Friday, September 25, 2009

Talitha koum (Jairus' story)

She was dying. She was just twelve. I didn’t care anymore how it looked. I could pretend that I didn’t believe to save face in front of the other leaders, but it wasn’t about saving face anymore. My little girl was dying. There was no hope besides this Man. I may lose my position. But it didn’t matter. She was worth it. I couldn’t remember life before her. She was the sun that lit my days. Her smile could melt even the coldest heart. But now her lifeless body lay on her deathbed. She was only twelve. She would never see thirteen. Unless….

But that Man was here in town. I had to leave my little girl’s bedside to get to him. That was the hardest thing I would ever do. I heard that He was coming back across the river….if only I could get to Him and ask, and He would heal her. There was word that He healed the sick, cast out demons, made blind see and made the lame walk. He could certainly breathe life back into my precious daughter’s lungs. I wasn’t sure about this Messiah thing, but I knew He could heal, and that was all that I needed. So I ran as fast as I could. I left the wailing and weeping crowds outside of my house. I kissed my wife as I left, cradling her chin in my hands, and I promised her that this Jesus was real, and that He would bring our little girl back. With tears streaming down her face onto my hands, she nodded, mutely.

There He was, with the three that were continually with Him. His was the face of hope. This was the man who healed in my temple. He was the one whom I had wanted to kick out. He was too much of a spectacle. He had led too many of my followers astray. He was a heretic. As a whole, we wanted nothing to do with Him. Now I wanted everything to do with Him. Let Him be a heretic. Just as long as He can save my child. So there I was. I had never flung myself at anyone’s feet before, let alone the feet of one of such controversial teachings. And I lay before Him, as a slave! I knew all He would have to do is touch her. I had seen Him do it before. She had a future, and it was slipping away. I wanted this Man, whoever He was, to give life back to my little girl.

He conceded. I was speechless. This man, Jesus, was following me to my house!! My baby will live! We will have tomorrow with her, and the next day. She will become a teenager, and then a beautiful woman! She will have children, and we will hear her sing again and see her dance again. She will play and run and be filled with life! Hallelujah! And, yes, I will believe in you, Jesus. If you save my daughter, I will turn my world inside out. You can wreck my world. Take away my position in the church. Even take my life for hers. Whatever you want. Just give my daughter back her life.

Wait! Why are we stopping? What?? He felt someone touch His robes?? Listen to your disciples, Jesus. It doesn’t matter. People are crowding in on you. Everyone is touching You. I need you to touch MY daughter. Please, don’t stop walking. We don’t have much time. Time may have already run out! Oh, there she is. That is that woman who is contaminated. We don’t touch her. NO! We don’t have time for her now. My little girl needs Jesus. Now, Jesus is talking to this woman….she is healed….another miracle….ok. That’s enough. It is my little girl’s turn.

I see them in the distance. My stomach drops. I can’t see them anymore through the cascade of tears. How did I get down on the ground? Don’t tell me. PLEASE don’t tell me…. I will order you to be killed if you tell me….she isn’t dead. She can’t be dead. She was breathing when I left. She was talking yesterday. She was running around and dancing three weeks ago. NO!! She can’t be dead. JESUS PLEASE….TELL THEM. No, you can’t tell me not to bother the Teacher. He is the SAVIOR, and I WILL bother Him until my child is alive!

Then followed the cryptic words that replaced the words that I wanted to hear: “Do not be afraid any longer. Only believe. “

Ok. It was all that I had. All I could do was believe. There was no where else that I could place my trust. It was either believe or admit defeat. And I could not believe that she was dead. So I let Him lift me up from my crumpled heap and we walked forward toward my house. I was like one lost in a trance. It was the beginning stages of shock, so I followed, dumbly, blindly, mutely. I did not feel my legs. The only thing that was evident was the drum beat of my heart in my ears. My daughter’s laughter echoed in my mind. I could not allow myself to forget it. Oh, please God, allow me to hear her laughter in real life again.

