Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Different Battle

There are times when you need to turn around and walk away.

Retreat from the conflict.

Reflect on the events and conversations.

Reframe your story and a new direction.

Restore any cracks in your identity to its resurrected condition.

Reconcile the disappointments to the bigger Story of Jesus and the Spirit's movement in your life.

In the past two months I've started doing all of these.

It meant leaving a church and leaving my blog in order to regroup. During that period the fight I was engaged in on a small scale was being duplicated on a larger scale in blogs that have a national and worldwide following.

As I listened to conversations about what women in ministry can or cannot do or whether wives should or should not desire mutuality in marriage, I struggled with deep emotions and wondered if God was going to ask me to continue the fight.

I seriously wanted to walk away forever.

I'm in a church now that has women elders. So far what I see is giving me hope that I can do life with this beautiful, raw, vulnerable, imperfect, compassionate community. I feel wanted. I believe I can contribute with my gifts and strengths.

No more battles to fight, right God?

Well, the answer wasn't what I expected.

I'm in another battle but it's not mine. It's my sister's. My younger sister. My only sister.

Pat has cancer.

God has called me into a season of helping her fight for her life, of serving her in ways I have never done for anyone else.

My friend Ed recently wrote a blog to encourage us to walk away from the battle and choose to serve others for the Kingdom's sake. Instead of fighting people, fight the darkness of this world.

I believe he has wise words to offer those who are battle-weary or those who are fighting for the wrong reasons.

There are times when God will call one into battle against thoughts, arguments and pretensions that are set up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). Arrogance and a lack of Christian love will mistakenly meld the person with the argument. As Ed eloquently points out, fighting people will not grow the Kingdom of God.

But humility and authentic Christian love will serve the other -- even in a battle. This may be tough, confrontive love or this may be patient, quiet love. This is Christ both washing the feet of Judas and then identifying him as a betrayer.

Then there are seasons in which God calls one away from the battle, away from those who might betray you or cage you in places where they might feel safe but you are not. So you leave to be safe, to be free, to be loved by a different tribe.

But I am discovering that just because I walk away from one battle in order to serve does not mean there isn't another one to fight.

Currently I am not fighting people or belief systems. I am fighting alongside my sister against a consequence of fallenness in the world, against cancer.

I entered battle by going to her when she called for help.

I will battle the cancer in my sister's body just as fiercely as I have battled against injustice and inequality.

I battle with prayer every night while I tuck her into bed. I pray over every cell of her body to submit to the regimen of drugs in order to return to normalcy, over her mind to face this with faith, hope and courage and over her heart to believe that she is not alone.

I battle with truth as I read Scripture and Sarah Young's Jesus Calling to help her believe that Jesus sees her, knows her, loves her and is present with her.

I battle with love when I shampoo her long hair knowing she may lose it soon and when I massage her feet which have felt the sheets of the hospital bed for too many days.

When I do what God has called me to do, no matter what it is I battle those forces that fight to thwart my calling. It may be traditional views of women. It may be spiritual arrogance or ignorance. But it can also be fear or loss of health and hope.

Right now I am fighting with my sister against unseen forces gone awry in her body.

I battle through serving.


  1. Another amazing post, Harriet. I'm getting used to crying when I read your posts, and this one was no exception. Praying with you in this fight.
    Love, Jody

  2. This post has Kingdom of God written all over it! Thank you for sharing so deeply from your pain and struggle. I'll be praying for peace and strength for you both. I'm honored to hear that my post helped spur this post. We need stories like this, even if they break our hearts.

  3. "Then there are seasons in which God calls one away from the battle, away from those who might betray you or cage you in places where they might feel safe but you are not. So you leave to be safe, to be free, to be loved by a different tribe."

    Why do we feel safe in cages? Why are we so scared of God's goodness that we will accept less than?

    What an amazing post, this story of your new battle, your calling to serve your sister, and us through sharing your story.

  4. Bless you and your sister, as well as your Congdon family and the grief battle you all face with the heartache of losing Steve suddenly.

    Praying for you especially, Harriet!

    YOU are a COURAGEOUS woman of God and your voice is needed and appreciated. The battle belongs to the Lord - let no one succeed in silencing you for what God has called you to speak, write or boldly proclaim, in Jesus name!

  5. Harriet, I just heard the news regarding Pat from Cleve. I'm so sorry. We understand what a difficult battle this one is, and has been. With your permission I'd like to use the picture above of Pat to dedicate a luminaria in her honor at our Relay For Life in Rockville, MD next month.

    Be well and find strength and support in your family, friends and faith.
    -Charles Holder KHS '78

    1. Thank you, Charles. Of course you may use her picture.

  6. Your welcome. And please give our best to Pat (and let her know about the luminaria - i'm not the best for communication). I will coordinate with Cleve in getting a picture of the luminaria to Pat and to you.