Redefining 100%

The doctor said I’ll never be 100%,
my broken clavicle holding me back,
slowing me down–can’t raise
my arms, my hands, can’t lift
as much, but God,

I can still raise my hands to you
palms open, waiting
for you to take them, biceps
lifted clear of fallen sleeves,
fingers pointing at your glory.

I can still write my praises of you
eyes closed and fingers tapping
in time to your music, elbows
resting on the chair you gave me,
worship appearing on the screen.

I can still stamp my feet for you,
each beat a prayer entering the floor,
heels bouncing while your strength
helps me stand. I dance
my praise for your name.

I’m not 100%, I’m 150.
And if I have to hold the bone
to lift my arm, I will. If I
must sit to rest, I shall,
but I’ll always rise again to you.

Permission

I remember the kitchen of the Potter’s House, all natural wood cabinets and a tiled floor, with a white countertop of that cutting-board material right in front of the angled freezer where they kept fresh fruit. Several blenders always waited for smoothies or frozen coffee drinks, and the giant refrigerator/freezer hummed quietly, filled with ice cream and more fruit. The bar was of a dark material with several oak stools beneath, and a college student generally stood on the other side to take orders or brew espresso for mixed drinks. A stack of IOUs sat beside the cash register, left by those who didn’t have any money but who weren’t turned away, and a similar stack of textbooks rested nearby where weary students had left them so they could play some Chinese Checkers or Chess.

And there would be Samson, that bald, powerfully built black man, dancing in the middle of the kitchen with his arms raised, singing to Jesus as if only the two of them were around. “Lord, yes!” he’d yell, his feet pounding back and forth as he’d swing blenders, scoop fruit, pour flavoured syrup, exclaiming with love when anyone called his name. Samson was almost always worshiping, and I swear his energetic smile powered the lights of that little house.

It was watching him worship the Lord, dancing like nobody was watching, arms raised in the middle of a coffee shop kitchen, dark skin gleaming with sweat while taut biceps strained at the tight shirts he always wore, that I found the grace to worship God. In Samson’s boldness I was given permission to serve God with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul, and all my strength. I got a glimpse of what it would be like to live free and honestly before my God, and it was good. I wanted that, I wanted it so badly, I just needed to figure out how to get there. Learning from Samson, it seemed appropriate to begin by dancing.

When I worship God, I’ve got to move my feet. When I pray, I’ve got to sway. I can’t hear a beat without dancing a bit to it, and I know that I’ve really been connecting with Jesus only when I’m sore, sweaty, and filled to overflowing with joy. This is what I have learned from Samson.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, 1992

Lacking Transitional Staying Power

It was Halloween, and I was in eighth grade. Over the previous summer, I’d decided to give up on most everything I’d previously held in my life. I began dressing differently, listening to different music, stopped caring what everybody thought about me, and embarked on becoming my own person. I had always been looked down upon as uncool, but you know what? I didn’t care anymore.

And subsequently, became accepted and somewhat less of a dork than I had been. So, I was hosting my first boy-girl party. The entire event was orchestrated so, at some point in the night, the music would spontaneously slow down and I would propose dancing. The girl I liked would be the first I asked to dance, and we’d have a romantic, wonderful evening that ended with us taking a stroll around my parent’s property and perhaps even kissing.

I cooked and put together an assortment of snacks, decorated our shop (we had a large workshop on our property, the first room of which was for work and the second for storage; I cleaned this out and used it as something of a retreat at times), and sent out the invitations. Considering my lack of popularity, the turnout was decent: mostly girls, at least ten people, and the girl I liked had shown up. Things were going well, I thought.

But instead of dancing, we ended up playing some basketball, and when we came to the moment I’d waited in such anxiety for, I ended up dancing with my friend Kendle. She looked around the shop, smiling benevolently, and declared that I would make a very good husband someday.

That statement haunted me throughout high school, as it proved accurate on a variety of levels. I was a great friend, and most of my friends were female. They turned to me for advice, talked with me about anything (even things most guys shouldn’t or don’t want to hear about), and looked to me like a big brother. I was reliable, gentle, and intelligent. I didn’t push anything on them and didn’t even pursue a relationship when it was obvious to me that it would never happen. Everything they might want in a friend.

But I was a terrible boyfriend. Not that I had much of an opportunity to find out, but I knew it would be the case, because I simply didn’t want to be a boyfriend. Since a young age, I had wanted to be a husband. To have a family, to settle down and commit to one another. Once you reach a certain age, that attitude is desired and admirable, but teenage girls weren’t looking for that.

I wanted a deep, committed relationship, but I wanted it before my time, so to speak. If I’d developed that attitude in my early to mid-twenties, no problem. At twelve… well, there was a whole transition there between “friend” and “husband” I just wasn’t capable of exploring.

It’s obvious that this desire came more out of my need for a stable family than out of any real maturity, emotional or otherwise. I would make a good husband because I was committed to it as an idea, and willing to work for it. Because once I committed, that was it; there’s no backing out, no renegging. But a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is supposed to be more casual, testing the waters, spending time learning about one another and about oneself in a relationship.

Suffice it to say, the girl got away, which was probably for the best in the long-run. As for me, I did manage to become a boyfriend the next year, in one of the rockiest and somehow longest relationships of my life.