We stopped again. Why did we stop? We have not entered into my house. Oh, all the crowds. Why are THEY wailing? She is MY daughter. Then Jesus responded to them with the most beautiful words that I have ever heard in my life. These words will echo in my memory as long as I live: “The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” I am still mute. Why are they laughing at Jesus? In an instant, they went from weeping to laughing. They don’t really care at all. Slowly anger flooded my vision. Then I saw Jesus, and He led me into the room. HER room. My wife’s face was contorted with the greatest sorrow I could ever bear to see. I wondered if mine looked the same. We were never meant to bury our children.

I forced myself to look at the bed. There she was. Or there was her body, lifeless, empty. But Jesus took her tiny, fragile, white, cold hand, which was swallowed up in His ruddy, carpenter’s hand, and He said, “Talitha koum.”

My heart leapt. My daughter immediately arose. The speed in which the color returned to her face was astonishing. She hadn’t stood in days. And now she was walking around. My head spun. For the third time that day, I fell to my knees. I heard the laugh. It was her laughter! She was alive! She was alive! She was alive! I peeled my eyes off of my beautiful ray of joy to gaze on the face of the One who gave her back to me. He saw my gratitude, and in His eyes, I could see the commission. My wife had already enfolded our little girl in her embrace, so I wrapped my arms around both of my girls. We wept. We all wept. Then we heard a little growl. It was her tummy. She was hungry….before Jesus walked out, He said, “Go get her something to eat.” I swept her up in my arms, and we followed her mother down to the kitchen to feed our daughter dinner, and we rejoiced that we would have the pleasure of feeding her many more.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Degrees of Healing

As I studied Mark 8:22-26, I was astonished at an element of the story that I have always overlooked. Here is the passage in the NIV:

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put His hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”

Why is this miracle different than the other miracles surrounding it? I was astonished that the healing did not “work” initially. He could see better, but he could not see fully. Previously, in this same chapter, Jesus had performed the incredible miracle of feeding the 4,000. He did this completely on the “first try.” There was no step one, and then step two. His miracles never had worked in the degrees that this one was composed of. Was this specific miracle flawed? Was there something wrong with the blind man’s faith? Did he not have enough faith? Was Jesus’ touch not quite as influential as it should have been? Was this blindness especially severe? Jesus doesn’t offer any reasons, nor does the author of Mark. As students of the word and sensitive recipients of the Spirit’s messages, we can look a little bit deeper, and we can make some guesses.

I was so perplexed by the slow progression of this miracle. It seemed almost like a trial-and-error process. It deeply disturbed my spirit, and I could not understand why. I got some help from the great biblical scholar Matthew Henry in my understanding of this passage.

Jesus could have been taking this man slowly through healing, building his faith in steps, so that he could see the full healing more completely. This gradual nature of this miracle was not typical. The man looked up after the first touch, with his sight somewhat recovered, but he could not discern great details. Men were only distinguishable from trees in that they were walking around. But Christ doesn’t only heal partially. He wants to say, “It is finished.” So He placed His fingers in the man’s eyes again, and this time he looked intently. He could see clearly.
Christ would not be boxed. He would not be tied to a specific prescription of healing. He still won’t. We try to package Him, and He breaks the mold. Henry says, “Providence gains the same end in different ways, that men may attend its motions with an implicit faith.”

Why does this hit me with such power? The reason is this: I did not experience immediate healing. Hands were laid on me, and I was healed. Partially. I found freedom that I had never known before. Previously, I had never been able to even see shades of light. I had never beheld people or trees, so the blurry image of tree-people was pretty good. Then the Lord asked, “What do you see?” And I told Him. He was not finished. Next, I saw the outline of their silhouettes, the shading of their clothes, and the backdrop of the green, but there was no detail. It was better than anything I had ever seen, so I was pretty happy. Jesus asked again, “child, what do you see?” I told Him, but He still had more. He will keep building my faith. He will keep increasing the power of my vision until I am finally able to look intently and see crystal-clearly. Until then, He will keep asking “child, what do you see?”

