Monday, December 14, 2015

Mary Did You Know?

There is a beautiful Christmas song that captures the wonder of holding an infant and looking into the eyes of infinite possibilities. It’s called “Mary, Did You Know?” In that song, the bold expectations that we have in Advent are sung because we know that this is not just a season of expectancy for an infant but for a savior. We have the vantage point of history whereby we can beg the question, “Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?” But what does Advent offer us who cannot feel such hope or are trapped in oppression such that hope is a luxury we cannot afford? 

No one would listen to a song that cried out, “Mary, did you know that your child would languish in depression such that death was hoped for?” A song that proclaimed, “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would be shot by police because he was too afraid to ask for help and too proud to act vulnerable?” would never receive any attention. So what does Advent have for those of us who are so pained by life that it’s hard to believe that a savior will be born? 

I’m not writing this so that you will engage me on the fine points of theology. I have answers to that question that satisfy both my faith and my longing on the dark nights of my soul. But I’m asking that question because I know that joy does not come easily for many and hope feels too dangerous for some. I’m asking that question because we should pause to hear the cries of those for whom expectant hope is too much to ask. Please don’t tell me how your Savior has walked you through the darkness. Instead, look around for those who need your love to hold them through the pain. Please be hope in the darkness for others. That’s the Christmas miracle I'm praying for tonight. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Too many people die from deadly illnesses like depression, bipolar, & schizophrenia. Think suicide is a choice? Think again. That's just one of the many mechanisms these deadly diseases use to destroy. But we can not take seriously just how deadly these illnesses are if people have to hide because of stigma. Educate yourself and others so that those who suffer in the darkness of isolation can receive help in the light.

I am absolutely convicted by the reality that we have to acknowledge mental illnesses as the deadly diseases they are in order to take seriously just how dangerous it is to live with them. Calling them anything less is a disservice to treatment and a dismissal to those who suffer.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It Still Hurts, God: A Narrative Prayer

About 22 years ago, someone I trusted and admired turned on me due to my sexuality. He went so far as to suggest that my relationship with his teenage daughter (I was still a teenager too) was inappropriate. He made it clear that I had no business working with kids and cost me the first job I loved by outing me to the church where I was associate youth director. I always suspected he did this out of fear because he intuited that his daughter was struggling with her own sexual self understanding. Nevertheless, his betrayal created a pain in my life that would be reinforced by my internalization of his and other's homophobic ideas. It would be years before I would allow myself to be alone with a child because of the fear someone else might accuse me of something awful. When I was finally able to disentangle that pain from my pain with the church (which included 7 years of never going to church but still feeling a deep faith and sense of call), I tried my best to move forward from the fear and pain. But it would still be many more years before I could imagine working with children. Even as I began my career as a chaplain, I felt timid and fearful about being with children. At this point, I've been a pediatric chaplain for over 8 years living out God's calling and I still take extra measures to prevent even the possibility of someone making a false accusation. Will I ever heal from that experience? I don't know. But I do know that the man who betrayed my trust has changed his stance on homosexuality (thanks to a whim to look him up on Facebook). In fact, he retired from his professorship some years ago and is now an Episcopal priest posting things about love and growing in faith on his Facebook. This seems hopeful to me. But as the recipient of his fearful slander years ago, it strikes me how easy his path past that moment seems compared to how painful mine still is. Holy One, what is true justice? Please release me from the bonds of shame and fear. Amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Funeral That Should Have Been

On January 29, 2014, my mother died at the age of 65 from advanced breast cancer. Her obituary, which I wrote, attempted to honor her extroverted spirit, love of music, and perseverant life. I wrote that obituary in spite of the fact that I had a mostly troubled relationship with my mom that included physical and emotional abuse when I was a child. I've spent years mending that damage and stitching together the patches I needed transform myself into a quilt that people find beautiful... and sometimes I do too.

