Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Roller Coaster Ride

This first week back has been an absolute roller coaster ride. I never did like those things growing up. To be hurdling down towards certain destruction one minute, whiplashed hard to the left, and then to start up another arduous and dangerous climb just isn’t my idea of fun. Why the heck do people pay money for that?

In the past seven days I have cried, I have gotten mad, I have laughed hysterically, I have collapsed in deep exhaustion. I have been renewed, I have dissolved, I have prayed, I have sinned. I’ve been forgiven. Every day has seemed like a week.

But my week has been a very pale shadow of Katherine’s.

She decided it was time to pack up and leave. During a millisecond of time when no one was in the room, she tried to get out of bed. Her friend returned from the ladies’ room to find her collapsed on the hard floor.

She spent the next two days having CT scans, x-rays, and a whole body bone scan. I’m not sure whether or not it was worth it for that brief freedom flight. But she still rolls her eyes and gives us a lop-sided grin when anyone mentions it. When asked where she thought she was going, she mouthed the word “Cabo.” I interpret that as, “Anywhere but here.”

I really can’t say that I blame her. I’ve pictured Gulliver many times during this strange odyssey. One minute she was cooking casseroles; the next, she found herself bound and gagged by Lilliputian ropes. When she was having a little drippy time one day, I shared that analogy with her. She nodded vigorously. Thinking outloud, I said, “Wasn’t it little rats that chewed the ropes off for him?” (We think it was, but we could be mixing up two different stories.) Anyway, the analogy works: I told her that the rats could be things like Physical Therapy, the trach, CT scans, suctions...unpleasant things that just seem to crawl all over you and drive you crazy. But those things which seem like annoying enemies are actually allies, working in concert to set her free from the ropes that bind her to her bed. Romans 8:28 doesn’t state that ALL THINGS are good, but that God WORKS all things for good as part of His providential plan. He might even incorporate a rat or two. She nodded assent to this and agreed--with a little eye-rolling--that she would try to resist the urge to burst out of those Lilliputian ropes so violently and prematurely that she might injure herself.

But it’s really hard to be patient when you’re in pain. You might be full of faith and holding fast one minute, and then thrashing around wildly the next. You might be submitting with joy one second, and wrestling with demons the next. I believe Faith is like that for many of us. One minute we’re standing strong, the next we’re cashing in the chips and trying to run away to Cabo. Held up by the arms of our friends, we take a baby step on the parallel bars...then we fall in a heap.

It’s not fun to fall, but it’s not the end of the world either. Two of my all-time favorite Christian writers addressed this in different ways across the centuries. The 13th century mystic Dame Julian of Norwich asserts that not only is it inevitable that we should sometimes fall, but that is it actually necessary. She states, “...For it is necessary for us to fall, and it is necessary for us to see the fall. If we did not fall, we would not know how wretched and feeble we are of ourselves, nor should we know the love of our Maker....And by the test of this failure, we shall have a noble and marvelous experience of love without end in God, for that love is hardy and wonderful. It cannot and will not be broken on account of trespass.” (from the 14th showing.) The love of God is so much greater than our sin! Writing 800 years later, C.S. Lewis concurred: “No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we get home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels are put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of His presence.” (Letters to Malcolm)

I am reminded of the refrain of a pub song from the 90’s, which I shall take wildly out of context: “We get knocked down, but we get up again.” To me, that’s a description of the Christian walk. Not attaining a level of consistent perfection by our own efforts, but a process of learning from our inevitable falls, allowing ourselves to be picked back up by strong arms of love, and starting back up the (sometimes rocky) path again.

For some of us, it’s like a roller coaster ride....up and down, up and down. But I learned something last night. We were celebrating a college graduation with some friends at a seafood restaurant overlooking Santa Monica Pier. (The one from the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks.) Someone brought the blogs up, and I told them I had started one called “Roller Coaster Ride.” From where we were sitting, we could see the roller coaster on the Pier all lit up with yellow lights. Katherine’s college roommate’s mother, Cathleen, was sitting next to me. Cathleen is someone whom I respect greatly: she has a PhD in suffering with dignity and joy. Her face lit up when we pointed out the roller coaster, and she grabbed my wrist. “We are going to ride that thing after dinner!”

And we did. Two 50-something ladies with bad back and hip problems got in those little cars with the 20-somethings and we whooped our way up to the moon and back down again, swooping low over the star-lit waves. Then we lifted our arms to the sky and Cathleen yelled, “For Katty!!!”as we did it one more time.

I’m not afraid of roller coasters anymore.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

my favorite entry to date. life is one big roller coaster for everyone...some of us go upside down and some are lucky enough to stay right side up, but regardless we all have to be brave enough to ride it. of everyone i know, even if she doesn't always feel like, katherine has the bravery needed. send her my love please.