Some people find complete healing at once. Their faith may very easily be stronger than mine. He can heal immediately. He made the deaf hear immediately. He restored the sight of some blind men immediately. He raised Lazarus with one beckoning call. The cool thing was that this blind man got two touches from Jesus, while the other recipients of His healing only got one touch or a word.

I do not resent this progressive healing. God knows what He is doing. He is healing by degrees not because my God is less powerful or incompetent. He is meeting my need right now. And yeah, the people and scenery that I observe now are a little bit blurry, but I get to spend the process with my Lord as He keeps on anointing my eyes with His blessed touch. He won’t stop until He can say, “it is finished.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I am sick of swallowing my emotions. I am nauseous all the time, and I know that is why. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I bought into the belief that people can’t handle my emotions, that I can’t handle my emotions, and that God doesn’t want to handle my emotions. I have believed that they are morally wrong to have. I have bought into the lie that true healthy Christians can’t feel fear, anxiety, anger, hurt, jealousy, and sadness. Those feelings are unacceptable. Because they were not allowed in my world, and because I felt them on a regular basis, I got really good at “swallowing” my emotions. In carrying some overlapping blog themes, swallowing emotions is kind of like swallowing gum: not so good for the digestive track! The emotions are too much for people. They will scare people away. They will reveal what a hopeless case that I am. They are too big. If I let my emotions out in a room, they would expand like flubber, filling up the entire room, plastering those poor souls within to the walls, gasping for oxygen. I kept on swallowing these “flubber monster” emotions, and wondered why there was no room for food. Why did I always feel so full?

I have come face to face with a multitude of emotions over the past couple weeks. I have faced rage and devastation as the primary emotions. I allowed myself to cry for all of ten seconds yesterday before apologizing profusely, shoving it back in, and trying to paste on a happy face. With all these good Christian people around me at Asbury Seminary, I assume that holiness abounds. There is no room for a basket case like me amidst the greatly sanctified chosen ones here at Asbury. At least that’s what this shame keeps telling me. You think that I would learn by now not to listen to anything with the name of shame.

I have noticed a trend in my life. When go through intense seasons of battling very powerful emotions, I become less and less hungry. In fact, I feel pretty full all the time. I am literally swallowing my emotions. This is no good for the process of recovery. I am supposed to be eating food, not feelings. I have found that feelings have no nutritional value, and in fact, they burn quite a few extra calories.

One of the best ways to unload the truckload of feelings is to have a good cry. After my best cries, I feel famished. It is those times that I finally have emptied out the feelings to make room for the food. Catharsis is fantastic, but it seems so dangerous. Sometimes, crying alone is terrible. Sometimes, or often, I need someone or some people in the community to carry my sorrow with me, or to cry with me, or to laugh with me, or to scream with me. This is so scary. What if I scare them off forever? What if truly no one can love me enough to handle my massive emotions? What if I turn into the flubber emotion monster myself?

I don’t know what this healing is going to look like. I don’t know how long it will take, who it will involve, or what I will have to do. But I have to believe that God brings healing through His Spirit at work through His body in our communities. He loves us through each other. He made us for relationships, and He made us not to swallow all of our emotions to the point that there is no room for dinner.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Advocate-Counselor

The Lord calls His followers to justice. I love the verse in Micah 6:8 which says that the Lord requires of us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God and with men. Until tonight, I have had yet to experience such a heavy weight of responsibility as a counselor. There is a call for justice, and those who cannot speak for themselves need someone to speak for them. If it is true that the Bible mentions over 500 times the topics of the poor, the widows, and the orphans, I need to aid in their protection and care. This means advocacy. Jesus plowed the way of turning the social structure upside down, where the poor populate God’s family, and that it is virtually impossible for the rich to inhabit the kingdom of heaven. The way up is down in the economy of the Lord. The Lord has provided the world with enough resources, if those who have in abundance will give freely to those who have not.

