Today I would like to share Part I of an article I recently wrote for seminary class.
I will post Part II – the second half – tomorrow.
As always, I welcome comments and conversations, and shares if you so choose 🙂
God bless us, every one!
By: Jana Greene
“What is your most dominant image of God? What does that say about your own belief system? Your own temperament? Your own faith community?” ― Bradley Jersak, A More Christ like God: a More Beautiful Gospel
I’ve been having a wee bit of an identity crisis over the past several years. Nothing too wild and reckless, but a low-grade churning in my spirit. This identity crisis burbled up from the primordial ooze I’d always been so careful not to fall into. Step on the stones, only on the stones. Jesus is your rock, etc. and so on, more stone / rock / foundation analogies; anything to keep from falling into the ooze, because if I fall off a rock and into the ooze, God is really going to be angry with me for taking my eyes off of the Prize – Him.
But what about Him?
Never before had I been compelled to systematically dismantle (oh how Religion loves things done systematically) all I had learned from birth, but now? Now I am forming a brand new construct out of what crumbled down in the destruct, and it changes everything.
This nature of God.
When considering the nature of the Almighty, I have the tendency to cling to one of two hard-line descriptions:
God is Love incarnate. He is full of mercy, overflowing with grace. There is only GOOD in His being, and wants to captivate us with his adoration.
God often has to punish and crush, as a means to the end of making man righteous. He smiles on us when we remind him of Jesus (maybe once or twice a day) but is filled with grief and fury when we remind him of the very humans he created. He gives us a whoopin’ because He loves us, and it really does hurt Him more than it does us, as parents are apt to say. He gets tired, you know, with so many naughty children to keep in line. This would explain why natural phenomenon can be so destructive. This would explain the grumpiness of the Old Testament Lord. We like to think it explains a bible-ed up version of Karma. You’ve got whatever’s coming your way, buddy. Too bad you didn’t tow the line.
Except here’s the rub: God’s nature is scandalously lousy with Grace. And I so enjoyed learning about His true nature in my education at Global Grace Seminary.
Of all the excellent materials, Steve McVey’s way with words pierced me. I would read his work and stop to ponder it, and read it again. There was so many practical presentations of grace, I found myself re-reading each line in order to soak in the truth.
“You have been set in the place of a child who is loved and accepted by the Father just as surely as Jesus Himself knows that love and acceptance. Your place is in the triune circle dance is as safe and secure as the place of Jesus for the staggering reason that you are in Him.”
― Steve McVey, Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You
As Kay Fairchild explored in the module “Our God is One,” not only is there One True God, but He is three-fold – each facet of his Being sentient and in perfect, permanent synchronization. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three distinct individual entities, each one supreme and whole, and wholly loving.
I am learning truths that explore scripture in context. In all honesty, one of my biggest challenges is that small, still voice saying, “Yes, but why then is there still so much evil in the world?” I wish I had a better understanding of that fundamental question. I am trusting that God will reveal truths ever more as I chug along. If we ask Him for bread, He will not give us a stone; that much I know.
For thousands of years, humankind has tried to explain God. We’ve placed Him in boxes to keep Him out of (or in) trouble. We’ve elaborated on his life story and we’ve left the context of his Word out far too often. The Word is a person, and that person is Jesus.
When considering this, I’m reminded of the fun house mirrors that appear to be endless images – mirror inside another mirror, inside another – an endless tunnel of reflection. There is so much more depth in the Trinity than I’d ever considered. The Triune God layer upon layer of Love, grace, and inclusion. And we are the very mirror image of those three beings of love! We sell ourselves so short.
Will the real Nature of God Please Stand Up?
With nearly 17 years of recovery time from alcoholism, I’ve come to love the legendary 12 Steps. Before I happened across the Christ-based recovery step meetings I attend now, AA was the initial safe zone to explore the nature of God as His grace pertains to sobriety. The program’s third step proclaims that “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” In this model, you hire and employ your own Higher Power. It could be a floor lamp. Or a door knob. Anything, really. And that deeply offended me! You cannot just go making up gods as your puny mind perceives them, all willy-nilly.
