Last week I met a woman with no belly button.
Imagine my parents’ surprise when I came home for the week and reported this.
“Who was she, Eve?” asked my mother.
Not at all. She was a lovely woman who greeted me in the foyer of a church I was visiting. She had undergone abdominal surgery that required the removal of her belly button. Her husband expected the removal of her navel would have little effect upon him. Its sacrifice would save them $300, so they chose to live without it.
I wore the appropriate face of surprise. Did I really just hear all that, and in public? What do you say to something like that? “I’m so sorry”? Or do you say what you’re thinking? “That’s fascinating,” perhaps, or, “Can I see?”
And wouldn’t life have an extra kick of interest if we all spoke so openly in church foyers about secret surgeries?
Once while mowing the lawn my boyfriend Jonathan wrote a song about this woman, a friend of his, imagining the husband’s internal debate about her lost navel. It goes:
I pointed out she never needed it before.
But as long as the surgeon’s able
She insists upon a navel
Though I say it’s something that we can’t afford.
Last week I wrote about asking God to show me my sin. It’s a crazy thing to do. It’s crazier to do in print, and in public. Your parents read it. Your school friends read it. Your pastor reads it.
I compare it to—say, being a beautiful woman who announces in the church foyer that she has no belly button.
But God kept working. His bleeding hands worked on me with sharp compassion. After the column appeared, I was confronted by discerning people who could see sin in me that I couldn’t. I thought the patterns of relating I had adopted just constituted my personality and made me more interesting. No such thing. They were sin. I cried.
So I found I am still growing. I was stretched open in rawness. My mistakes showed. I didn’t know what would result from the messes I had made while trying to be interesting.
“Do you feel like sushi?” asked Jonathan.
“Yes,” I whimpered. I felt like God had taken that knife from the photo beside last week’s column and chopped me up into chunks like so much fish. I felt like a garbage can lid that had gotten all beat up and warped and didn’t fit the place it ought to.
This morning the college president’s chapel address set me scribbling. He said, “God won’t let up on you until He has given you abundant life. Walk toward it with joy—even if it feels like you have to give up who you are.”
Like the frugal husband in Jonathan’s song, God knows what I can afford, what truly makes up my personality, and what I can live without.