Traumaversary 7

This is a tribute to Lee Pace’s eyebrows: they are beautiful and bold, and we all know how much I’m obsessed with eyebrows.

Also, today is the seven year anniversary of when I fell from a wall and broke my back.

Perhaps not so surprisingly you’ll find that my favorite Lee Pace movie is not the one where he rides a moose and plays Orlando Bloom’s father but rather the 2006 masterpiece The Fall. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the movie has layers of story as Lee Pace plays a stuntman who has ended up in the hospital after an accident and depressed because his girlfriend dumped him for a movie star; he finds himself telling stories to a little girl who is recovering from a fall while picking oranges. There are falls in the stories he tells the girl, but there is also a major metaphorical fall as he tricks the little girl into stealing pills for his suicide attempt. There is also beautiful redemption as the little girl learns and teaches significant lessons about the value and complexity of people in our lives.

There is a lot to love in this film that has stunning scenery, powerful plot, complex characters, and Lee Pace’s eyebrows. I love the layers. My story has a lot of layers too, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how to convey the depth of my learning and healing that has spanned across the past seven years in this post today.

People who have been on this journey with me from the start know my history of depression as a child and teenager, the years I spent researching suffering in college, and my thesis related to storytelling and madness as connected to trauma. That context was significant along with the foundation I had of a personal relationship with Jesus for the moment I lost my ability to walk. When Dr. Netzer politely said, “I make no promises of you ever walking again,” I was able to respond with, “Thank you,” not because I’m awesome but because the Holy Spirit gave me those words in the moment. I knew my God is Healer, and I know still my God is healing me.

There are layers to my healing just like there are layers to my fall that provided lessons of humbling in countless ways over the past seven years.

First of all, I will celebrate the fact that while Dr. Netzer made no promises, I walked into her office with the braces and four footed canes barely a year later. Just a month ago, I made a lap around the physio praxis with the braces still but just hiking poles and Anja’s hands close by instead of my canes. I’ve made incredible progress physically based on my medical prognosis.

My healing hasn’t stopped there though, and people who’ve read my story for a while know the significant visit I had to Denmark where the Lord stepped into my life in a mighty way offering a depth of emotional healing I didn’t even know was necessary or possible.

As a Jesus follower, I believe that I have a personal relationship with God – and I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to me. I’ve grown in my understanding and articulation of what that means, but back in the hospital seven years ago, I strongly felt the impression on my heart that God wanted me to ask for everything. Everything. In my smallness and naiveté, I thought that meant walking and physical function. God has much, much bigger plans of blessing for me. In Denmark, I saw fulfilment that God was healing everything in his order. I use that word on purpose because I’ve been burned by people flippant about God doing things in his timing. In my call with my counselor last week, I made that important distinction in my vocabulary because I know God still told me to ask for everything. God isn’t done, but back in the hospital I didn’t know there was more to ask for than my physical healing. Julie and I talked a lot about how my obedience to God requires me to ask for everything everyday – and that isn’t selfish.

I’m completely content with what God gives me each day. Today I’m in a wheelchair, but I am still faithful to ask God to live up to what he’s promised and to give me everything. This tension doesn’t diminish my faith one iota that I have asked for everything for seven years and still have physical limitations. Rather, I’ve seen God show up and give far beyond what my limited imagination could conceive of and he’s not done yet. Because my God is good, I keep asking like the persistent widow Jesus describes. Because my God is healer, I won’t settle for a scorpion instead of an egg, for a stone instead of bread, or perhaps a better biblical example, I won’t be content to see people like trees walking around (despite how much we know I love trees). It’d be so much easier for me to settle and say God has given me enough, but that’s not what God has asked of me. He’s asked to grow me and stretch me and use me for his glory.

That’s another line that’s been consistent from day one: when I spoke to my dad on the phone in the hospital before surgery, I asked him, “Pray that God is glorified – oh, and it’d be nice if I could walk again too.” My prayer hasn’t changed: I still want to walk again too. It’s out of my desire to see God glorified that I won’t settle with just this much healing; I want everything. In obedience, I’ll ask for everything.

This past year has had a lot of lessons in obedience and faithfulness, and I’ve shared a lot here, but I’d like to connect it to this “already but not yet” tension in my healing today. At this point, I’ve read nine books on prayer and have two more in the mail because I’m learning to speak to God faithfully but also to listen and respond to what I hear obediently. For seven years I’ve invited people to pray for me with faith and expectation that God would show up in miraculous ways. Only once in all those years have I felt that God told me to ask someone to specifically pray for me to stand up and walk and be instantly healed. In fact, when it happened, I was so caught off guard, I didn’t think I heard the Lord correctly. I tried to dismiss the nudge, but there was a burning conviction that I was supposed to ask this specific person sitting next to me to pray for me to stand up and dance in this incredible thunderstorm, and I said, “No thanks” to God. In that moment when I firmly said no in my spirit, I experienced what was the closest thing I’ve experienced to the audible voice of God as my whole brain and being resonated with, “Okay, Naaman.”

