23 May 2008

for my body: confession # 2 {my grace is not sufficient}

Dear Body,

I wish I could make you well. I wish I could reach inside and set right the wrong things. I would soothe the sore places, infuse the tired places with new energy, destroy the dams that should never have been built. I would grab onto the good things you need and hang onto them for you until you were ready to receive them. I would mend what is ripped, I would remove those things that harm you, usher them out safely. I would give you what you craved but lacked. I would do it all.

But all I am permitted is to wait, hands tied.

You've spoken loudly in the past and while I couldn't understand what you said at first, you spoke at a decibel that could not be ignored; your sound reverberated through every cell. It took some time, but I learned how to hear and understand your words.

What I notice now is your profound silence; you speak in the tiniest whispers if at all. Perhaps you are finally hoarse with the shouting. I could not blame you. For a time I mistook this silence for wellness. Nothing was overtly wrong: no significant pain; there were no oozing sores or gaping wounds crying out for my attention. I was just tired, sapped. Sluggish. Who isn't? I was just missing cycles; hardly surprising given what you've endured these past two years.

It could have meant anything. It could have meant nothing.

But it meant something.

I went back to the naturopath, someone who trusts me and takes me seriously when I tell him: something's not right. Things are ... just ... off. Tests were ordered, blood taken. I found out how desperately you were lacking imporant vitamins, nutrition that is crucial, foundational for you. You had less than half of what you needed. Then I went back to my doctor for a regular check-up and told her some of these things too: tired. sluggish. missed cycles. More tests ordered. They took my blood again and told me the thyroid was still struggling, still slow. Still not producing enough, even after more than a year of daily remedies. Ultrasounds were ordered and revealed: polyps. cysts. Words I had heard but were never personal. Words that catch in my throat when I try to speak them.

You've been through so much; we've been through so much. I am eating well, taking my vitamins, exercising, getting sleep. I drink water, cleansing teas. I am mindful of you: listening, heeding your needs. And still, you are not well. You need things I cannot give: the ability to absorb, to produce, to release. It hurts me to know: I am not able.

My hands are tied. And so we move through the days together stilted and awkward, with a shortened step. And I wonder how long you have lacked and struggled. I wonder how -- or if -- you will ever fully recover. It makes me weep to know: it is not enough. for all my wishing and willing, I cannot make you well again.

There is nothing more I can do.

And so I will continue to do the things that lie within my abilities: I will eat well, drink water, sleep, take all the vitamins and supplements you need. I will keep listening, enlisting the support of those who are our advocates. I will put one foot in front of the other and I will breathe in and out. I will give you every good thing that lies within my power to give.

But the grace you require now is beyond my reach; the fulfillment of your needs lies beyond the boundaries of my ability. So we will sit together with hands open: able to surrender, able to receive, waiting patiently for something or for nothing: learning our limits and accepting them, and maybe learning grace yet again. Perhaps in the waiting, we will find that our hands are filled with something altogether unexpected and new.

... there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Apostle Paul, from the second letter to the Corinthian church

mood photo by kirsten.michelle

related post: for my body: {confession & reconciliation}


  1. "Then blind eyes will open, deaf ears will hear. Then the lame will leap like a deer, the mute tongue will shout for joy; for water will flow in the desert, streams in the wilderness. The dry soil will become a pool of water, the parched ground springs of water. Where jackals once lived and sprawled out, grass, reeds, and papyrus will grow."
    Isaiah 35:5-7
    All creation groans for the day of resurrection. When that day comes, will you dance with me? Can we sing together? Will we race on the backs of tigers? (My tiger's fastest.)

  2. oh kirsten, i can't tell you what this means to me...how i think i understand what you're saying, but don't even want to assume that i do. i've been struggling a lot these days, back to the doctor today who wanted to restart the antibiotics but something in me said no. i'm tired and depressed and empty. i want it to be done...for someone to say, "oh, this is what we'll do and then everything will be fine."

    and then your voice calls out and at least i know i'm not alone. that helps somehow. your letter to your body was a letter to mine too. i'm praying blessings on you my friend...blessings on us both. i'm calling out my coordinates so you'll know you're not alone and you'll be able to find me in the dark. i can't make it better either, so we'll do what we can and wait. we'll be human together. that has its own beauty.