Now I so clearly see that I was so grace-less. So self-righteous. Anything less than recognizing the One True God – my Jesus – was blasphemy. What I didn’t understand was that these folks didn’t want to hear that they were going to hell, because they’d already been. And the “God of our understanding” is a great place to begin the Seeker journey. I sat in the meetings with angry arms folded, shut down and petulant. What a way to represent Christ!
“If you have seen your God through the lens of legalistic religion, you most likely have believed that God was warning them [Adam and Eve] that He would punish them if they ate from the tree. Nothing could be further from the heart or intent of God. He wouldn’t kill them – sin would kill them. God wasn’t warning them about what He would do but about what sin would do to them.”
― Steve McVey, Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You
I just came across a post on my Facebook news feed by a friend who just lost someone she loved to the ravages of addiction. He OD’ed on heroin.
It started like so many, many posts I come across – RIP. Rest in peace.
I’m so tired of people resting in peace before their lives are lived to completion.
I never knew this friend of my friend’s. I’ve never heard his name prior to this event – but my spirit knows his spirit, and I pray his is at peace.
It’s easy to become numb to the loss of life from addiction. We are in the midst of opiate saturation and fatal / ‘functioning’ alcoholism, because the human condition is so confoundedly painful. It just really is.
Behind every story of death via substance abuse, there is a son or daughter. A mother, a father. A friend. A person of great and precious worth.
How does society deal with loss on such a grand scale?
Too often, by accepting the undercurrent of judgement as truth, and denying that addiction is a freaking brain disease.
Another day, another RIP memorial page on Facebook.
One more overdose victim. I guess he had it coming.
One more person who drank herself to death. She asked for it.
Nobody says it out loud, but the sense of exasperation is tangible.
Hey world-at-large – IT’S A DISEASE.
Meanwhile, the rest of us cannot afford to rest.
I’m glad that there are programs that allow participants the luxury of anonymity (and I certainly respect the anonymity of others) but I’m not sure how long we can afford to hide our faces. The faces of addiction, but more importantly – the faces of RECOVERY.
Because not all of us will RIP before our time, but surely stigma enables keeping the disease alive and kicking.
Every overdose should shock the shit out our systems. It should worry us when we start thinking of a lost life ‘just another.’ It should break our hearts.
Karl Marx is quoted as saying ‘religion is the opiate of the masses,’ and I think there is truth in that. But religion as we know it often carries the same numbing properties as any other opiate. Relationship with the living God is what the masses are really craving.
We are all just really jonesing for relationship.
If you can’t justify being compassionate because you believe addiction is solely a moral peril, I challenge you to consider it an act of compassion from one fellow human being in confounding pain to another.
One spirit to another.
The gentleman who died of a heroin overdose, he brought to mind tonight the parable of the lost sheep in the biblical book of Luke.
“…By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”
Jesus gets it. He didn’t go after that one sheep to feed it opiates. He went after it because He couldn’t bear missing out on relationship with one who had so much worth.
It’s my honor to show my face and be non-anonymous. I am an alcoholic who did not die of my disease, but who still asks God for help in my recovery journey every single day.
The Temptations got it right with this song….I hope we can get it right, too.
“The sale of pills is at an all time high, young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky, Cities aflame in the summer time,
and the beat goes on. Eve of destruction, tax deduction, City inspectors, bill collectors, Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul, Shootin’ rockets to the moon, kids growin’ up too soon. Politicians say more taxes will solve ev’rything, and the band played on. Round and round and around we go, where the world’s headed nobody knows.
This week, I would love to explore the oft-overlooked issue of Self-Care, and what it really means to care for yourself in the tenderest way. I welcome all comments, as I’d love to start a conversation about how God figures in your journey. Taking care of yourself isn’t just for those in recovery – I think all of us struggle with it at times. Women especially – the mothers and grandmothers and caretakers – are often expected to put their needs last. It may not be an audible and clear message, but the societal expectations buoy it up all the same. When we don’t self-care, we have nothing to pour out. God bless you in this new year!
By: Jana Greene
Have you ever just gotten lazy about something? Like really taking care of yourself – Mind, body and soul?
This time of year, we are all thinking about priorities. That’s all New Year’s resolutions are, right? Putting priority on one healthier endeavor and maybe letting other, less healthy habits slip down a notch or two.