John Wesley continually emphasizes the social responsibilities of Christians. I love his elevation of social holiness. We do not live in vacuums, and we inhabit a world full of broken people. I am reminded of a verse that the Lord has lain continuously on my heart. Isaiah 61 says that the Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bind up the brokenhearted, to bring freedom for the captives, and release to the prisoners, to bestow on those who weep a garland of praise. His Spirit is upon me not for my own benefit alone. His Spirit has anointed me to go out and love through many means. One of those means is through the pursuit of justice and social advocacy. Who will act on the behalf of those who are crushed if those who are enabled to do so choose to do nothing? In my education and knowledge of the oppressed and poverty-stricken, I am now responsible. I think of the song “Albertine” by Brooke Frasier, which says, “now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead.” There was bliss in my former ignorance, but now that ignorance has been eradicated. Now I must choose how to respond.
In the system of righteousness, I acknowledge that God is the God of retributive justice. I leave that up to Him. I have responsibility in the realm of sharing the message of restorative justice, where Christ died for the sinners. Next, I have the calling to administer distributive justice through sharing all that I have with those who have nothing.

I am so quick to forget the affluence that I live in. I consider the debt that I am building and the very tight budget that I operate on. I restrict my driving to save gas money, and calculate expenses so that I can come up positive in my bank account. Working as a work study, I devote my income strictly to tuition. I am living on borrowed money. My privilege is that I have access to this borrowed money, and that I will finish this process more qualified and equipped to generate a stable income. There are many who are infinitely worse off than I am. This was an incredible eye-opener tonight after several weeks of self-pity and panic. There are many who have limited educational, emotional, social, and foundational resources, leading to deeper despair. This is despair leads to a soul poverty that runs much deeper than a bank account. It is a poverty of soul, and this is the poverty that destroys.

As a counselor grows out of self, there is a universal awareness, and a more global calling. We cannot interact with individuals on a micro-level and not find ourselves broken for society on a macro-level. I am almost inclined at this point to consider it unethical to counsel and not to feel the need to advocate on some level. Deeper understanding of the core issues of humanity leads to a greater awareness of the global need for healing and restoration. This sounds amazingly exhausting and discouraging. I am sure that there are great rewards along the journey as well. It has to be a calling, or else it will grow very old very quickly. I feel the calling, however, and I cannot do anything but respond as Isaiah did. Therefore, I stand up in this system of injustice and cry, “Here I am Lord! Send me!”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chewing Gum?

I sat enjoying my first meal in the ATS cafeteria last week, when my eyes landed on a little sign that was posted on the napkin holder. The sign, which may be helpful to some, was troublesome to me.

It said: “Chew gum. Curb snack cravings.”

First of all, on a research based level, gum has been proven to be somewhat unhealthy to the stomach. The chewing process causes the stomach to secrete acids that erode its lining and cause further complications. When we start to chew our brain thinks it’s going to get food so it secretes digestive enzymes through our saliva glands, which is the first stage of digestion. It then tells our digestive system to prepare for what it believes to be food coming down and more enzymes are produced. This is how our body normally breaks down fat and protein. However, since there is no food, bloating occurs. Then because of the relationship between enzymes and hormones, a hormone imbalance follows. The stomach produces hydrochloric acid and since that isn’t being used it creates digestive dysfunction which in turn causes acid reflux and ulcers. It also can develop into TMJ, a painful jaw disorder (with which I am presently dealing).

Secondly, gum has historically curbed cravings and hunger for me. I could trick my body into thinking that I was eating. It was also a way to trick my mind. Sadly, I was replacing nourishment with empty chewing that satisfied a temporary craving but led to further starvation and devastation to my body. I was able to restrict and feel in control through the chewing of gum. My mouth had something to do, and I could replace my true longing with something that would suffice but not fulfill.