  3. Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Phil. 3:20-21

    Praying for you Kirsten!


  4. hello, my friend.

    this post moves me so much. tears are pricking my eyes as i read through it a second time, taking you in, taking these truths in, letting them seep more deeply into me than they did when i read them in your e-mail, simply because i've been on overdrive these past few days. here, i sat. i listened. i felt. i felt my heart shudder with yours.

    what is most powerful to me here is this idea of your own grace being not sufficient enough for your body's needs. that is such a powerful thought i hadn't considered in quite that way before. there is a limit to what we can provide, no matter how much love and grace and attention and goodness we direct in those needful directions. at some point, we end and God must -- MUST -- supply our lack.

    you have so much depth in you, kirsten. i can't even imagine anyone ever plunging the depths of all of you. you continue to surprise me, reorient me to semi-familiar ideas in a new way, make me feel so much, help me marvel along with you at our big and untamable God.

    i'm so sorry for this news, my friend, of the cysts and polyps. these are words i have heard before, too, but which have never been as personal to me as they are to me now, simply by being your friend. i can only imagine how it must feel for you, to be carrying the knowledge around with you, to be facing truths on the inside of your body that you cannot see, cannot touch, cannot heal . . . just wondering what will come of all this.

    love to you so much,

  5. heather - i love that isaiah passage. all creation groans ...

    that will be one big party indeed. and yeah, i'll race you ...

    terri - my heart aches for you. i read your words & i can feel them deeply, in my heart & in my flesh. i know that no feeling too well. no, not again... your words just ... they make me ache. i want so much for you to be well. to reach inside & to right those wrong things. i want to fix us.

    thank you for calling out your coordinates. for sitting here & waiting with me. we will wait together, & you're exactly right. there is a profound kind of beauty in that.

    are you sure we've never met? because i seem to remember long in-no-big-hurry-to-let-go hugs from you.

    betsy - how i long for that day of transformation!! thanks for sharing that beautiful passage of Scripture.

    chrsitianne - sigh. where to begin, my friend? where to begin ...

    how do i begin to describe to you how deeply i appreciate your heart: in general, and for me. your words serve to close the gap of miles between us.

    these past few weeks have been teaching me so much: i can do everything "right" but that is no guarantee. i can do my part to maintain a solid foundation, but that doesn't mean the walls won't crack, the paint won't peel, or that the plumbing doesn't leak.

    and can i say what it means to me to hear you say that i'm bringing a new/different thought to the table? that strikes me as something important, especially since you're the one saying it. maybe God is going to be using these "unexpected places" after all.

    i wish that you were closer, friend. that i could walk out my door, turn the corner, & meet you for coffee. i could hear how your heart is doing this week [this week of overdrive], heart the tone of your voice & see the expressions of your face as you describe to me how it feels to be in this place. i could share my tears with you, & we could weep together for what neither of us can change.

    but maybe this will be like paul said: this is a chance for the all-surpassing suffciency of Christ to shine through & to rest upon us. because it is all about Him, isn't it?

    love you, friend. love you.

  6. Kirsten. Thanks for your honesty in going deep into your body and your soul the way doctors put tubes down throats and into veins and into the bellies of others. your words illustrate the struggles that we all face.
    For when I took a fall twenty or so years ago, I went to all kinds of doctors looking for an answer. But no straight or clear answer was found for my headaches. But God sustained me even with my doubts.

    Thanks for the verse that Satan as a messenger sent the thorn to Paul. Yes, the devil does deliver the mail. It is something that I live with that mail delivery that I got when he delivered an arrow to my soul that aches sometimes when I am off in my purity or walk. But that delivered mail even though from him also points me back to God.

    so as you struggle with your health and your periods and with the polyps and cysts, may His grace be sufficient. Yes, ours is lacking but his is full in abundance for us to receive it.

