Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sightseeing (08/08/05)
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Her slender arms reach heavenward. Her face, atop a vulnerable neck arching in purest surrender to God, points toward the clear summer sky. She is called “Fiat” - Italian for “yes” – and her feet seem poised in mid-step on a journey toward wholeness.
Kathy, a high school English teacher and recipient of many teaching awards, greets Fiat for the first time - nimbly sliding her fingers over the statue, marveling at her example of devotion and praise. Tears of release pour down her face as she recognizes herself in this artistic rendering of true submission. “Fiat, you and I share the same heart position before our Lord,” she whispers under her breath. Fiat quickly becomes her mentor for the upcoming week’s writing conference.
Kathy recognizes immediately that she is on “holy ground”. Fiat is a perfect example of trust and relinquishment; the entire retreat center seems to inspire awe and contemplation. Its walking paths, lakes, benches, and historical buildings with numerous displays of original Christian art evoke one response: reverence.
As the conference gets underway, Kathy eagerly responds to various overtures from the other women who are intent on sightseeing the many and varied points of interest on the grounds.
“These oil paintings…they take my breath away!”
“Love this path around the reflection pond.”
“(Gasp!) That bust of Jesus looks so REAL!”
“Found a quiet bench under a weeping willow tree on a hill with a nice view – delightful.”
But Kathy’s favorite spot, the one that calls her to return privately each day, is the statue called Fiat. Something gentle and peaceful flows from the hard, stony figure to energize her heart and soul. Fiat shares only what is absolutely true and real, matching Kathy’s own experience with pain, struggle, and victory. As she caresses the statue’s detailed features, Fiat seems to enter her heart and speak of common knowledge and hope.
“You are a most beautiful woman, one who knows the source of her strength. Although you trip and fall - cry and bleed - you are unafraid to reach for the fullest measure of life. Why? Because you depend unconditionally on God’s favor to lead you through each day. You have found what I also have found – power to be wholly and fully alive. Jesus set us both free from fear to live in freedom. We agree that healing comes not through avoidance, resolve, or tricky manipulation of circumstances, but through submission to the One who has given us our heavenly names. He wants to guide you toward final, eternal perfection, Kathy. And you know that and agree with Him!”
“Yes, Fiat,” she replies. “This past year – the pain, the illnesses, the constant disappointments, the unusual stress, the denied promotion, the lack of a supportive church home – all those things accomplished their goals. They were pruning me. Just like you, Fiat, I am a branch of the True Vine. We are continually trimmed and shaped because God knows the best way for us to grow into the people He created us to be.”
“Remember, He is in charge. The best prayer is simply, ‘Yes, Lord…YES!’”
Fiat is overlooked by many of the conference attendees who choose to focus on more visually engaging sights. But Kathy’s heart focuses on translating Fiat’s message. Her devotion to the statue enables her to observe loftier images: insights from a God whose primary desire is surrender.
One evening Kathy meets with Fiat, and gently speaks into the statue’s ear: “Fiat, your name means ‘yes.’ Everything about you says, ‘Don’t doubt, don’t worry, don’t be angry. Abandon yourself to Him.’ You have touched my deepest heart.”
Kathy’s regular, private visits with Fiat become times of worship as she repeatedly caresses the statue’s curved neck, outstretched arms, and “walking” feet. What does Fiat see as she gazes upward? Can she fathom the sights of heaven? Does she see anything at all, or does she simply know the One who calls her name? Can He make sense of her suffering? What is her hope, as she walks through life in a posture of submission and expectation?
Kathy’s spiritual vision is practiced and focused; she knows it allows her to “see the sights” that really matter. After each visit to Fiat, she wipes her tears, firmly grasps her guide dog’s harness, and momentarily praises God with her own head thrown back in adoration. Then she confidently walks to the next event on the conference agenda, her path darkened by total blindness.
(AUTHOR’S COMMENT: This story reflects a true incident. Kathy is a completely blind woman who teaches English in a public high school and has achieved a variety of teaching awards, one recently at the national level. She attended an out-of-state writing conference in early August of 2005, where she met and bonded with the statue named Fiat. After I wrote this challenge entry, Kathy mailed me a postcard of the statue she never saw while sightseeing, but rather felt with her hands and experienced in her heart. I sense that I will never be the same.)
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