Saturday, February 5, 2011

do you want to be healed?

The walls are empty, waiting to be puttied and painted. Stacks of books have been given away. A  young friend, aptly named Angel, has been helping me sort, store, and stash. Checklists have replaced grocery lists. The sequel to January's virus is currently playing in my sinuses.  Not bad timing.  Any desire to flee the scene of the wreck that is currently my condo has been obliterated.  

Pack up and old memories will come out of deep storage. I discovered a long-lost photo when leafing through the "to be donated to the library" pile. The morning light revealed a faint red-brown stain across the bottom of the  Steinberg poster that hung by my desk, a reminder of a more hectic relocation. That would be Episode 12, my friends, The One Where the House Moved Before I Did. On Thursday, as I bandaged my knee after a minor skirmish with an open drawer, I noticed the scar. Not the one from a bike crash at the bottom of the Roberts' driveway. Or the ribbon of taut, silver skin left by a a barnacle-covered rock on the causeway leading to Merritt Island. Daddy's fishing trip had ended abruptly that summer afternoon with a blood-soaked dash to the doctor's office for stitches. The dash also ended abruptly when we halted while the old bridge swung slowly open to let a boat pass. Daddy took his saturated handkerchief and handed me a clean beach towel to hold against the deep cut. Alas, the doctor favored butterfly bandages. I sighed, knowing that no playmate would ever appreciate the extent of my suffering. Stitches. I deserved stitches.

Back to the first scar, a badge from a childhood move. I was carrying my small white hobnail glass vanity lamp when my ankle turned. The glass shattered as I hit with a thud and skidded on the loose gravel. The resulting knee injury left me side-lined at recess for weeks. Adding insult to injury, the wound that would not heal was reopened when Randy Hunnicutt collided with me as he raced around the corner of the building. I have vague memories of coming back to consciousness in the classroom, a front tooth missing from the fray and a trail of fresh blood soaking my leg. Randy had a large protrusion over his eye where his forehead had made contact with my mouth.  We enjoyed our brief primary school notoriety before passing the throne (an iron playground bench reserved for the injured ) to the next casualties. Decades later, however, tiny pieces of glass or rock still work their way to the surface of my skin and escape.

The scrapes of my youth birthed silver talismans that evoke sweet memories of riding bicycles and jumping for joy. Other wounds, however, ones born of fear and choices, left no visible marks but whispered darker messages. I put aside art and writing because I feared I wasn't good enough. Dropped hobbies and interests that others deemed frivolous. I got lost in the process. And sick.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ (John 5:6 NIV). 
I first heard the story of the invalid by the pool as a child. 
My response had changed little in the intervening years. "Well, of course I do!"  
Now, however, the response recorded in John 5:7 resonated.  
Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me…  

I had once seen this as weakness, victimhood even.  
Now I heard the humility of a fellow traveler echoing across the ages.
I saw the questioner, his gentle eyes smiling.
You are not alone. I am with you always.  
But I'm a mess.  I can't even take care of myself.
You, he said softly, are not alone in that either.  I am with you.
The humility landed like an anvil.   I was not, would never be, self-sufficient.
I've met Him so many times.  Incarnate in friends, in strangers.  Kairos.

Love heals scars that love left. Henry Rollins

"God, I can't but You can."  These words had marked layer upon layer of capitulation over the years.  What power or control did I still claim?  I was too tired to figure this out and knew that I had run up on something that couldn't be Googled. My analytical brain needed a time-out.  Within these condo walls, I became willing to face the truth, to make the difficult decisions necessary to heal spiritually, physically, emotionally.  To tear down walls within me. Discovered that I could not afford pride.  Literally. 

During the process, bits of my past worked their way to the surface.  I acknowledged each and let each go.  Sometimes. Progress, not perfection. Each day the process continues.  One choice at a time. The bite-sized life.

There's a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts.
One of them asked, 'Why on our hearts, and not in them?'
The rabbi answered, 'Only God can put Scripture inside.  But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.'
Anne Lamott

Take in the holy words. You will know them. They are the ones that reach across time and space, that arrive quietly and write themselves across the back of your mind. And when your heart breaks open, they will fall inside.  Your tears will water them and their Truth will grow inside of you.  Like kudzu, these words have staying power.  They are portable, require no packing.

Hello, walls. 
Thank you for sheltering me.  Protect the ones who follow.  It is time to say good-bye.


RosieJo said...

I have the urge to run to the phone and call you, but you are either, spackling, painting or moving boxes. Maybe this evening when things are quiet.

Kat said...

Wonderful post!


Celeste said...

Thanks, Kat! You are helping me keep my fitness routine going!!!

GretchenJoanna said...

I love the Hasidic story. It reminds me of a picture that was put in my mind just last night, of how the quantity of Bible passages we hear every week in the Orthodox Church work on us: not by our studying them, memorizing them, but by the constant raining as of God's blessing, week after week. It does soak in, in mysterious ways, and bears fruit.

Celeste said...

I like the idea of worshiping the mystery...keeps me from getting enamored with my own ideas which can easily become false gods. The Spirit is inexplicably beautiful.