Everyone poops. But not everyone always poops in a toilet. For now, I am sometimes one of those people. My wonderful, sassy, proper and Southern mother would literally come at me with a shiv of her finest china if she knew I was writing this article. Talking about soiling your pants (to the public, no less) is about as unladylike as eating your entrée with a salad fork, or slouching in a chair with your knees spread-eagle (maybe even worse…). But I can no longer stay silent about this issue.

Believe it or not, there is a weird kind of grace in pooping yourself. You can probably smell a fantastically catchy metaphor in the story to come: no matter how hard we try, no matter how precise our plans, no matter what we eat or drink, or what fancy holistic herbal supplements we take, we cannot control crap in this world. It will come, regardless of our bare-knuckled agendas. Praise Jesus He offers a way through it.

Two years ago, I had my gallbladder removed, and my health has suffered a downward spiral ever since (read about that hell storm here). One of those sad stops along the spiral? – every now and again, I can’t make it to the toilet. More specifically, I am nowhere near a toilet and must withstand a test of wit so psychologically grueling, it’s a miracle I haven’t been reduced to wandering around a garden wielding a butterfly net; not yet anyhow.


Here’s what happens when that diabolical urge comes-a-screaming (excluding any details that might put you off your lunch):

I’m usually in a car or strolling the kids.


“Oh God…seriously?…now?

I pause to be sure it isn’t just a gas bubble.


It is not just a gas bubble.

“You can do this, Charlotte. Just hold it and focus.”

I assess my distance to the nearest toilet and/or darkened wood. In each of these “situations” thus far, I have been nowhere near either sort of sanctuary.

I begin to sweat all over.


I panic.

My eyes dart in every direction, like a trapped and frantic alley cat face-to-face with that chubby guy from the pound (also usually wielding a net).

I begin to pant and my eyes well up with tears because I’m pretty positive I already know the outcome to this short but dodgy narrative.

Clenching futilely, I rush on foot or vehicle in the direction of the nearest toilet and/or darkened wood anyway.

I’m still hoping its flatulence although…let’s be honest…I know.

I picture rainbows and bunnies and that funny thing that happened yesterday hahaha.

“Oh God…Oh no…Oh Lord, please…”

And before I know it, my body and will have eluded me. “It” has happened, and I can only be grateful that I possess an affinity for over-sized women’s undergarments with a generous amount of give and elasticity. These upsetting events give new meaning to St. Paul’s confession in his letter to the Romans, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Before the first of these incidents, I’d never experienced this league of shame and humiliation. The only person who even knew about it was my husband. But reserving one’s number-two for toilets seemed like a most basic human ability (at the very least a social expectation) – and I had failed. I was devastated. Aggressive Incontinence became the newest item on my ever-growing list of phobias, particularly once I realized it would be a reoccurring event. I planned my days around when I thought I’d need to use the restroom. I kept a food journal. I read blogs about gluten intolerance and leaky gut syndrome. Like George Costanza, I was constantly aware of the nearest toilet, how long the wait might be, and ever prepared to throw out the ultimate trump card: “Please, I’M PREGNANT!” (lies).

The truth, I feared, would only perturb those within ear-shot. The idea of long car rides with my small children seemed like an advanced problem in matrix theory, especially if my husband wasn’t along to watch them while I handled the situation. Throwing babies into the mix of a pants-pooping tendency adds a whole new level to one’s anxiety. “Can I leave them in the car while I dash into this gas station? No, it’s 1000 degrees out and that sounds a lot like tonight’s headline news.”

Needless to say, this new pattern (and my obsessive reaction to it) has been exhausting.

And so I’ve been reminded yet again that, much to my dismay, I am not immortal. My bodily struggles only make my personal, quieter sins and shortcomings all the more evident: my abject self-focus, my desperate desire to take control of my own healing, and this awful self-pity that has buried an unrelenting root in my heart and grown like a prickly weed with each passing day. I cannot fix any of it. It has utterly taken over, all-consuming like that castle from Sleeping Beauty.


Yet it is here where a small voice from the thick of those dark and thorny woods begins to reach my un-listening ears: “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The focus of many Christians in a similar predicament might be, “What Would Jesus Do?” – what could or should I be doing better that might convince God to take this problem away? I find myself slipping into this mode all the time. I try to be nicer to everyone, less focused on my surely famed-future, to pay a little more attention to my husband. I try not to swear as much, to read my morning devotional with more vigilance, and tip my barista an extra quarter or two.

But my throat is ever an open grave (Romans 3:13) and my bones have no soundness (Psalm 38:3).

None of these noble efforts have elicited salvation from my unladylike problem: I still find myself weepy on the phone with my husband, shyly asking for him to bring me some baby wipes and a fresh change of clothes #noquestionsasked.

As Michael Horton says in his book Putting Amazing Back into Grace, the only thing that brings me any kind of true relief is to focus not on the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” but instead, “What has Jesus already done?” I tend to be single-mindedly absorbed with longing for relief from my personal suffering; I’m embarrassed to admit that this concern (relief from my suffering) is top-shelf in my prayer-life these days, “Lord, take this from me.”

How do I forget so very frequently, He already has?


The eyes of faith might see my situation as a gross, really obnoxious, but relevant indicator of (as Michael Horton puts it) “…a God who does all the saving and leaves nothing for us to claim as our own contribution…” I may be the wealthiest, most beautiful, brilliant, engaging, talented person in the world (all obviously true), but (in my case) I am also incapable of not shitting my pants from time to time. Yikes. Some of you might say this is just evidence of a biological hitch or a medical failure. I say it is an unfortunate but poignant signpost to a God who has a peculiar yet creative way of drawing me into His loving arms and reminding me to rest, to stop trying so hard, to go put on a pair of Depends if I need to, and then leave everything else to Him.

Don’t we all have some thing like this in our lives, a nagging situation we cannot for the life of us fix or control? There’s something extraordinarily freeing about seeing my story from this lowly vantage-point of a powerless prisoner. It is there where that small whisper becomes more like a resounding hymn: “My grace is sufficient for you, right now. Not when you’re fully healed. Not when you can finally ditch the adult diapers for good. My grace is enough now, right in the middle of all your unruly crap (literally). And my power is made perfect in this crushing weakness.”

I’ve been searching for freedom in the shape of improved health or more predictable bowel movements, but – every now and again when I’m overwhelmed with some divine optimism – I wonder if that solution isn’t quite so majestic as the imparted ability (by grace and prayer) to poop my pants, shrug my shoulders, and just laugh about it. That, I think, might be a truer freedom than an always-fresh pair of granny panties.