    Thanks for writing to your body and your soul. Our holy spirits are tryptics in our lives-three paneled paintings from the Renaissance. Glory and peace to you saint Kirsten.

  7. i wish the same thing: walking out the door, turning the corner, and finding you there. ahhhh, i wish it were so! maybe someday soon i will be visiting you in your beautiful bellingham. i'm longing for that opportunity more and more these days.

    it's interesting, this turn in the conversation through your post about a new thought. for me, the new thought has to do with finding, learning, accepting, believing in the limits of our own selves. for instance, specifically in this idea of the limits of our own ability to even have grace to offer. you know how much grace has become a fundamental part of the life God has given me to live . . . and yet here, in your words, i am brought to the thought that the grace i have to give, in and of myself, is limited. it ends at some point. it becomes impotent.

    it was a new thought because, in my mind, the thoughts about grace are bound up in God. there is no limit there, of course. and so i have believed (without realizing i was believing this) that the grace i would seek to offer others would also have no limits.

    that's the delicate part, though. if it only comes from me, my own store of it, from the natural parts of my being, it will reach its end.

    even more interesting is what i found myself reading just a short while ago this morning. we just got the first issue of the journal of spiritual formation and soul care in the mail yesterday. this is a new journal that ISF at talbot is producing.

    the first article i turned to this morning is one by dallas willard. in just the first few pages, he talks about this very same thing. basically, by starting with the greeks and moving on to paul's writings, he talks about the difference between the flesh and the spirit. by 'flesh,' he doesn't mean evil; he simply means man's natural abilities, unaided by the holy spirit.

    when we try to live out of our flesh, our own natural faculties only, looking to them to supply the storehouse of what we need to navigate life, we will hit up against the limits of our own humanity. it is only by calling upon the infusion of the holy spirit that the unheard-of becomes heard-of, that what is natural becomes supernatural, that the miraculous inhabits earth.

    so, yes. i'm coming back to paul's words now . . . it is God's grace that supplies what we and our circumstances lack. it is through God's grace that our weakness becomes strong. we cannot provide what we need all on our own, no matter how we may try to do everything right in our human ability. our grace is simply not sufficient. but his is. and this, my friend, i know you are learning here, too.

    love to you, and great big hugs that go on forever and stretch out across the miles.


  8. Kirsten
    I didn't know that you were having such a rough go. You mentioned some things briefly to me in an e-mail. These blogs you have written on the body has meant a lot more to me lately since i have been on this diet and giving up my addictions. Sometimes i can hear things you have said in my mind, it is an encouragement to press on. I hate that you are having to suffer with this stuff Kirsten, especially since you have done so many things to keep yourself healthy. You are very strong person.

    You mentioned Paul's thorn in the flesh, that is a dear scripture to me.....VERY DEAR. God has spoken that to me in some really hard times in my life. I relate so well to that, not physically, but spiritually/emotionally cry out..."God take this away from me."

    I leave my well wishes, and love with you Kirsten

  9. Just happened by here. And was touched by how aware you are and how beautifully you put that awareness into words. May the God who is completely awake to you, sensitive to your body and soul's every breath, hold the hurt places.


    oh. and i feel honored to have made the cut to be featured on it. wow. :)

  11. christianne - i loved the thoughts you came back to share here. i was thinking back to my original body post & how i wrote about extending basic kindnesses & graces to my body: rest, nutritious food, etc. that "grace" (if it can even be called that) is so very limited. this is not a new or startling thought, but it is a sad & frustrating one all the same.

    grace is (quite appropriately) tied up with God, but i think i am so accustomed to operating out of myself & my own power that i never even realized that was happening. this experience is one of the ways i am being emptied now: despite taking every healthful action i can (giving myself those "graces"), the current state of my health would seem to belie that. i would be lying if i said it didn't seem unfair. i'm doing everything right, aren't i??

    this process is so humbling, so stripping away the things i didn't even realize i was depending upon.

