The final installment of the series. A word of warning to the squeamish might be in order. Read at your own discretion.
So last Thursday? Kind of sucked. And kind of was awesome. At the same time.
It was, as you know, the last day of class. I was scheduled to share my Life Map. The whole previous week and a half had been rough–both trying to organise my Map and reliving some of it. But I thought I had a plan for presenting it. When I tried to do so, however, I got totally derailed and ran out of time to share any of my recent stuff. I was just winding into London, so to speak, when our Facilitator held up the “10 minute” sign. I had way more than 10 minutes left of life history, so I panicked, and said, “Okay, so I made friends and then they dumped me, and yeah.”
Everyone said, “Hang on there. What?”
I decided to take the “map” thing literally. This is my Tube-map/Celtic-knot/Jesus-fish-inspired Life Map.
I tried as best I could to sum up the trauma that had been part of my London experience and the trauma that took me back to the States, and the difficulties of my 30’s–in ten minutes–but it was all rendered more impossible by the fact that as soon as I started talking about London, I started crying and didn’t stop for the rest of the class.
In the feedback aftermath, one of my classmates wanted to revisit the “Don’t be proud of me” element of my childhood. He suggested strongly that all the rest of my unhealthy thoughts and behaviours have stemmed from that one right there. I began to think he might be right. He also wondered if I have trouble letting people get close to me, and everyone sort of agreed that I don’t seem to feel free to be myself. This frustrated me. I said I always try to let people get close to me and I think I’m always being myself, but I must be communicating badly or people just don’t know how to interpret me. Like, nobody in the whole world. I thought about the Banquet Dream and suddenly it seemed less relevant to the circumstances in which I had had it, and more like it was describing my entire life.
I don’t think my classmates understood me then, either (which might have also been because, except for my mentor, they were all men), though they were all kind and supportive and almost defensive on my behalf against my low self-esteem or whatever it was. Then they prayed for me. It was all very good, but I still couldn’t stop crying.
We got off the pontoon and put away our picnic, and everyone skedaddled back to campus for their next class as quickly as they could. I had a “next class,” too, but I still had an hour until it, so I stayed home for a while to debrief my Paul and try to get the crying under control. I told him how I had looked over my whole life and was utterly unable to see any way in which God had used me for any good and to further His Kingdom.
My Paul got sort of angry then, as I had known he would. “You have something,” he said. “Some block. You are constantly saying God isn’t using you in people’s lives, but I myself have seen Him do it. We’ve talked about it right here in this kitchen, and every time you just dismiss it! It’s like whatever it was never happened at all!”
I reminded him of “Don’t be proud of me,” and he, like the others, said, “Yeah! What is that?”
“I really don’t know,” I said. “I’ve always felt it was about not wanting to take the credit away from God.” As we talked it began to dawn on me that when I try to avoid stealing credit from God by not taking it for myself, I end up stealing it from Him anyway, because I essentially deny that the good thing happened at all. In the moment I may credit God, but because I’m not acknowledging that He gave me any part in it, it ceases to be a part of my life and experience, and so when I look back to see God at work in it, I can’t find Him. It’s all just my work, which frankly turns out to be precisely as disappointing as my presentation was that day. And so I am the one taking the credit–away from God–in the end by my own very attempts not to.
I didn’t tell my Paul all this, because it was such a new thought that I was still trying to think it clearly, but what I did say was, “Remember when we were dating and you wanted to pray for the Holy Spirit to be more active in my life and I got mad because I thought you thought I didn’t even have the Holy Spirit in my life?”
“Well,” I said, “I’m ready for you to pray that for me now.”
So we stood in the kitchen and held each other and he prayed. I think he prayed something about God releasing me from what was blocking my ability to work with Him, and then he started praying in tongues.
I guess I thought I might start praying in tongues, too, so I opened my mouth, and something actually started to happen. I felt my mouth opening wider and wider, and something, maybe at the base of my skull, pushing forward against the back of my throat, like something trying to get out.
Then I started to make a sound. It was like laughing–I guess I was laughing? But there was no emotion with it, and sometimes it turned back into crying again, and it was totally involuntary laughing and crying, with no emotion except a mild curiosity about what would happen next, and then I stopped.
My Paul said, “Do you ever just laugh in the Spirit–it wells uncontrollably up from your gut?”
“Yes?” I said uncertainly, although I’m pretty sure I never have, but Paul himself makes me laugh pretty hard sometimes. “Something’s happening in the back of my throat.”
So we held each other again and I forget if he was still praying in tongues or not, but I wasn’t afraid or on guard like I sort of always was in London–or when Paul and I were dating–because I trust him now, and I trust Jesus’ influence in his life, and I started the laugh/cry thing again, and then suddenly I started to cough.
For a split second I was disappointed. (“We are praying in the Spirit only to be interrupted by an asthma attack? Seriously?”) But then I realised it was gag-coughing, not breathe-coughing. And I kept coughing and I let go of my Paul since he hates when I cough on him (I know, right?), and then I thought, “I’m going to vomit.”
I didn’t feel sick at all. I was no longer overwrought (and anyway, I have never vomited when I’ve been overwrought, even though, as some people from my past could tell you, the overwrought thing has happened to me a lot). As I walked to the bathroom, I thought of those stories my pre-London charismatic friends used to tell me about this sort of thing. I remembered how those stories used to horrify me. Now the whole process seemed perfectly logical. Paul had prayed that God would remove this thing which was preventing me from seeing how He was working in my life, and there it was, in the toilet, looking like mostly-digested bratwurst and a distinct chunk of celery from the potato salad. I stood there looking at it for a few minutes, waiting to see if more was coming and, after realising it wasn’t, thinking, “That’s it? That’s been the bane of my existence for my whole life?”
I went to the sink to brush my teeth. Paul came over to me. “Feel better?” he asked.
“I feel fine,” I said.
“Did you vomit?”
“Yep,” I said. “Vomiting in the Spirit?” I chuckled, but I don’t know why, because I already knew the truth when Paul said, “Sometimes, yes. Sometimes that’s how the Spirit gets stuff out of us that needs to go.”
“I know,” I said. “That’s what happened.”
He reminded me that when something gets evicted, I need to pray God into that space. So I did. And I have done. That night I got an email from a literary agent who wants to take a look at Favored One. So maybe two blockages were removed at once, I don’t know.
What I do know is that I spent the entire next day (which, conveniently, was my day off, and absolutely pouring with rain) feeling as if I were convalescing–as if I’d been very very sick and was now well, but needed some time to recover. I stayed in my pj’s in bed and journaled for hours and the day after that, I felt all better.
God always allows anyone the ability to explain away the things He does if they really want to. Turns out “Don’t be proud of me” is a kind of explaining-away. Or someone could read this story and say, “Hysterical female. She worked herself up to such a pitch that she puked and then she put some spiritual gloss over it. Crazy lady.” And maybe someone would be right. But I don’t think so.
I know what I felt and didn’t feel. I have, many many times, been that hysterical female, and it has never felt like what happened last Thursday. Hysterics also don’t explain my new outlook, or my new sense of peace. And I can tell you right now. You can go ahead and be skeptical if you want. But personally, I don’t ever want to take the credit away from God again.