~sarah bell

Laurel said...

Good for Katherine! I will meet her in Cabo...

I don't remember if Gulliver was freed from the ropes by rats but in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe Aslan's bonds were chewed threw by rats, freeing his lifeless body right before the stone table cracked and signaled his resurrection. An optmistic and appropriate paralell if ever there was one!

Keep shuffling towards Cabo!


Anonymous said...

dearest kim-

thank you for the beauty of that entry. i hated roller coasters, too, so i appreciate your literal AND metaphorical courage to ride up to the moon and back!

please tell katty that I would serve her up some coffee jello in a HEARTBEAT if I were anywhere NEAR L.A., and that i love her.


Unknown said...

I check your blog every morning and I am always disapointed when there isn't a new one. It is always worth the wait. Please,don't stop writing. You are touching so many lifes with the heart felt words you are sharing. I loved that you rode that roller coaster!!! I am also a 50 something mother and from now on everytime I do something or say something that takes a "step of Faith", I will say "This one's for your Katty"
I've never met you or Katherine, but you are both forever in my heart.
Marietta, GA

Colin Campbell said...

I've been reading your blog since the beginning, checking it more than daily while I sit at work in Baltimore. I'm an old friend of Katherine's (we first met at Firespark - that intense little art camp - then discovered we were both from Athens and even attended the same church). She owns a couple of small paintings of strawberries of mine. Ever since I've had the absolute highest respect and admiration for her.

Your writings here are more universal than just this experience, and I've long thought and intended to leave you a comment. Over the weekend, however, I dreamed of Katherine. She came to Baltimore because she wanted me to teach her how to rock climb, and she wouldn't listen to my questions about why she wasn't back in bed on the west coast. I finally shrugged and let her win, thinking it was classic Katherine.
Thank you for keeping us all informed and including us. Katherine, you, Jay, every one of you, are in my prayers always.

Anonymous said...

Well, once again TEARS not just from what you wrote but how what you write touches us!
I too check your site daily and am so blessed when there is a new entry.
I join the other mom and you to take the steps of faith that make my heart beat faster in the fear of the unknown and give a big shout out to Kat..this ones for you dear sister.
May you feel the love that surrounds you all this day.
And again I say, God has put on my heart many times to wheel Katherine outside into "the Light"

Lara said...

Your words are beautiful and your Faith is amazing! You have touched me and in the midst of the roller coaster ride you have ministered to my heart and so many others. Thank you!

I am facing a time of uncertainty and the Psalms have been encouraging! I hope this encourages you as well.
Psalm 119:105. It reads, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Another translation reads, "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."
His word and Spirit are meant to be used as a lamp (or candle) low to the ground by our feet as we walk this rocky terrain called life. God is good...He will always be good. I have been repeating this to myself and it has kept me grounded in the truth of God's character and His purpose in my life.

I am praying for you, Katherine, and your family!
May the light burn just bright enough for you to see the next step!


Kerin said...

We live in a sinful world and both good and evil will suffer. But the good person has the PROMISE from God that his/her suffering will one day come to an end. We need to proclaim our faith in God (as you are doing) and know the HE cares and wait patiently for HIS aid. This has helped so many people with their faith in God and the strength in prayer. It "stinks" that this is happening to Katherine and your family. However, the way you all are dealing with this "blow" is a testament to your love of God and an example for others to follow. I pray for Katherine and your family daily. She IS loved and WILL improve daily (some days more than others).

Jessica said...

I love how transparent you are and your words are so beautiful... you always leave me thinking about the truth in your message. I loved your analogy and I am sure you are being a great encouragement to your sweet daughter. I can understand why she would rather be in Cabo! But I know that God has a purpose for this time... I'll be praying that her pain will be lessened and that she would daily be reminded of God's plan for her life. I'll also be praying for the rest of you as you continue on this roller coaster ride.

Linda Abney said...

The Lewis fanatic in the house will love this, Kim. I will pull Letters from the shelf and reread your quote to try and share the experience. I've wondered if anyone can really share the experiences the Lord is giving another. I will say that your gift of writing and openness is helping all of us do just that.
Give Kat our love,

mollyswan said...

I will never look at Rollercoaster again without thinking of the Courage of the Wolf/Arnold family..You have faced this JOurney of Healing with Courage and Faith as you handle these incredible UPS and DOWNS...AND FEARS and CHALLENGES..God Bless the Wolf/Arnold Family..Mere strangers like myself are praying at all times of day and night for each of you,especially your beloved Katherine..God Bless you All..