But I'm not writing because of that. I’m writing because I've had a nagging discontent with her funeral. The minister she chose to perform her funeral was her pastor. He had known her for many years and he did justice to what was theologically important to her. Nevertheless, he missed an opportunity to offer a different vision of redemption, hope, and healing for a woman who was complicated to make sense of at best. This concern isn't as much for my sake or the others in attendance at her funeral but more so for my nephews who will someday want to understand who their grandmother was in a fuller way than to say that she believed in Jesus Christ. Albeit an important part of my mother’s identity, it doesn't begin to tell you her story or capture the meaning that lives on in her legacy.

I did speak briefly at Mom’s funeral and I offered a reflection that came to me the night she died. As I stood in her quiet house standing vigil over her body and waiting for the hospice nurse and mortician to arrive, I felt a Holy presence that spoke the following meaning to me and I shared it at her funeral. This is what I said that evening to the best of my recollection:

Good evening. Thank you for being here. Many of you know me but for those of you that don’t, I’m Lavender, Mom’s daughter that lives in Chicago. I’m a minister and chaplain there at a pediatric hospital. I was also educated as a Presbyterian pastor so that means two things: I can find symbolism in anything and see the trinity in everything. (pause for laughter) So, I’d like to share with you something that happened the night Mom died and the symbol that marked the occasion.

It goes without saying for anyone who has spent any time around Mom that her life was marked by resilience and patience rather than peace and good fortune, by perseverance and tenacity rather than comfort and rest. It’s in recognizing that long-suffering that I want to share a piece of scripture:

Revelation 7:9-17 - After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

I share this passage because if you remember Tuesday night when she died, it snowed. And it wasn’t a typical snow. It was that really fluffy beautiful snow that flocks everything and cloaks the earth in white. And as I stood next to her body and watched out the window, I just kept hearing in my heart, “Who are these, robed in white?” “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Come out of the great ordeal… made white in the blood of the lamb.

It’s not a stretch to see this story and connect it to Mom's experience and need for deliverance and salvation. I stood there keenly aware of a new peace and release that Mom now has. Her life did not end in the suffering of cancer or any of the other circumstances that beat her down. It ended with release from pain and sorrow and draped in a robe of white victory.

Almost a year has passed since I offered those words at her funeral. They still ring true and begin to point to the story and meaning that is part of her living legacy. She endured a great deal of suffering, loss, sorrow, and heartache. Yet she sojourned on until the very end with remarkable style. Even after she was diagnosed as terminal, she managed to fall in love one last time with a very nice man and outlive her life expectancy because she wasn't finished visiting with her friends.

See, what has always stuck with me about Mom, regardless of all our past difficulties, is that the woman would not give up. She survived a car accident when she was 18 that left her partially paralyzed and neurologically impaired. Her ability to walk was a miracle of stubborn persistence in and of itself if you knew which muscles worked and which ones didn't. On top of that, the neurological impact would cause painful ripples through the rest of her life. The simplified version is that she was emotionally freeze framed in time, which explains her inability to grow from mistakes and move past bitterness. Further exacerbating that limitation was the fact that the doctors and her parents never told her about that element of her injury. The loss of identity (she was in college to become a professional pianist) and mobility from the car accident was just the first in a long line of injuries and deaths that she would confront. She also lived through abusive relationships and broken marriages. She endured poverty and all the damages it causes to the mind, body, and spirit. And she bore the oppressive weight of depression that was deeply complicated by her sense of shame, bitterness, and sorrow. How she got up and got up and got up each and every day is amazing to me.

She couldn't make sense of why so many of her relationships were fraught with strife because of her neurological limitations. Yet, she continued to try to make friends, cultivate love, and be family to the best of her ability. Regardless of the quality of those relationships, what is remarkable is that she persisted in reaching out until the very end. She exhibited a kind of hope in love and relationship that could change the world if we all had it. Her refusal to give up is a kind of faithfulness that takes courage beyond measure. Her willingness to love regardless of limits is a witness to the Holy. And our ability to look at the whole Debbie with all of her flaws and yet see her intention is a kind of graceful forgiveness.

I know that what the pastor said at Mom’s funeral had integrity with her beliefs but I want to make sure that our inheritance has integrity with her life. In her obituary I wrote, “Her love of music, laughter, and fellowship will continue to live on in all she touched.” It is my prayer that her faithful, persevering hope lives on as well.