    i can't wait for the day you come to bellingham, dear friend!! as a friend & i circled the lake a favorite park, i was thinking how much i'd like to walk with you around that lake, how many places i want to take you, how many things i want to show you. how good it would be to simply be with you once more, laughing talking and crying till we can't keep our eyes open anymore.

    miss you. love you.

    and p.s. glad you like the new banner. it was only fitting that you should be a part of it!!

    tammy - thanks for stopping by. yes, these are some of the things i referred o so cryptically in prior e-mails to you. i seem to be getting a steady stream of notso-good news about my health these days. it makes my heart sink.

    i love that passage about paul's thorn. i don't know what it was, but i'm learning not to underestimate what God can teach us through these dealings with our bodies. because of our weaknesses, His power might rest on us all the more.

    joelle - thank you so much for stopping by! i am touched by your thoughts here & by the words i read over at your own space. thank you also for your kind wishes. ;o)

  12. thank you for sharing this - you don't know how much it meant to me that you were at my birthday part yesterday - a part of my past and current being a part of the current - you are a dear person - and I will definitely be praying for you.

    Love you

  13. {my grace is not sufficient}
    My grace is sufficient for thee

    this is simply profound

    I wish I'd have read this before the weekend, before witnessing myself blowing it completely on multiple occasions with family...relying on my own ability to extend grace...unwittingly in my own power. I can attest to the disappointment one feels when offering all they have for what honestly feels like the right reasons and it just doesn't seem to matter, it just isn't enough...because it is not my insufficient grace that was needed! I will not forget this insight, ever. Thank you Kirsten for sharing your heart and I am praying for you in the midst of this struggle with your body and just want you to know that I find so much wisdom in your sharing your soul. I hope there is some solace in knowing what an incredible difference you make in so many lives, even internally, inside out. Christianne, thank you for your responses and relating it to the Willard text. I am grateful for you both and to God for how He always brings so much good out of everything even our sufferings. Blessings!~

  14. When I read, "hands open, able to surrender, able to receive" I was thankful, but I also know it's a hard place to be, my sister, and my heart is heavy for you. Thanks for allowing us to walk with you, for sharing who you are. Your life is the light of the world.

    Lifting you to Him, Kirsten, to the One who loves, knowing He will touch you and care for you and be beside you moment by moment. Like two hands of a prayer He is together with you, inseparable by things on earth, or things in the heavens.

  15. kirsten.... so poignant. i'm so sorry your body is still not well. i can only imagine how hard that must be, when you are doing everything you can, as you said. my prayers are with you.

  16. ilse - thank you for your encouragement, friend. it was so good to see you this past weekend & to celebrate with you!! i appreciate your prayers. it is hard to be in this place.

    di - thank you for your kind words. i guess i never realized just how much i've been operating out of my own power, now that i find myself increasingly stripped of it. it is profoundly humbling & i don't like it. i feel like He is levelling me sometimes. and yes, doesn't that christianne girl have the best insights & most appropriate references? i really appreciated hearing about flesh as the end of natural ability: not as anything bad. it is a good reminder.

    23 degrees - thank you for your encouragement & prayers. you're right, this is not a fun place to be. writing this is therapy for me, a reminder that can exist outside myself that God is in this & using it. thanks for walking beside.

    blue - thank you for your encouragement & for your tender heart. it is good not to be alone in this.

  17. i praise God for you and your wonderful gift of writing.
    and i am thankful that
    God is with you and glad that you are walking on the road to the Father.

  18. Kirsten,

    As one who has had a serious chronic disease for nearly 19 years, and a new one added this past year, I wrap my arms around you, and pray that you discover contentment and even joy in your affliction.

    There is no short cut. Just daily walking close to Him and holding the Hand that designed this for you.

    Bless you, young friend!

    Rebecca's mom

  19. Oh, my friend. As I have said before, I'm sorry that it is still a constant struggle. As you know my prayers are always with you. I'm sorry for my lack of communication in this tough time. You are on my mind and in my heart and prayers.