For me, going to 12 Step meetings is my re-boot.
When I say I don’t have time to go, I’m suggesting to myself that I’m not worth making the time.
When I say I’m too sick or tired to go, I am opting out of an experience that may not heal my body, but will certainly be a salve to my soul.
When I want to hide away under my duvet cover and eat a box of Thin Mints instead of going to a meeting, well …. that should be a big, red flag.
I was raised with the notion that you don’t want to think too highly of yourself, and I get that. I understand why that is a slippery slope – God is God and I am not. I’m not talking about being self-righteous or pious. Any righteousness I might have certainly doesn’t stem from my own actions, but by the willingness to surrender my will to God’s. That’s not what I’m talking about at all.
I’m talking about how easy it is find your own heart and mind and spirit on the bottom rung of the priority ladder. You may not even notice the slippage happening. You may have been too busy caring for everyone else to see it. You may have stacked up box after box of codependency to reach your top priorities. Without a basis of loving self-care, it will topple and take you with it.
I’m terrible at self-care, true self-care. I’m really good at showing myself love by giving into it’s appetites. Isn’t that what care is about? If I want a cookie, I want the box. If I want to treat myself to something on Amazon, 10 things end up in my basket. Stay up late to watch “Call the Midwife” on Netflix? ALL NIGHT LONG.
Somewhere my psyche learned to equate moderation with deprivation.
If one is good, twelve is better. Except for that’s hardly ever true.
“Self-Care” that makes you feel awful afterward is not self-care. This may seem rudimentary, but this morning as I write this post, it’s kind of an epiphany to me.
I’ve gotten lazy with self-care, cheapening it. Worse, when someone I love needs help or care, I’ve got only a dry well to draw from.
This January 3rd, I will celebrate 16 years of consecutive sobriety. For my Recovery’s Sweet Sixteen, I’m going back to the basics. Because that’s where I find God most of the time. Like most teenagers, my recovery often likes to think it knows everything. But oh how wrong that mindset is!
I still have SO much to learn!
So, as we enter a New Year, I’m going to try to take better care of myself and re-arrange the rungs on the priority ladder. If you’ve forgotten how to truly self-care, join me on the intentional journey to care for yourself. Take time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write out some self-care statements. Here are mine:
I will seek out one-on-one time with my Heavenly Father. That doesn’t mean carving out an Instagram-worthy devotional time, but authentic conversation with God. (Authentic conversation means listening, too. I forget that.)
I will not apologize for showing myself the same level of kindness as I would a friend, or even a stranger.
I will not call myself names, deriding myself for being ‘so stupid,’ for example. Even when just kept in the confines of own mind, putting myself down takes a toll.
I will make the time and effort to make at least one Celebrate Recovery per week. I will ask God to help me out of the rut of making excuses to avoid going. At the meetings, I will LISTEN and learn, and love on my tribe.
I will make a sincere effort to consider that moderation and deprivation are not the same thing. I need Holy Help on this one, because it is ingrained very deeply. Honestly, it stems from a place of fear, of being without. And that isn’t what faith in the Lord looks like. It’s what trusting in only this world looks like.
I will get up and walk at least once every day. Jesus, walk with me and talk with me as I strive to make the changes my physical health so badly needs implemented.
I will listen to my body, and try to heed what it’s telling me. I have limitations that I’ve been fighting against for years. Maybe it’s time for acceptance.
I will maintain boundaries to protect my sobriety.
I will become more intuitive about what I REALLY need, and feed myself that which cares for it best. The Word of God. Spending time with friends. Investing in my marriage. Bringing my anxiety straight to Jesus instead of rolling around in it first.
I will give myself permission to enjoy life. And I will rely on God to help me do that. All evidence points to doom in the worldly estimation, but all truth says that He has already got this. He’s GOT it, already.
I will make the cup of tea the right way, not the microwave way.
Take the bubble bath.
Enjoy the funny cat memes.
Sometimes self-care is so simple.
Father God, praise to you for my sobriety, and for my tribe of recovery warriors. Thank you for friends and readers, and family. In this new year, reveal yourself to us in our ordinary days and through extraordinary circumstances. We need to feel your presence. Help us to actually BELIEVE that we are worth the care, the way YOU say we are worth caring for.