In my previous words, you will find echoes of my favorite theologian and pastor, Reinhold Niebuhr. In his book The Irony of American History, he said,
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

I also wish to share the words of Victoria Safford from her article entitled “The Gates of Hope” because I think they have bearing on the steward I want to be of living Mom’s legacy.
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope--not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of "Everything Is Gonna Be All Right." But a different, sometimes lonely place, of truth-telling about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we're seeing, asking them what they see.


Weaver, Deborah Keith – age 65, passed away on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at home surrounded by her children and loving prayers from around the world. She was a vibrant presence in her faith community and wide circle of friends.  Her love of music, laughter, and fellowship will continue to live on in all she touched. She was preceded in death by parents Sam and Bea Keith; husband Robert “RC” Weaver; brother Gregg Keith.  She leaves to hold her memory: daughter, Lavender Kelley of Chicago; son, Keith Fox of Kingston; grandsons, Kaiden and Tanner Fox; and a host of beloved relatives and friends.  Funeral services will be held at Second Baptist Church in Lenoir City, TN on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 6pm where Rev. Rick Harrell will officiate.  The family will receive friends from 4:30pm prior to the funeral.  In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the American Cancer Society in her memory.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fear of Falling: Improv Jazz and My Wellbeing

I love jazz. I also have a great discomfort with jazz, specifically improvisational jazz. As I listen, I start to feel anxious as the piano and percussion pull farther and farther apart such that one or both will fall out of the song. I feel as disquiet arise in me when a song I “know” takes a turn I wasn’t expecting and now I don’t know where we’re going anymore. It’s as if the security blanket I turn to music to be suddenly smells and feels like it’s not my blanket so not very comforting.

I try to tell myself that perhaps that’s okay. Getting pushed out of comfort zones is a good thing, it builds stamina and resiliency. But is that really true? Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why don’t I just stick to Louis Armstrong standards instead of drifting back to Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, and Dan Tepfer? At some point I have to say to myself, “you’re just causing your own tension.”

Well, I suppose I am. As uncomfortable as improv jazz makes me, I’m made better by it. It makes me think and challenge my norms. It makes me ask about the intentions of the artist. It also makes me discern the difference between a shift of genius and a shift of folly because not all improv is good improv. At times, it even connects me to racial and socioeconomic reflections because of the spirit that moves within the music.

Yet, even as I acknowledge the gifts of jazz, I also know that I can’t listen to it all the time. It makes me think and feel too much. That’s when I go back to songs that are more compact and tight in their presentation. That could mean a lot of styles of music. Frankly, what pop has going for it is its predictability and limited range. Sometimes I just need to know what’s coming next and that’s okay. Other times, I need to connect to a memory or disconnect from the present. Regardless, it can’t always be jazz.

I guess what I’m getting at is the obvious. There is a time and a place for almost all musical genres. There is a reason why we love soundtracks and our lives have their own soundtracks as well. Music moves us and moves with us and for that I’m grateful.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I’d Do It All over Again… All of It

I’m having a bad day and when I have a bad day I write or draw or both. Today, you are the unwitting recipient of my bad day reflections. This bad day is brought to you by a phone call from my doctor telling me that a test I had the other week had some very concerning results. She wanted me to come to her office ASAP. Fortunately, I work right next to my doctor’s office so I was able to leave work and go straight over. 

When I arrived, she told me that she needed to do a biopsy of some cells, blah, blah, blah… of course by this point I couldn't hear much of what she said because I had hit my saturation level of stress for the day because this new thing means that both my wife and I are struggling with major health concerns. At any rate, we did the biopsy this afternoon and I hope to hear the results by the end of this week. 

But all this is not why I’m writing. See, for the umpteen thousandth time, I had to consider the question of “What if I die soon?” It’s a useful question when discerning practical matters like wills and such but that question never resides simply in the mind. For most of us, the only reason we sit down to think of the practical considerations is as a matter of lessening the emotional worries. The reality is that the emotional matters of fear, loss, and worry are what arise in most of us when faced with the question of our death or the death of a loved one. 