Today, I made the commitment to fast from gum. Today, I was reminded of a former conviction that I felt about a decade ago in high school. I have encountered the opportunity to take communion three times in the past five days. This is a record high, and it has been such a blessing to me. Facing communion each time, I noticed that I was chewing gum. In those events, I either swallowed the gum (which I hear is not so good for the digestive system), or I spit it out in a wrapper. It detracts from my worship experience, and I find the leftover minty flavor tainting my actual experience of communion. The Lord wants my whole heart during this participation.

He wants me to fully encounter His presence at the table of His goodness.
Gum has been a substitute for food. Analogously, I have replaced pure spiritual food with empty “chewing gum” of different sorts. Whether it has been running, restriction, friendships, TV shows, shopping, or various other activities, I have sought to replace the good spiritual food of relationship with the Lord.

“Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Isaiah 55:2

Why would I waste time and stomach acid on nothing but chewing, not being satisfied, but delaying hunger? What would I waste precious energy and resources on serving other masters rather than the Most High?

He is the real nourishment. He is the bread of life. Abraham Maslow says that “man cannot live on bread alone, unless he has no bread.” I had no bread, because I was wasting my chewing on gum. Now, I truly cannot live on bread alone, because I have experienced that need met. Now is the time to replace the emotional gum with Spiritual riches.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Patron-Client Relationship and God as Benefactor

I have been given a new picture of God as benefactor. This picture is the ancient Greco-Roman patron-client relationship. In this relationship, the Patron is the benefactor who gives altruistically, without expecting anything in return from His “client.” He makes the gift strictly for the sake of giving. The goal is not to create servants, but to serve. The term for this altruistic benefaction is “general reciprocity.”

The expectation of clients in this situation is a form of praise and respect for the patron. In fact, ingratitude is considered in this culture one of the most reprehensible affronts, more offensive than murder, cheating, lying, and idolatry. This system not only applied to political agendas, but also to Deities. God gives freely, and God needs nothing in His completeness. The appropriate and expected response of a mortal to the Divine Benefactor was the gift of power and authority. Thanksgiving is the natural duty to a God who has given all. There is nothing else that can be given, and He does not NEED anything. No one is so poverty-stricken that he cannot spare praise. It is a commodity that is always available even to the most destitute.

“The commitment is understood here: God gives, we return honor and gratitude to the Benefactor who continues His benefaction—thus loyalty and faithfulness are shown by both parties, that is commitment.” (Neyrey, God Benefactor and Patron).

This is the “sacrifice of praise.” There are four categories of offerings made by mortals in exchange for the gifts of the Benefactor. These are: Sacrifice, commitment, praise, and influence. In response to God’s altruistic gift to the clients, they offer Him an altruistic gift of God-centeredness. The highest form of God’s benefaction is found in the very popular text of John 3:16, and then later in John 15, where we find that greater love cannot exist beyond our Lord’s gift in laying down His life for His friends, even when they are His enemies. The response that God expects from us is that we obey Him and do what He has called us to do by keeping His commands. Our faith is reckoned as righteousness. Though out of our faith flows the fruit of the Spirit, our response to the benefaction of the Father God is not directly our works, but our worship, trust, and friendship.

I see the application here as this: I have been given the gift of life through the sacrifice of the Benefactor. He has saved my life. He has restored my life. He has freely given first eternal life, and secondly a gift of preservation in the midst of crippling odds of death. He has also given me abundance and provision in this present life. I see the Psalmists’ responses to God’s provision all throughout the book of Psalms, especially in Psalm 107. The Psalmist says “let the redeemed of the Lord say this, those He redeemed from the hand of the foe, let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds before. Let them give thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.”