Life is crazy, and blogging about it such a crazy process. Yesterday, I spent hours writing a fanciful and spiritual fairy tale. Today, I’m writing about death and chaos and the ever-widening chasm between us as members of society.
I hardly slept at all last night. I know many of you probably didn’t either. The happenings in Dallas did a number on my already-over active ‘fight or flight’ response. Anxiety was the order of the night, all night. I pulled out every anxiety-quelling practice I’ve ever learned (it’s a very big toolbox.)
The word “Anathema” kept popping up in my head.
Here’s how the dictionary defines it: “An abomination, an outrage, an abhorrence, a disgrace, an evil, a bane. Abhorrent, hateful, repugnant, odious, repellant, and offensive. And what example did the good people of Google use in the definition? “Racial hatred was anathema to her.”
After a fitful three hour sleep full of nightmares, I woke up and posted this to my personal Facebook wall, and I meant every word:
If you are trying to somehow justify what happened in Dallas, go ahead and unfriend me now. Do us both a favor. Hate begets hate. Those officers were picked off by sniper fire as they are protecting citizenry. No, I cannot justify what happened to the innocent black men killed, but here’s the rub:
Not ONE of the Dallas cops was responsible for what happened in MN or LA. Not a single one. An officer is killed every 58 hours, on average in this country.
If we are going to be outraged about murder, let’s be outraged about murder. Period.
The sad state of affairs we find ourselves in as a nation is making my heart so heavy.
I am sad that “All Lives Matter” even has to be a thing. It should be a given.
I am sad for the slaughter of peoples everywhere, including the unborn. Violent acts against another human being can never inherently bring PEACE.
I am sad that portions of our citizenry consider justice and vengeance interchangeable terms.
I am sad that we are a nation more divided today than ever. (And I’m mad that the current administration seems to have perpetuated a lot of that division among Americans instead of uniting them.)
I am sad that my young adult children are already bitter about the state of the world, instead of hopeful.
I am sad that my granddaughter has to grow up in such a time as this.
I am sad because the undercurrent of hatred is rising to the mainstream, and people are dying as a result.
And I’m just just sad, but scared. I talked to God at length in the wee hours of the morning about being scared. And wouldn’t you know, He comforted me quite a bit – and didn’t even chastise me for my ‘lack of faith.’
You see, to my mind, the chaos and injustice in the world is indeed socioeconomic and racial and political , but it is fundamentally a SPIRITUAL problem at the root. The skin is only, well…skin deep.
But the spirit? We are all connected.
I’m going to go out in a limb here, but I’ve got to say it, perhaps at the risk of over-simplifying. I mean no harm in what I’m saying. I have friends of all races and creeds, and I love them all so dearly.
It’s a spiritual problem, and ain’t no way to fix that except Jesus. What we are seeing is the human race operating as its own Higher Power. If you’re not already, please pray for our nation.
It’s the devil’s game to divide us all. He is the author of confusion and the father of lies. It seems obvious that he is gaining a foothold.
Division is NOT the way of the Father. My Jesus is your Jesus. We NEED the intervention of a good and inclusive God, and we need it desperately.
I hated to pull the ‘unfriend’ card on my Facebook account, as it seems on the surface as a divisive action itself. But for the sake of my adrenals and blood pressure, I can’t. I just cannot even, ya’ll.
I see a sick pattern emerging on social media: Are you “Team Black Lives Matter?” or “Team Thin Blue Line?”
I don’t know how this will all pan out. But I am imploring those in my itty bitty blog sphere of influence to consider that what we are doing is clearly not working, and to call on the Almighty to hook us up with some supernatural Shalom here. STAT.
In my flesh, I am not optimistic. There is so much strife and pain and rage.
But in my Spirit? I know ALL things are possible through Christ Jesus.
It’s going to take a miracle. Hearts have to change, not just minds or views or laws. HEARTS.
I’m going to close this out with one of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
To say this piece is a departure from my usual blogging material is a major understatement. Still, Abba gave it to me in a dream, so I’m doing the only thing I know to do with it – sharing it with you.
