: if I don’t take one step each day to complete a Bible study, or a blog, or an assignment, or a weigh-lifting session, or a phone call to a friend then Jesus can’t do anything. (Disclaimer: He can do anything He wants to do, but He prefers not to force the issue).
He wants me to step off the cliff. Trust him. Just walk one step at a time. Go to the desk. Open my Bible and my journal. Read the plan I’ve set out for myself. Pray. PRAY! I’m a really good on-the-go prayer person. I’m wiping the countertops and shooting up prayers like Brother Lawrence. But God wants some concentrated effort. He inhabits our praises after all. Jesus said our faith could move mountains (I believe it was a metaphor, but I’m not sure).
So the journey really begins again now. No job. No identity to the world. Creativity dried up and crusty. Few friends (Not their fault! Colleagues are busy busy busy!). Loneliness. And fear. Tons of fear.
Here is what I read today that spoke to me: It’s from Matthew 21. Jesus has just cleared the temple and gone to Bethany to relax with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He withers a fig tree the next day and talks with his disciples about their troubled minds concerning their future without him (I’m paraphrasing a lot—no panties in wads, please!). This is where he says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father without Jesus.
Then in verse 21: I tell you the truth (meaning I’m saying this with the authority of God—you can trust it), if you ________(plug in your name) have faith and don’t doubt. . . you can say to this mountain, “Go throw yourself in the sea,” and it will be done. If you______ (your name) believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in faithful prayer.
Faithful prayer. Walking or limping—doesn’t matter. Step off of the cliff and see what happens. I’m doing it. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Books I’m reading:
Exodus by Leon Uris. I’ve always wanted to tackle this 1958 classic. It’s huge and it’s chockfull of history. I looked stuff up as I read. He weaves a fictional tale that could have happened (and much of it did). If you can hang in there with some corny relationship stuff and the massive amount of Jewish history, you come away with a better understanding of what’s happening over there now. It’s enlightening and powerful.
Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg. I saw this in Relevant magazine (on-line) and bought it. Jesus was a Jew and the Jewish culture was his culture. Tverberg is interesting and authoritative in her writing. Learning a bunch.
Podcast: I’ve not been attending church for awhile due to several things—some valid and some not. God is working on me. I listen to Bill Hybels at Willow Creek. His last teaching inspired this blog. Here’s the link. It’s called “Stronger.”
And worship music. Matthew West “Hello My Name Is. . .” Not a huge fan of the wha oh oh’s, but the message is great!
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ableman/144374493/”>Scott Ableman</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>