14 July 2008

body coup {brokenness & redemption}

The past few weeks in this body have been difficult; the dialogue I have had with my own flesh over the past month or so hasn’t always been particularly kind or gracious, even though I wrote awhile ago about learning to bear grace in this direction.

I was so delighted to be bounding with energy that I didn’t notice at first when other things veered slowly further and further from what is healthy and considered "normal". And so one of the prices I paid for a thyroid finding its way back to balance was a malfunctioning lower digestive system. Oddly, things in this part of my body were working perfectly, humming along at a steady rhythm when I was in the place where I could barely move my limbs or lift myself out of bed in the morning.

I was patient with the dilemma at first; this is usually my way when presented with a difficulty, bodily or otherwise. My prayers are usually something like, Hi God, I’d really appreciate if You would bring healing to this area. I’m doing okay though and know You’ve got a lot going on and there’s probably something you’d like me to learn from this. So I’m just going to wait it out and learn what I can, but if you could put fixing this thing on your list of Things to Do, I’d really appreciate it.

I waited and waited. Days stretched to weeks and finally a month had passed and nothing had really changed. My lower digestive system was increasingly rebellious, staging a rather impressive coup. I was doing everything I knew to do: eating the right foods, drinking lots of water, drinking cleansing teas, taking the appropriate supplements. I was even exercising regularly again. Nothing was working; things were terrifically wrong in this area and it was starting to impact my ability to move comfortably through my days. But it was only getting worse. My concern slowly escalated.

I’d put my hand on my belly and pray for some holy magic healing touch to be conveyed through my fingers, wondering. Waiting. Please. Nothing happened.

And then finally my patience had been exceeded and I reached the point at which I began to crack; every emotion spurt out with impressive force through the fissures, knocking down anyone who was so unfortunate as to be in its path. I often reach this place after being patient for a time, waiting and waiting with my body for things to get better, but instead moving toward rightness, things venture further and further from where they should be.

I was in the shower when the tears just started coming. I was frustrated. I felt tight and uncomfortable, expanding and stretching all over. I knew this was a failure of good health. It did not help that earlier that day, I had lost a button and a clasp on pants that had fit comfortably not long before to crazy activities like getting out of my car and sitting down at my desk. I felt like the skin around my belly, thighs, arms, and chest were stretching to their outer limits. One friend kindly suggested that the pants were poorly made. Another posited they shrunk in the dryer. While I appreciated their efforts to provide alternate explanations as to why buttons and clasps were popping off my pants, I had closely watched my body puff out and swell over the previous days and weeks and knew that their suggestions while kind, were not accurate.

I desperately wanted a vacation from my own flesh, an advance on the new body waiting for me at the resurrection. I made fists and pummeled the wall of the shower. Damnit!! I asked why can’t You just fix it? Why can't things just work? Why am I always breaking? Why why why?

It is simple to assent in an intellectual kind of way that I can’t control what happens in my body, even if I follow the proverbial Rule Book of Good Health to the letter. I get this and have witnessed this devastating truth in others. I’ve known a healthy mom in her early forties take a sudden last gulp of air before dying of a massive heart attack in her bed early one morning. A co-worker of mine is battling cancer and enduring the rigors of chemotherapy for the third time in the few years since I’ve known her. And then there’s me: the regular exerciser, obsessive supplement-taker, she who loves and regularly consumes vegetables, the bearer of a body who just can’t get along with itself. None of it really makes any kind of sense. At least not in the way I'd like it to.

It is hard to explain how heartbreaking and deeply disconcerting it is: I know better than to expect any of life to be fair, but this body journey has taught me that in my heart, I still want this and to a certain degree, expect it. I don’t know whether it’s intrinsic to our design as humans or if I’m just clinging to childish notions of how the world should be. But I do know that it’s much easier to acknowledge the elementary truth that life isn’t fair when circumstances are to my liking, or when it is someone else enduring under hardship.

This is all so humbling.

So what I come to is this: regardless of how my body responds, it is a temple. There may be cracks in the wall and the paint might be peeling. I might not like what I see when I look around. But it is the space in which I am uniquely me, a sacred space inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It is my responsibility to be good to it for as long as I have it. Even so, it is slowly aging and will one day die. And more than what I do or don’t do, more than rules and notions of rightness or supplements or vitamins or vegetables, I need to cling to Him. He is the One who will redeem this fantastic mess and one day, make all things new.

photo © 2008 jen fox photography


  1. this fantastic mess . . . what an apt description.

    i found myself churning through so many emotions as i read this post and vicariously experienced your life for the past few weeks [at least, to the extent one is able to do that through the words you shared here].

    the first emotion i felt was dismay . . . the feeling came as i walked through the bounding energy that came with a redeemed thyroid but which slowly turned the digestive tract to sludge. what the heck . . . ? is what i was thinking and feeling with you right there, in slow motion. dismay.

    then, when you shared how your prayers usually go, i felt like i was walking on holy ground. that you would peel back the veil of your intimate prayers in that initial place, prayers that are usually timid and willing to take a back seat to whatever huge global crisis God is currently tending to . . . well, i felt like that was a holy space.

    when you talked about putting your hand on your belly in hopes of some holy magic healing through one-word prayers like "please," i could totally relate. i've prayed prayers like that. they feel like renegade prayers, like i'm a maverick, like i'm not sure i really believe God could do that magic voodoo miracle in that moment, but maybe he will. just maybe. i'm almost too scared to hope. i'm pretty disappointed when nothing happens. i never know if i hadn't enough faith or God just doesn't want to work that way in this instance.

    when you described the puffy feeling of your skin and the snapping off of the button and clasp, i winced, feeling the uncomfortable-ness of that puffiness and the frustration of those buttons popping.

    and then my heart broke when you let it all fly in the shower: why am i always breaking? i know this is a closely held question.

    there is something about your admission of the bargain that really moved me: the bargain that "if i do this to the letter, all will be well." we totally believe that, don't we? i know i do, too. again, there's dismay that it can't be promised, there's fear that we're completely out of control when it comes to some of this, and there's a consternation of what to believe instead.

    i admire you for choosing to believe what you shared at the end there about the body as a temple. you treat your temple with so much more care than i treat mine, and i know when you say you are coming to this truth, it's real. you mean it. whereas i'm still learning it.

