Damaris was sitting on my feet, keeping them warm as we both listened to Papa teach the cross as the central part of the gospel. Running my fingers through her thick hair, I felt a tell-tale bump. Tell me, how does one discreetly pull a tick from a friend’s head and dispose of it in the middle of a church meeting? As Nick shared from about taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, I could feel the pain slipping up from Tabitha’s toes to her heart, as she sat next to me on the pew. “I can’t do that!” Nick exclaimed for all of us, and then pointed out how even such a thought should be immediately offered to the Lord. Before the Willises headed out for Kansas, Tabitha and I zipped ourselves into matching leather coats and went for a walk. Everyone else was playing Frisbee, but we were worried Tabitha’s knee might not appreciate the mole’s extensive excavation in the backyard. We were barely out of the house before she started in, “You could tell I was upset while Nick was talking.” I nodded. She started pouring out her frustrations, worries and battles to take every thought prisoner to be tried by Christ. How is it, we both wondered aloud, that each thought we do successfully wrestle to the foot of Jesus’ throne, manages to break jail and come back to haunt us? Of all those I know, Tabitha deserves a purple heart for her warfare and her many wounds in her struggle to keep the Lord first. She also deserves a red badge of courage. Her daily choice to take up her sword and fight, through prayer, meditation and memorization will lead her to victory. Because it is the Lord’s promise.
We ate lunch two to a seat in some places. Zach brought a special guest: Jessica, one of the girls from the D-town youth group. Stuart willingly started his "Jesus story". Josh balked when Papa asked him to share his testimony with the Willises, but a few probing questions soon had him rolling. He tagged Amber to share hers next and it went on down the line from Amber to Taylor, Taylor to Zach. Sitting and listening to the stories of God’s call on each person’s life, I never realized how hard it can be to tell, how painful to relive those moments of separation, how draining to become vulnerable and weak before the eyes of others. I’ve never been asked for mine in a group before. Until today.
I knew as soon as I realized it would be Zach’s turn to pick a person that he would demand mine. I dragged my embarrassment, kicking and screaming, and stuffed it away in an old trunk in the attic of my mind. Separating my testimony from my life story is next to impossible—my whole life is simply a process by which the Lord has worked. Neither is particularly dramatic. I hardly know what I said, or why. I told a lot more than I’d meant to. Instead I found myself preaching to myself, reminding myself how out of control I became when I sought to control my life, how freeing it was to finally seek my parent’s accountability—to be vulnerable to them. Control. Truth broke through to me like sunlight breaking through a dark storm. Each plan I’d built for my life had slipped from my fingers, empty. Each goal I’d made or project I’d tackled had found me helpless to complete it. Deciding I’d never marry, simply to prove I could say “no” was a control issue. When I hoped to control the eating disorder, it had haunted me, a devouring ghost, stealing my health and joy. Only when I had confided in my parents did I find complete release. Even my demands to know and understand what Yahweh is doing reveal a heart that still clings to control. I couldn’t believe how completely empty I felt as I finished. Realizing I’d completely forgotten about everyone else in the room and what they were expecting or hoping to hear, I blurted out something about the Lord and my parents. “I really admire my dad,” and my eyes filled with tears. And I trust him. I do. Even those last words held another sermon to myself.
The rest of the day I wanted to talk to Papa. So did everyone else in the world, it seemed, and I finally gave up as he headed to his room for the night. I knelt by my bed, feeling completely helpless, completely unable to control or even manipulate anything, and cried. I can't even make myself stop crying.
Lord, give me the strength to loose
The bonds that I so often choose,
And leave to Thee the perfect plan
Drawn slowly by Thy gracious hand.
Teach me to take every moment
As Thy Spirit’s wise bestowment
To take captive for Thy use
That I’d fulfill all Thou dost choose.