And those feelings and questions are where my family and I have been for the last 18+ months. I’ve walked through my mother’s death and the legacy of reckoning with an irreparable relationship. In other family members, I’ve faced untreated mental illness and substance abuse which often lead to death. I’ve also faced the very real and ongoing possibility of losing my wife to unexpected illness. Now, my own health is back in focus as well.

But even that is not why I’m writing. I’m writing because all this brings up more than just fear of loss and the unknown. It also brings up the question of regret. Are there anchors of shame I’m dragging behind me? Are there relationships that should (note the difference between could and should) be repaired? Are there milestones left undone? 

Of course the answer is yes for all of those questions. The honest answer is that I have lots of pain, heartache, and unpursued dreams in the ripples and wake of my life. My life story contains abuse, trauma, bipolar disease, cancer and all manner of crude survival techniques to get through decades of suicidal thoughts and haunting forces so I damn well should have events that I wish could have been another way. Nevertheless, I don’t look back with regret and I try to release the shame because those dark waters are nothing compared to the wonder and meaning in the journey to get here. 

The truth is that I did the best I could every step of the way given who I am and the resources available to me. The number of moments, relationships, and resources that would have had to be different in my life to produce a different outcome are beyond my capacity. But I do know that I tapped into every resource that came my way and never lost sight of the hope that tomorrow would be different… and it always was. But greatest of all, I held onto the wonder and the meaning. 

Whether I live 50 days or 50 more years, the moments I passed through had meaning and I’ve shared that meaning with others to the best of my ability. Even during years of constant suicidal thoughts and depression, I survived on the moments where I saw glimmers of love, flashes of God, shining through other people. Still today, if I lost my wife to unimaginable illness, I’ve been blessed by our time in a way that I vow to always share in the world for its betterment. 

See, as much as I was overwhelmed by the prospect of cancer this morning, I’m even more clear that every moment has been worth it. I think it’s a false dichotomy to suggest that the opposite of regret is acceptance. The opposite of regret is resilient thriving in the meaning. Sure I want to lose 100lbs, coach rugby, publish extensively, and get a PhD but none of those accomplishments and none of my failures will ever count for more than the meaning in the moments that made them. 

I pray that all may know the meaning of their moments and grow from every one of them into a love of life and a passion for sharing that wonder. Amen.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother’s Day Angst

I never feel happy about Mother's Day. It always leaves me feeling burdened with ghosts of the past. But this year is way worse than usual. I recognize that it is in part to do with my mom's recent death but I can't find the words to explain or safe harbor to explore how bad it feels. Maybe it's because it snuck up on me. I've been so busy. Maybe there just aren't good opportunities to explore this on other days. Regardless, I'm making my situation worse and I don't know what proactive steps I need to take to move forward in healthy ways.

I'm also realizing as I sit with this that my extra pain is also about my brother. In many ways, I've had a mother role with him and I'm in the God forsaken place of watching him languish in depression, anxiety, and addiction. Worst if all, I'm powerless to do much to help. So I definitely don't feel like celebrating my role as a mother to him because I'm too busy trying to hold my fears of his down slide at bay. There are other layers of sorrow for him as well that I can’t begin to write out at this time but they are profound and deeply burdening.

Do you know the poem “The Invitation” by Oriah? She goes through this litany where she says she doesn't care about what position you hold or how much money you make or the like. What she wants to know is about your inner integrity, passion, and trust. I sort of feel that way about Mother's Day. I don't want to know how many children you have and what you do to celebrate on this one day. I want to know if you wake up and do what needs to be done as a parent day in and day out. I want to know if you can look your mom in the eye and risk disappointment for the sake of becoming the creation God called you to be. I don't want to be celebrated on this one day as a mother. I want to witness the fruits of your blossoming as my child and dance gratitude, sorrow, hope, pain and love every day and not feel alone in that dance.