By: Jana Greene
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Kismet who loved a blanket. It was a very special quilt, a gift from The King himself. Every child born into the Kingdom received one, but Kismet cherished hers more than most. It was made from snowy white fabric. In the finest thread of spun gold, the King had commissioned that every good decree and promise be embroidered into the fabric. Kismet took her blanket everywhere, wrapping herself in those promises.
Each morning, she would take the short walk to a green pasture between the woods and the hillside, and spread her blanket over the velvety grass. Laying on her back, hands clasped behind her head, she spent hours watching the clouds morph into shapes and patterns against the endless blue sky; and at night, she watched the infinite array of stars as they rolled across the Heavens.
One day, while she was cloud-gazing, a mighty wind kicked up and caught her off guard. She sat up suddenly just as a gust blew big clods of dirt onto the quilt, and when she stood to shake it off, another wind nearly blew the blanket away. She caught it by the corner and held on to it for dear life until the wind passed. Then she dusted off as much debris as she could and tried to get comfortable, but it wasn’t the same. It was dirty and itchy, and distracted her from her peaceful sky gazing.
That night, while she was admiring at the great, dark sky, she felt a sudden and violent tug on the top corner of her blanket. Startled, she gasped and sat up straight, only to catch sight of an enormous dragon’s tail as it lumbered into the woods. Kismet was terrified, and ran home, dragging the ripped blanket behind her.
The next day, she ventured to the pasture again – this time keeping an eye out for dragons. She spread out her blanket, now grungy and dragon-nipped. All the same, it was still a gift from the King, and the little girl loved it so.
As she’d settled down to watch the sky and marvel at creation, she felt the ground give a sudden rumble, shaking her bones and rattling the hillside. For several moments, the ground shook. She was afraid the earth would open up and swallow her whole! In fact, the earth did not swallow her, but did upset several stones on the hillside, which tumbled down and landed on the quilt, missing her by only inches.
It was then that a scared and shaking Kismet decided to run away. Nothing was going right and she feared that the King might be angry if he found out that she’d let his precious gift get ruined.
Far away, she might have a better view of the clouds and stars. Far away, she might find her wonderment again.
She placed the stones in the center of the blanket, and gathered the three good corners of the quilt and the one torn edge, and tied them together. She then found a stick and fashioned a knapsack. It was far too heavy for a little girl such as herself, what with it being full of stones, but she feared she might encounter another windstorm in her travels and the stones might be needed to hold the blanket down. She dragged the sack across the rugged ground for much of the day-long journey.
She finally came upon a small pasture by a river, and – exhausted – unloaded her pack. Stones and debris took up most of the space, but she found a little space in the center of the quilt, and pulled her knees to her chest. She didn’t look upward. She was sad and certain the sky would be empty. She cried and cried until evening settled over this strange land and she fell into a fitful sleep. When she awoke, a voice surprised her.
“What troubles you, little one?”
Kismet tilted her head up to see the King himself, sitting on the corner of the quilt. She could scarcely believe her eyes!
Slowly sitting up, she saw that the blanket was good as new! The torn corner had been mended. The heavy stones had been thrown into the river. The fabric was white as snow again. The gold-stitched embroidery twinkled in the evening moonlight.
The King smiled at her and reached for her hand. She took it and he pulled her into a fatherly embrace. For the rest of the evening, they both lay back and played dot-to-dot with the constellations before falling into a safe and cozy slumber.
And when they returned to the Kingdom the next day, there was a great party to welcome them.
Was everything happily ever after? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Kismet’s blanket got dirty on occasion. She even lost it a few times. But that’s what happens when you take something everywhere you go.
She learned that the promises embroidered in golden thread were eternal, and ensured by the King. She learned that the blanket itself was not magical, but the bestower of it most certainly was. And she stayed in His presence all of of her days.
Because the King and his subjects are eternal, there is no “The End” to this tale. Instead, I invite you to consider this:
You and I? We are Kismet, too.
Your blanket is your faith. It was custom-made for you. Take it everywhere you go. Cling to it, even when the winds kick up. Catch it by the corner and hold on for dear life.
