This is a guest post from Stephanie South, a graduate student at American University. You can follow her blog here.
The last four months of my life have been about showing up to yoga class and science experiments.
Specifically, experiments I remember doing in fourth grade that was meant to teach me about surface tension. You know the one I’m talking about? The one where your teacher sets an almost-full glass of water and a handful of coins down on your desk and instructs you to start putting pennies in. You look at her like she’s crazy, because that glass of water is already super close to spilling, but she looks back at you like you’d better not ask any more questions and just get started. So you do it, you put a penny in, after you carefully back away from the desk so as to avoid any of the inevitable water that would put a very unfortunately placed mark on your pants.
But water glass doesn’t overflow.
So you put in another. And another. And another. And the water just stays, bubbled over the rim but not spilling, as you look at your teacher like she may just be Jesus himself.
I felt like that second metaphor sort of falls apart, because at some point, just like I learned after one penny too many, the surface tension does eventually break, and the water goes everywhere.
But the metaphors still seemed to work.
Because if the last four months have been about anything, they have been about getting bigger, or rather they have been about getting smaller (all that yoga) and stretching. Getting stronger. And some days, it was just about showing up and trying, because in Bikram yoga, as long as you do the posture the way you’re instructed, you get the benefits. Even if you’re not obtaining perfection, as long as you’re stretching, you’re gaining strength.
Yes, since January, God’s been expanding my capacity to hold things, and each month it was something different.
In January, it was about brokenness.
A broken relationship. Broken hearts. And a very broken girl, crying as she cleaned up bits of broken glass, leftovers from a bottle she had thrown at the floor not long after she’d threatened, although I can’t remember doing so, to hurt herself. I wouldn’t have actually done anything (not that threatening wasn’t bad enough) but somewhere between the shatter and the next day’s headache, came the sobering recognition that the mess I was cleaning up with a broom wasn’t the only one in my kitchen.
So I stopped drinking, started going to yoga on Sunday mornings, and began realizing that God will meet us wherever we are at when we are ready. And for me, that was in 105-degree room, lying on my back, with my palms face up in Shavasana a few minutes before class started, where I began to pray.
February was about love, in keeping with the month’s theme, but it was also about fight.
It was about fighting for love, even when it seemed there was nothing there to fight for. And it was about realizing, as I was learning to love someone else without limitation, that Jesus had always loved me that hard. It was about letting Him be jealous for me and fighting all the voices I heard, none of which were His, that told me that I didn’t deserve that kind of love–from Him, from anyone else, or even from myself. It was about going to yoga at least once a week but normally twice and staring at myself, half-naked, for 90 minutes, and learning to look past how things rolled and trembled and simply accept, and eventually love, what I saw.
March was scary; it involved a lot of “space” and a willingness to let go.
God had done everything I’d asked of Him over the last couple of months, which essentially amounted to me asking Him to play the prove-you-love-me game, and He had, in very visible ways that slowly but surely made me certain He was real. But March was when He asked me to play–to show up, let go, and give up control. It was the month I started going to yoga three times a week and spending the few minutes before class opening my hands, praying that Quaker prayer my friend taught me, asking God to help be take what He had to give and release what He needed to remove.
April was a whirlwind, but it was a beautiful mess.
It was a month of putting into practice everything I had learned about anything over the last few months. It was the month I prayed without having to think about it. It was the month I loved without any reservations. It was the month I enjoyed what I saw in the mirror every day. And it was the month where I took one day at a time, just as it came to me, and did so with an incredible peace.
And on the first day of May, when it came, I wondered what this month would bring me.
On the second, I found out that May is the month in which the metaphor makes sense because the water just spilled over.
Until this evening, I hadn’t been to yoga for about a week. I hadn’t spoken to God since then either. I laid in bed for the two days previous, certain that I was going to die of the common cold and trying to will my teddy bear to life to take care of me. I started to pinch bits of skin in the mirror instead of marveling at my spine. I started to worry about what I ate and where I was going to live in a couple of months, and I started to reach for everything I had given up, including the life I had finally put in His hands. And above all, I was frustrated with myself and even more with the God who had apparently decided to quit showing up.
Until I realized that it was me who hadn’t met Him on that mat for almost a week.
So tonight, I went to yoga, and it was humbling–I had trouble staring at the image reflected back in the mirror, and I was very weak. It became very clear that May is when God fills the glass up again and starts adding pennies. I know that eventually, the surface tension breaks again, and I feel like I did on the second of May. But I also know that I’m not done, and He’s not either.