I acknowledge I'm cynical about holidays in general because they often reflect consumerism and idolatry more than true celebration. Yet, I am not feeling cynical today. I'm sad and hurting.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Powerlessness of Love

“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I keep finding myself needing to write but unable to put words to page unless it is for something I have to do like a recent grant proposal. As badly as I need the outlet personally and professionally I just can’t seem to make myself do it.  I ask myself why.  A lot of it is because of the emotional strain I’ve been under due some touchy matters (don’t worry, my wife and child are just fine). I feel hamstrung to talk about what is really bothering me because it would either violate someone else’s confidentiality or draw attention to someone that is already deeply vulnerable.  This runs contrary to the lesson I learned years and years ago which is secrets and silence will kill me.  So, I’ve been managing as well as I can in the midst of this silence where I’ve been cut off from my primary supports.

It’s not been pretty but by and large I’ve done pretty well. I’m still experiencing the longest sustained period of my adult life of not being depressed (Yea!!!). This is saying a lot because I’ve weathered some pretty significant strains in the last few years, among them are my mother’s decline and death and a vocational rejection that still has me searching for direction. Nevertheless, I persist… and I’m not just surviving, I’m actually thriving for the most part.

But this damn silence is about to kill me. Talking to my wife and therapist just isn’t enough to save my soul from the darkness that secrets and isolation breed. All this is climaxing in a way that something has got to give soon.  I’ve been going downhill for the past month or so and I need that to stop NOW. 

Maybe the answer is to focus on my particular struggles within all of this. As I consider that angle, I see where a primary agony for me is my feeling of powerlessness to help someone I love not hurt more or outright self-destruct.  Powerlessness is a difficult experience no matter how self-aware one is.

I am powerless to fix the situation and I have to be careful how much responsibility I take for helping because of some very complicated risks. Those two factors collide in ways that leave me feeling agitated and downright angry… well, really I feel fear and sorrow but for now they are manifesting as anger.

As I’ve looked for outlets and understanding I’ve remembered that the Psalmist knew much about powerlessness and for now I find comfort in those cries. I look to the One who knows all of us because we are fearfully and wonderfully made… so beautiful and so precious that it evokes our deepest fears and our most profound awe.

May this journey through powerlessness lead me to a deeper understanding of all who love and need love’s healing. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

You’d be so pretty if…

I grew up hearing the phrase “You’d be so pretty if…” followed by a myriad of pointers on how I should look, act, think, and be.  My mother and grandmother were the primary users of this expression but I occasionally heard it from others too.  They truly believed themselves to be offering loving advice that would make me happy and better liked by others.  But in reality, this utterance deepened existing wounds and reinforced a message that I was not okay as is.
Later, I would spend years of my adulthood working through the wake of sorrow caused by repeatedly hearing “you’d be so pretty if… you weren’t so fat… you walked like a lady… you didn’t play in the dirt… you weren’t so heavy… you’re smile wasn’t crooked… you wore makeup… you wore more flattering clothes… you didn’t look so manish…”.  My family didn’t realize that I was at times barely hanging onto life because of depression and shame that dogged me so badly that suicidal thoughts were the norm for me.  Even if they had of realized what I was going through, there still is not a world in which saying “you’d be so pretty if…” is a healthy way to raise a child.
Lest you misunderstand my point, I’m not launching into this to rail against my family.  I deeply loved my grandmother and still miss her even though she died almost 12 years ago.  And my mom is currently dying which has led to a very interesting path for her and me to feel reconciled in a positive way to the legacy of our complicated relationship.  When it comes down to it, I believe my family did the best they could to love me and I harbor no resentment over the things that damaged me as I believe it revealed deeper wounds within my family for which we all needed healing.
Nevertheless, I was dismayed to have this phrase rehashed this past year as I was helping my mom with some things around her house.  I was immediately transplanted to my childhood and all the shame and pain rushed back to me when my mom looked at me with all sincerity and said, “you’d be so pretty if you just weren’t so fat.”  I managed to cope with that moment in relatively good fashion by telling my mom “the only people I care about think I’m beautiful.”  Later in the evening I turned to my wife and social media for support to process it.
The outcome of processing it is what I am primarily interested in writing about today.  I have spent time thinking about who I would be if I had taken all those pieces of advice.  I’ve considered what my life would be like if I had looked, acted, and thought the way they believed would make me pretty.
What I’ve decided is that I would not be me.  I would not even be real.  I’d be a shadow of an image that bears no resemblance to the gifts I’ve been given or the experiences I’ve had.  In fact, part of me believes that following that advice would have led to my eventual suicide because the things that have kept me alive in the darkest times are my abilities to eat pain, dress and appear in ways that kept me out of competition within the social conventions of women, and use my strong, broad, “manish” body to hold the weight of crushing sorrow.
When I look at who that person would be, I don’t see pretty.  I see sad, empty, and lonely because I would not have known how to be that person.  I am exactly who I was created to be.  I may never be able to see myself as pretty but I know that I am strong, intelligent, resilient, charming, cute, playful, and much more.  When I hold all that I am, what I’ve been able to survive and accomplish, and who encircles me with love, I figure I’m about as beautiful as I’ll ever be.