Even when the dragon tries to steal it from you. (Remember, it is his life’s work to steal it from you.)
Even when the ground shakes beneath your feet.
The King’s decrees are no less true because of the quaking.
The embroidery is scripture – the King’s Decree over you.
Don’t carry the things meant for your destruction to ensure your future comfort.
If you pick up the heavy stones of fear, doubt, and hatred on your travels, ask the King to help you let go of them. You were never meant keep them for holding down your faith.
Look upward! Even as you are surrounded by chaos.
There is no need to run away, for wherever you go, there you are.
Wrap up in your faith, all nice and cozy. Don’t keep it in a box. Share it with others.
Don’t let your sense of wonder get away! Chase that thing down and never let it go!
And, Little One, if you do happen to lose your faith on occasion? The King will go a great distance to find you and restore your faith to its former glory.
Everywhere you take your faith, the Good King is with you.
So, I just wrote a positively genius Facebook rant about the horrific Orlando mass shooting at a gay club. It had all the components of TRUTH and WORD WEAVERY that I strive so hard to include in all my posts. It was witty. It was hard-driving. It was fact-filled. There was A LOT OF SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS, but without compromising the integrity of the message. I even included a quote by the very liberal Thom Friedman to back up my case, and add the last GOTCHA!
I’m tempted to paste the content RIGHT HERE so that even MORE people can read it and change their minds about Islam being a religion of peace, and why GUNS aren’t the problem, EVIL is the problem. Hate is the problem.
A Muslim extremist calls 911 and declares alliance with ISIS before killing 50 gay people, but yeah, sure….its a GUN problem.
Before I posted my genius post, there was a teensey spiritual nudging.
Are you sure you want to post that? I felt God ask my spirit.
OF COURSE I’M SURE, I told him. I’m RIGHT.
How many people have been convinced of truth as a result of a torrid Facebook post? He says.
You’re really throwing off my groove, God. I say in essence. Have you even READ it? (He had.)
So I post it. So vehement was I in my convictions, I even invited friends to UNFRIEND me if they didn’t see my point of view.
And wait for the ‘amen’ chorus, but nothing happens.
Then one friend messages me that there are 1 billion Muslims on Earth, and only 1 % are terrorists, and I answer back with “Well, 10 million terrorists is a LOT of terror” (and yes, I had to Google what 1% of 1 billion was. I’m not a math girl.)
And then I do something I should have done 30 minutes prior. I prayed and actually listened. It started as more of a “back me up, Father!” prayer, but ended in complete contrition.
So God….I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t have posted that…..
God: Gee, I wish I’d told you that (I’ve found the Almighty to have quite the deadpan style at times)
So, before further damage and unfriending, I delete the post on Facebook.
But I just don’t delete it, because I want to keep it handy in case another horrible tragedy happens and I was right about something I’d written. (Hey, I’m being super transparent here!) Instead of totally deleting it, I cut and pasted it into a Word document. So it was out of the public eye, but I still had in close in hand because I still felt completely justified in feeling the feelings that precipitated it.
See? I deleted it, Lord.
And my Abba Father, in his infinite wisdom, reminds me that I didn’t delete it at all. I’m still holding on to it. And then he says to my spirit in the gentlest and most distinct way –
“You do the same thing with resentments all the time.”
Oh, I DO.
There is someone who has hurt me deeply and I still – many years later – resent her terribly. My mind has compiled a “The Best Of” anthology of all the ways she has hurt me. All the ways she has hurt me that NOBODY even KNOWS about. Spread lies and manipulations. Really, the world should KNOW what rotten things she did / said, because if people knew just how diabolical she can be, maybe she will feel hurt compatible to the way she made me hurt.
And is making me hurt STILL.
And the truth is, if she ever pulls that shit on me again, I can whip out that positively genius rant I’ve been saving, in all the TRUTH and WORD WEAVERY-ness that only 10 freaking years of crafting such a diatribe can render. It is witty. It’s hard-driving, and fact-filled. It’s out of the public eye, but still had in close in my heart because I still feel completely justified in feeling the feelings that precipitated it. All this time, I’ve saved it more surely than any Word document.
Is that what Jesus would do?