I cannot help but declare what the Lord has done in my life. The story of my life points back to Him and His great work. He has pulled my life from the pit, He has put my feet on a rock and given me a firm place to stand. The greatest joy of my life is to respond to my Patron. What He expects from me is something that I delight in doing. Does there exist a better deal?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Consecrated Pearl

At the risk of sounding narcissistic and self-absorbed, I have done some extensive research of my name. My name is Megan Elizabeth. My mom had a card that she stuck to our refrigerator as I was a child. It had my name on it and its definition. I would read it and feel precious and seen. Megan means “pearl”. Elizabeth means “consecrated unto God”. Specifically, the Hebrew definition for Elizabeth is “my God is my oath.” I am a pearl, consecrated unto God.
Pearls are found inside of oysters. I happened to wear a pearl necklace over the past couple days. The past year, right before my graduation from Mercy, my mother gave me a beautiful necklace made of real black pearls. They are more deep purple rather than black, but they are still considered to be black. The word “pearl” has become a metaphor for something very rare, fine, and admirable. All of these qualities are qualities that I would never attribute to myself. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. Pearls, as I stated earlier, are formed inside the shell of mollusks. The pearl is actually created as a defense mechanism, protecting the mollusk from parasites that might form within the shell. When a shell becomes a host for an irritant (parasite), it secretes pure calcium carbonate to cover the irritant over and over, creating the pearl. The shell turns something parasitic into something rare, beautiful, and fine. Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the pearl of great price. The farmer buries the pearl, sells all that he has, and returns to the pearl. It is worth more than this man’s amassed wealth. Pearls are attached to eternity in Revelation, where the gates are made of pearl. In summary, the pearl is of great value. The Lord says, “Megan, you are my valuable pearl. You are worth more than you can imagine. You have been formed around great irritants, and I have made good in you out of danger.” Once again, I see that what the enemy intended for evil, the Lord has used for great good. The pearl is what it is because of a history of very specific formation.
The Lord calls me consecrated unto Himself. Consecrated items are set apart as sacred. They are sanctified for the purpose of communion. They are dedicated to a holy purpose or goal. This is a future-oriented value. A consecrated item is what it is for future service and communion with the Lord. Its Latin roots mean specifically to be made sacred. This making of consecration is something that is done to the recipient, not something that the recipient produces through its own efforts. One Hebrew word for consecrated is “qadash,” which implies that something is PRONOUNCED to be clean. It is appointed. It is bidden. It is made clean for the purpose of God’s work. Another Hebrew word for consecrated is “malo.” This means to be filled to overflowing. Once again, the implication is “to have done from without.” It is an exhaustive in the sense that it is filled up. To fill one’s hand is to consecrate someone for priestly service.
This leads me to the passage in 1 Peter 2, which says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, God’s own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God. Once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy.”
The Lord has taken me as something that is parasitic and destructive and made me into something that is well-formed, rare, and beautiful to Him. He has from without called and named me as His own, bidden for His own purpose. He has poured Himself into me to overflowing because of His purpose in me for priestly service. My name is beautiful. My bridegroom calls me precious, holy, and consecrated, and that is who I am. He is pulling me out of the shell, stringing me on his necklace, and calling me beautiful. Then He is preparing me for ministry through the continual pouring in of His Spirit so that I can be a vessel through which He ministers to the world.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Table

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Psalm 23:5

I find myself back in the place of former oppression, death, and darkness. This is the place where my enemies triumphed and almost had my life. This was the place of the greatest promise and the most devastating loss. The enemy stole the table set before me. There was food that the Lord had prepared, but it was stolen, leaving me starving and dying. The enemy almost won, but he did not. Great is His faithfulness.

My enemy is present. He is waiting at every blind spot. He knows that this is where he stole the most, but I know that he will not get it again. In fact, I will find a double portion this time to make up for what the locusts have eaten. I am glad that this table has been prepared in the presence of my enemy. That way he can see the feast that the Lord has before me, and he can see me dining with my Host and His other guests. This table is lavish, with great bounty and rich foods. The table is vast and spread out. As I sit before it and partake, my enemy is tortured.