A Body Of...

A quote from Margaret Cho:

“If you are a woman, if you're a person of colour, if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, if you are a person of size, if you are a person od intelligence, if you are a person of integrity, then you are considered a minority in this world.
...And it's going to be really hard to find messages of self-love and support anywhere. Especially women's and gay men's culture. It's all about how you have to look a certain way or else you're worthless. You know when you look in the mirror and you think 'oh, I'm so fat, I'm so old, I'm so ugly', don't you know, that's not your authentic self? But that is billions upon billions of dollars of advertising, magazines, movies, billboards, all geared to make you feel shitty about yourself so that you will take your hard earned money and spend it at the mall on some turn-around creme that doesn't turn around shit.
When you don't have self-esteem you will hesitate before you do anything in your life. You will hesitate to go for the job you really wanna go for, you will hesitate to ask for a raise, you will hesitate to call yourself an American, you will hesitate to report a rape, you will hesitate to defend yourself when you are discriminated against because of your race, your sexuality, your size, your gender. You will hesitate to vote, you will hesitate to dream. For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue.”

I’ve been trying to write about the complicated relationship I (and many people) have with body image, self-love, healing, and transformation.  You see, if there is anything I profess as a Christian, it is that Christ offers deliverance from bondage and transformation into new life.  Yet this is something I have struggled to embrace all my life.
My awareness of this has never waned but it has been heightened in the past few years because I’ve watched my wife lose about 100 pounds and experience a transformation from carrying body fat as a shield to loving every ounce of herself as an expression of her life.  I envy her experience.  I wish I too could experience that. (I do not want to oversimplify her experience as I know she still struggles every day.  Nevertheless, she has accomplished a great deal of growth and transformation.)
Another reason my struggle to embrace my body and experience healing has been especially obvious as of late is that I’ve grown increasingly defensive for my wife.  As she lost weight, people would walk up to her and in all good nature tell her, “you look so good” and “you look beautiful.”  While I recognize that they mean to be encouraging and supportive, the unspoken message of “you weren’t beautiful of good enough before” remains. 
My blood boils for her, me, and all who struggle with body image when this happens.  The common experience that my wife and I share is that of using our bodies as a shield of protection.  In similar ways, we have dieted for acceptance, eaten to push away pain, and loathed our bodies for all they pain and struggle they represent.  I still do. 
But she doesn’t.  She has finally found the combination of space, support, and love to look at her body one ounce at a time and love the way it has been a protector for her, grieve the past, and transform it into a new creation.  It’s been so beautiful to watch.  Truly, there aren’t words for how life filled and hope giving her journey has been and it’s not over yet.  I am grateful and honored to be a witness and sharer in this journey.
But where does all this leave me?  I still find myself in the despair of pain from a childhood that should have destroyed me, depression that won’t stop haunting me, and a body so full of scars seen and unseen that I can barely stand to look at it on most days.  I want what my wife has.  I want that deliverance and transformation that I so deeply believe Christ offers.  Yet, I’ve never experienced that combination of emotional space, physical energy, and external support that it takes to sustain such a life changing, transformation.  Will I ever?  I don’t know but I hope so.