I wonder what the world would have looked like if Jesus had spent 10 years crafting a list of wrongs, instead of three years in ministry of only love?
My friend who reminded me of the 1% terror-driven adherents to Islam (I still say that’s a LOT) is also Recovery Warrior. He invited me to remember what we learned in Recovery Coach Academy – all 20 of us from all different walks and races and creeds – sitting in a circle. We didn’t sing Kumbaya or anything. But we DID all find common ground. We all found consensus.
Would I have read that genius Facebook post aloud in that room, if I’d have known one of those people was a non-terrorist Muslim?
No, I would not.
And I am not suggesting ‘letting go’ when it comes to terrorism. Aw, HELL no. I AM suggesting than spending all of my convincing the world that Islam is evil, I should be more concerned with convincing them that Jesus is LOVE.
Some things DO need letting go of.
I have boxes of old letters from people who used to love me, and I can’t throw them away because that might somehow cement that they don’t love me anymore.
I hide hurts in my heart that nobody knows, because they are just that awful.
I’ve had thoughts that are so bad – as the venerable Anne Lamott says – “they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
I may say I forgive you but keep a little kernel of righteous indignation to plant in my heart and water every time you present me with another infraction.
I hate those things about me, I so badly want to be like Jesus.
To which I feel God say GOTCHA!
And, in all caps (shouting intended!) he says, I LOVE YOU, KIDDO.
CLEAR ALL FILES, SAVE FOR LOVE.
Queue chorus of “AMEN!”
And God bless us, every one.
Help me to use my words to build up, and not tear down. Help me to use my talents to your glory, and not for my own agenda.
How do we love our enemies? You were pretty clear about showing us how, but I’m still struggling with it.
Be present in the darkness of our current mess on this planet, even as you entered into darkness for each of us on the cross.
Forgive me my pesky trespasses, and help me to LET GO of the trespasses of others.
This past weekend, I instructed a workshop about “Surrender” for a large group of women. In it, I shared the absolute necessity of LETTING GO of our anxieties.
And, in the interest of honesty, I also shared my own propensity of surrendering my worries to Jesus, only to revisit them on occasion – as if I have some twisted kind of weekend custody of them or something.
“Thanks for handling the financial worries I surrendered to you, God. Now, if you don’t mind, I believe it’s my right to have visitation with it. Just to check up, you know.”
“I know I surrendered by kids to you, God. But they seem to be making worse choices than even BEFORE I fully trusted them to your care, so maybe if I revisit the situation, I can give you some pointers on fixing them. Nobody knows them like their mother….”
At which point, God usually reminds me that, no….actually nobody knows them like their Father.
I keep forgetting that. even though it’s right there in 1 Peter 5:7: “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” (MSG)
At the conclusion of last weekend’s workshop workshop, I invited the ladies to visit the Surrender Board on a table in the back of the room. After channeling my Amateur Craft Maven earlier in the week in preparation for the ceremony, I’d covered a large Styrofoam board with some glittery scrap booking paper, and made over a hundred little white flags from toothpicks and white masking tape. I provided metallic paint pens at the table for the ladies to emboss the flags with their most difficult struggles before raising their own white flags in surrender on the board.
To get it started, I’d pre-added about seven of the issues nearest and dearest to my heart. The names of my children. My weight struggles. Anxiety. Fear.
One by one, the women filed to the table to the accompaniment of soothing worship music. Tearfully, they turned their worries into a Styrofoam battlefield of surrender, letting go of their issues and giving them to God.
After the workshop, I took the Surrender Board home with me, and vowed to pray for the surrenderees each day this week.
But last night, I had a dream.I was approaching the board in a room where it sat on a fancy table (think “Arc of the Covenant” fancy) Jesus stood between me and all of the white flag surrenderables, which I had come to pray over.He was lovingly guarding them.
“Excuse me, Lord,” I think I said. (Very politely, it was Jesus, after all.) “I need to pray for these items left here by my sisters.”
“But they gave them to me,” He countered.
Not wanting to argue with The Great I Am, I peered past his shoulder to take a look-see at all of the little white flags. The metallic paint that marked each struggle was so aglow in the light of Christ that I couldn’t make out the words.