Now let me back up a bit to reiterate that while I often talk about my conversations with God, it’s generally through thoughts and impressions and words and images that I’ve come to recognize which I then hold to Scripture and God’s character and wisdom of other Jesus followers before considering as the voice of God. The nine books on prayer that I’ve read recently all underscore this truth: that the Holy Spirit speaks to us each differently, and the audible voice of God is not the norm. In a conversation with my sister back in September, we talked about how she’d only once come close to that experience in prayer herself, and it was more just a strong sense than an actual auditory voice. So I can’t emphasize enough how strange this experience was for me to sit outside my house and literally feel myself resonate with this sass from the Lord. I was so uncomfortable, and I was a hot mess for the next three days until I managed to be obedient and ask the person to tell me to my face to stand up and walk. The subsequent story was it’s own hot mess, but that’s, oddly enough, not the focus of my story today.

You see, Naaman is a pretty interesting character in the Bible. He’s a Syrian general (those were the enemies of Israel) who had leprosy and went to the Israeli prophet Elisha to be healed. When Elisha said the Lord would heal him by having Naaman wash in the Jordan River, Naaman was disgusted. Don’t I have better rivers in Syria, Naaman complained. Don’t I have better friends to pray for me, I told the Lord. Yeah, it was not my shining moment. My humbling was to invite someone into my story who the Lord said deserves a role there. I actually don’t know this person well at all, and I had, based on very limited experience, chosen to judge them. In the subsequent days, the Lord impressed upon my heart (not the audible resonance, but still clear enough for me to understand without question) that this person was not who I had judged them to be but rather is a broken human person deeply loved by the Lord and in need of healing just like I am. We are broken in different ways, but we both need the Lord to heal us.

Zoom out here, and we see that all of us humans are broken in some way and need God to step in. In his beautiful mercy, he chooses to use us in each other’s stories as we heal from different wounds. Unsurprisingly, I have more wounds in my life than the broken vertebrae, and I made another huge breakthrough in my last counseling session as I reframed God’s call for reconciliation in light of my emotional scars. You see, another message I’ve heard from God this year is that he wants to bring an “avalanche of reconciliation.” I have no idea what that means or looks like, but my counselor distinguished that God is always working to reconcile people to himself. This means I could release all anxiety about people being reconciled to me – because I’m scared of people re-wounding me. However, this is the Lord working in his order again. If someone is reconciled to God, and if I work to be reconciled to God as well, then there is natural space for reconciliation to one another. I am not in danger of unnecessary wounding when I follow God’s order.

So here today, I don’t know what the order God has is in totality. I just know God means to heal everything – because that’s what I was told to ask for. And seriously, who gives their child a scorpion when they ask for an egg? Bear with me a bit by looking at the context of that passage in Luke 11. You see, Jesus tells the Lord’s prayer in this Sermon on the Plain before giving a short story about a guy who pounds on his neighbor’s door at midnight demanding bread to give to an unexpected visitor. Jesus says, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” The ESV notes that “impudence” can be translated “persistence.” I’m a fan of that word. It goes well with patience and perseverance. The following verse is Jesus instructing his listeners keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking because the Lord will give to you. Then he wraps up with the parents giving good gifts example.

My heavenly Father told me to ask. I’m going to keep asking. Knowing that I’ve received so much is not reason for me to slow down and be satisfied with people looking like trees. Instead, I’m ramping up and asking you to join with me in asking for everything. Like always, I’m creating a Facebook event with five prayer requests for my birthday hoping for and expecting miracles ongoing in my life.

Here’s the list I’ll post on the event and ask the world to pray for with me:

1. Pray that God is glorified.

This is always request number one, and I’m so grateful to know the Lord has been glorified so far in my story. I don’t want it to stop; it want the Lord to continue to be amplified by my story and the way I tell it.

2. Pray for new miracles in my physical healing.

I’m not done yet – and my body is still part of that everything I’m asking for. I’m so happy to celebrate the miracles God has already done in my physical body, but please join me in asking for everything which includes walking and nerve function that’s been missing for seven years.

3. Pray for responsibility in my witness.

I’m privileged to testify to God’s goodness, but I’ve been taken out of context and misrepresented before. Please pray that as I pursue avenues to share God’s goodness in my life that I will be clear and articulate, loving and gracious.

4. Pray for my insurance issues.

I’m in an ongoing, drawn out process to get my insurance to approve payment for my new wheelchair and then to get sized and approved for payment of new walking braces. We can pray simultaneously for my miraculous healing and for the insurance to approve what my body currently needs.

5. Pray for someone else.

This one is a bit odd, I know, but for those who’ve read my blog or talked to me in the past six months, you know this strange journey I’ve been on praying for a single individual and seeing incredible growth in my own walk with Jesus despite not knowing what’s happened in the heart of the other person. Would you take a moment to pray for this other person too? Pray that they recognize and receive the love of this incredible Father God who woke me up for weeks to stir up my own prayer army in solidarity. As you pray for someone else to feel the Lord’s love, I pray you’ll also receive the Lord’s love who joined us all in this beautiful praying community.

As a bonus today, you could also thank God for Lee Pace’s eyebrows because this is a tribute post to them after all. And like both of the characters he plays in The Fall, thank God I’ve shown significant character growth in the story of my life.

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