Friday, August 20, 2010

Living a better story..

I haven't blogged in over a year. Not on this blog anyway. I write web content for a living and in order to live above the medical bills that's the only writing that I've allowed my time. At least that's what I tell myself when I'm not doing honesty.

The truth is I've had too much to say about JB's heart to write it down. And not enough distance from the emotion of it to chronicle the journey without potentially having a breakdown. Living it is hard enough...rehashing it might tip me over the edge. JB's heart condition has been the only story I've been living for quite some time.

I was foolish to believe that the further we got from his heart surgery the easier it would be to feel settled. Two years away from it and although I am profoundly grateful that he's alive and well, I am also acutely aware that we are always one errant heartbeat away from a nightmare. At least when we were in the hospital, we were in the midst of the storm. There was a paradoxical comfort to being in the thick of it. No time to think too much, plenty of medical people and monitors to keep close watch and keep JB going.

Upon leaving, all the doctors gave their parting orders, 'Go home and live normally.' But in their well-meaning sentence contained a certain ignorance and all-out promotion of denial. They might as well have said, 'Go home and act like you never saw your son in a coma on a ventilator, pretend that his heart was never broken, and if you have to acknowledge reality, just focus on the fact that we repaired his aorta as best we could, and we will not discuss all those things that linger and can't be surgically fixed right now."

Their form of comfort was no comfort at all. Or so I thought.

What I didn't take into consideration is that living normally hadn't been normal since I became a mother. All the things that were part of me as a solo person, suddenly vanished in the haze of wife, mother, and worker. JB's heart issues had just intensified a shift that had already taken place. A trade-off I had made all too eagerly the moment I became pregnant. I had given over all the individual longings, dreams and hopes that I'd cherished in exchange for pouring myself into my family. My own mother had drilled into my head at an early age that 'charity begins at home,' and it may but does it end there too?

Prior to having children, I used to love to go out late at night and bring coffee, donuts and toiletries to the hookers working a seedy strip of misery about 5 miles from our home. I was often criticized by some church people for not 'doing enough' to help the women. Truth is I thought it was very helpful to just bring them coffee, some items for them to clean up with and offer some conversation and prayer if they wanted it. One pastor told me I shouldn't go out to minister to them if I wasn't prepared to take them home and offer them a way out. His words kept me from going out to them for two weeks. I wasn't prepared to take anyone home. I had no desire to house anyone. I continually felt called to go but increasingly felt bad about just visiting with them and not housing, clothing and otherwise yanking them out of their pit.

Another time, I invited a friend to join me and she came fully agenda-ed to pray the salvation prayer with each one. I am not suggesting that this isn't a noble agenda. It's just that many of the women had already given their hearts to Jesus..many as children...and had just gotten woefully off track via drugs, alcohol, abuse etc. This friend couldn't believe that a hooker could be as saved as Billy Graham. I introduced her to the works of Brennan Manning and never saw her again.

These little late night jaunts were not major ministry in the television commercial kind of way, and a good argument could be made that they were self-serving. I always felt better on the way home. Not in a puffed-up-I-Just-did-a-great-service kind of way but in a profoundly satisfied soul-filled kind of way. The serving of the women in such a simple way was a reminder to me to get over myself and a great reminder to pay attention to myself. Each face I stared long into was a broken piece of humanity not unlike my own. Looking for filling and comfort in places that could never provide it. One too many disappointments with God leading to the desire for the quick relief of numbness at the end of a needle or crackle of a pipe. Meeting them in their misery alleviated my own in ways I can't explain.

And I long to go again. To venture out on a Friday night, long after the boys are in bed, to the women who walk the streets looking for relief. I've told myself, and heard it from others, that it wouldn't be safe and I can't risk bringing germs home to JB. Perhaps living a better story would be that the heroine who loves her family deeply knows that she can only really love them well if she's loving God well and serving where he's called her to serve....and although it's risky, a life lived fully for God always entails perceived risk. Perhaps it's riskier to repeatedly ignore His calls.

I long for these jaunts to be part of my story. I long to have the courage to ignore the people who think it's unsafe, irresponsible to my children at home, do-goody foolishness. I long to go because I want to be brave in the face of the fear. I long to go because I fear my story if I don't integrate the parts of me that existed before motherhood and congenital heart defects. I long to go because I want my life to be a story that my boys will be proud of.

When I first heard about the Living a Better Story seminar I thought about writing fiction and how great it would be to go to Portland and get inspired to literally work on my stories. Now I'm thinking if I can learn to live a better story personally, the fiction will somehow get written.

My hope is that being around people with the common goal of writing better stories will, by osmosis, create in me a desire to elevate my own story. Perhaps elevating my story would mean living normally, in the way God intended all along.

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.