This verse from the 23rd Psalm was highlighted this morning in our first session for the orientation here at Asbury Seminary. This place, located in the town of great pain and sorrow, is the place where God intends to do a mightier work than has ever taken place in my life thus far. Chills cascaded down my arms as the speaker read this scripture. The place of starvation has become a place of feast. The cafeteria of restriction is now the table of abundance and nourishment. My enemy will watch me sit and recline at the table which the Lord has prepared for me. Eugene Peterson paraphrases in The Message that the Lord serves a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.

The Hebrew word for presence here is “neged” which connotes the idea that the table is immediately in the enemy’s face. There is a quality of opposition here. It is a parade of the Lord’s healing and power. The enemy can only stand, speechless, observing in defeat my feast at the Lord’s table.

In the enemy’s presence today, I sang in my first chapel service of my graduate school experience. I sang the hymn that is the Vessel class of 2005 hymn at the college. “Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.” His faithfulness is a thread that is woven so perfectly throughout my life, a banner that flies when someone sees the odds that I have overcome. His faithfulness brought me back to this place of deep hurt to bring profound healing. All I have needed His hand has provided. My defeated enemies ruefully observe as that same hand serves me from His table of hospitality here at Asbury Seminary.


Today held a lot of significance in the healing process for me. As all of the new students have arrived on campus, I have found myself experimenting on self-disclosure. People here are incredibly kind, friendly, and sincere. It is a great environment. I also fear some judgment and condemnation (based on my own judgment and condemnation but also based on experiences at church and at college).
I see some similarities between my orientation at Asbury College eight years ago and my orientation at Asbury Seminary today. It two days, non-stop. It is exhausting, with tons of stimulation, overwhelming numbers of people, loads of information, and excessive emotion. We are divided into TAG (transition and guidance) groups, which include 8-14 people with two students as the leaders. Fortunately, both in college and in seminary, I have had the opportunity to arrive on campus early, and I have not been as overwhelmed by the "newness" of the campus while trying to get to know tons of new people. I feel almost seasoned enough to give a tour myself.
As I entered college, I had made significant strides out of the eating disorder. I considered it to be on its way out of my life. As I enter graduate school, once again, I see the eating disorder as part of my history, however recent. My goal with college was the leave the eating disorder behind, but as I shared life with fellow students, I disclosed parts of my "history" that turned out to be much more present than I wanted to acknowledge. I began to enter into the role that I set up for myself. I believe with tentative reservation that I am at a greater place of understanding now, but I face the same dilemma. I am no longer defined by anorexia. I never want to be identified with it or defined by it again. The problem, however, is that when asked, "what brought you here to Asbury?" or "will you tell me about your journey?" I have to figure out a balance between over-transparency and hiding. I am not ashamed of who I am, and I know that I am not condemned. Though our group setting was intimate tonight, it seemed that it was not appropriate to disclose anything more specific than a "prolonged illness" that detoured my path. I do not want to step into a relationship and open up too much too soon. You cannot suck words back into your mouth. But I don't want to veil all of my words with this vague cloak of generalization when presenting my testimony (which was very much what I felt like I was doing tonight). I felt like I was wading through this marsh of "code language." I don't want to walk around with a scarlet "A" on my chest. But I don't want to hide in the shadows, trying to not be found out. I was so nervous about not exposing myself that I was jumbling up my message tremendously.
It is hard not wanting to be defined by something while remembering that it has truly been deeply involved in the process of becoming who I am.
So, tonight, I was vague. But when it was over, I think that I conveyed the message well enough. There was great support, encouragement, and several people thanked me for what I shared. I know that doors were opened, and those who want to know me more deeply will invite me into a place of deeper levels of disclosure at the right time. With that disclosure, I will not enter into the "role" that I jumped back into in college. As I look back over the ever-increasing distance between the present freedom and the past bondage, I will be reminded that I never want to go back and that I am so thankful that what the enemy intended for harm God has used for good. And eight years later, praise the Lord that graduate school is NOT a repeat of college.