  2. Oh poor thing...I am so there with you on the 'may I exchange this body for a newer model..please!' The swelling I deal with everyday, it really is the pits.

    Know that I have you in my prayers and I am sending warm thoughts your way my new blogger friend!

    I am sorry that you are going through this suffering.

    If you want to smile at something I did that was totally silly and made me laugh the whole time I was doing it...then come on over girly!
    sending many hugs your way!

  3. Prayin for you sister. Hang in there and dont loose hope. See the doctors, drink the teas and keep moving forward. It will all be revealed as God does in his timing.

  4. Can I just say I want to give you a big ol' hug all the way from Elk Grove girly! You really boosted my faultering ego. Thanks for putting a smile on this face!

    How are you doing today dear Kristen?! Things a bit easier today? You are in my thoughts and prayers!

  5. I meant kirsten! I just saw what I typed...I did know I swear...*hanging head in shame*

  6. christianne - i don't know what to say to how you've responded. how, in your heart, do you know my own so well?? we both know it's one of those "God things", that our souls have found something unique & sacred in the other.

    it means the world to me that you get this, that there is another outside of me who comprehends, if nothing else, that this is royally confusing. it's a mess and it's holy, and there's just no easy way to be at peace with it.

    and you get this. thank you for walking through these heart spaces with me, for sitting in them and taking in a comprehensive view. thank you for not being afraid of that. it makes me choke, and i feel such a depth of gratitude for you.

    somehow something's just clicked in me ... "sacred" doesn't necessarily imply perfection, does it? it means set apart, special. not that it is something sans defect. and just like the Body is sacred ... the body is sacred too. new thought for me! thanks for leading me to it.

    i love you, girl.

    robyn - i'm sorry to hear that you know what that feeling is like too. i want a newer, more functional model NOW please!! it's kind of rotten, isn't it?

    thank you for sharing your heart with me here. and i just have to say -- i loved the pictures you shared!! you are so beautiful & i was such a creative way to introduce your face in the blogosphere!!

    thanks for stopping by. and no worries on calling me kristen ... i was actually out of it enough today that i actually signed my name that way. crazy!! i'm just really glad you're here!!

    carl - thank you. i am hanging on & am glad to say that i'm coming back to balance in this area. at last. it's been a very long 4-6 weeks, i have to say. working thyroid, working GI system ... let me hit the pause button!!

  7. Hey there my friend. I'm sorry that the brief glimmer of hope that was there a couple of weeks ago has faded so quickly. I really don't know how to follow up Christianne.

    Jimmy Buffet has a song that talks about men and women and about how women treat their bodies like a temple and we treat ours like a tent. You really do treat it like a temple! I'm in awe of your discipline in this.

    Speaking of such things....how did the class go?

    Be blessed sister.

  8. It's like God's telling the story of the world in your body.
    All creation groans...
    I'm thankful that you continue to be faithful to him, to turn to him with your frustrations (I think he appreciates our shower-yellings and honesty, if the Psalms teach us anything) and to look forward to his redemption.

  9. Just checking in on you Kirsten! How are you today?! Can I just say I seem to find comfort here. I understand what you are going through because either I have gone through it or still experiencing it. Thank you for being inspiring and please know that I am holding you up in prayer and sending warm thoughts your way.

  10. hi caleb. thanks for stopping by, friend. there always seem to be some issue, doesn't there? i just so desperately want to find the place where everything functions healthily & noramlly ... and then hit the pause button!!

    but i think i need to want Him more than even that.


    heather - that is a new way to look at it, the story of the resurrection taking place in every one of us. and i think God likes our shower-yellings too: raw & honest. bare. something He can work with. no holds barred, we can scream THIS IS WRONG! Geez, God! What's up?

    thanks for your thoughts in this space.

    robyn - thanks for checking in on me. you are so kind!! things seem to be venturing back more toward normalcy and for that, i am thankful. it's nice to meet other people who truly know what it's like to experience and live daily with these less-than-ideal things.

    hugs to you!!

  11. Ouch! Hurting for you. Wish-praying you all better. Sounds that the coup is bringing you to letting go of entitlement, to relinquishing the right to good health or control over anything. Hard, hard lesson. You're wise, woman!

  12. joelle - i love that wish-praying. i'm going to use that!! it's amazing what wisdom i am learning in this body. now i have only to retain it, to keep the lessons fresh!!

    thanks for stopping by, friend. :o)

  13. This comment is long past due, but I hope it finds you well...or well-er, anyway.

    And that prayer of yours? I think it's how I pray about most of life ;)

    Love you.

  14. Kirsten, sorry so late in responding.

    I have read this blog entry a few times on different days and once again amazed at your transparency and how you allow us to suffer with you, to feel for you through your words and the Spirit we share.

    Listening, praying. With you.

    May this season be a short one—and His healing fall upon you like the summer rain.

  15. you know i hear you. much love...

  16. I just...

    I can't...

    this is...


    you took my words away.