“Yes, but you see,” I explained. “I told myself I would pray over each one.”
“Yes, but you also told them that they could trust these things to me.”
As I peer over the shoulder of the Living God again (I can be really stubborn sometimes) I can see that each little white flag has been folded and stamped crimson with an old-fashioned molten wax-type seal. Upon closer inspection, I could see that the insignia was the stamp of a Cross. And the crimson wax? It was the blood of Jesus.
Whatever was written beneath was inconsequential. The same seal covered each one.
All at once, I faded from the dream and experienced a kind of had an epiphany. When I was fully awake, I logged on the very modern research tool of the interwebs to find out more about the ancient art of seals:
A seal, in biblical times as today, is used to guarantee security or indicate ownership. Ancient seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personalized imprint of their guarantor.
“….Third, the seal of the Holy Spirit helps protect against tampering or attack. Romans 8:13 declares, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (www.BibleStudyTools.com)
Jesus wasn’t upset with me that I wanted to have visitation with my struggles and those of my sisters, but He DID want me to make good on my promise to surrender them to HIM and leave them there.
And that INCLUDED my own items of surrender.
No need to revisit them anymore. It’s sealed by the blood. You cannot even tell what it used to be. Even the little white flags of surrendering my children and their lives. (Nobody knows them like their Heavenly Father.)
Each little white flag erected by the wonderful women who so bravely surrendered it? Precious to Him beyond all imagining.
Leave it there at the altar. He has sealed it with his blood.
Signed, sealed, surrendered. Personally imprinted by their Guarantor.
LIVE CAREFREE IN GOD – HE IS MOST CAREFUL WITH YOU.
As I approach the 15th anniversary of my continuous sobriety from alcohol, new opportunities are rising up. To tell you the truth, I’m a little scared and intimidated. And excited. Of course, I’m excited too.
God is always working on the good for those who call Him savior. He’s always brewing up, stirring up, putting things in motion.
The whole analogy as a New Year being like a re-birth is so cliche I hesitate to use it. But Abba gave me a little vision earlier this week, so as cliche as the Baby New Year thing is, I think it applies. Maybe it will encourage you to keep pushing toward what our Father is calling you into in 2016.
Hurricane Andrew made landfall on the Floridian coast the exact hour I gave birth to my Firstborn. I know this because while I was laboring to bring her into the world with no drugs whatsoever, my “focal point” was a tiny television set propped on a TV stand high on the hospital wall (this was way before flat-screen sets.)
Everyone was watching the news on August 24, 1992. Andrew came ashore as a Category 5 hurricane when it struck Dade County, Florida. We lived far from the danger in North Carolina, but the country was riveted to the powerful landfall.
I’d been ushered into the delivery room in a big rush and the nurses who had prepped the room had been watching the news had not had time enough to even turn the volume down.
My baby was coming, and she was coming fast.
Here’s what I remember, in a flurry of surreal-ness…an audio-soup of words from the doctor, encouragement from my husband, instructions from nurses, the voice of The Weather Guy, and – most importantly – what I would come to recognize as that intuition of Mother Instinct:
OhmyGod, there is NO WAY this being is going to exit my body in the manner expected, THISISIMPOSSIBLE, I cannot believe this is how babies are born and we haven’t gone extinct as a species! **Screaming, blinding, severing pain**
You’re further along than we thought! Eight centimeters already! Almost there!
FOCUS ON THE TV. In childbirth class, they told us to KEEP A FOCAL POINT. Pant, pant, pant.
…”Ladies and Gentleman, here we see the eye wall nearly making landfall. Take precautions. This is a dangerous storm…”
You can DO this! Breathe!
I can’t I can’t I CAN’T! You don’t understand I CANNOT.
You CAN! You ARE!
I cannot blink, transfixed on my Focal Point. The Weatherman cuts to live feed of Homestead, but the storm is at such a chaotic frenzy, I cannot tell what I’m looking at. The driving winds and rain make everything blurry.
Not long now!
Focal point, PANT, PANT, PUSH. Focal point, PANT, PANT. PUSHHHHH.
…”It’s official. The storm has made landfall. Here we see the eye intensifying as the storm….”
Here she comes!
Searing excruciating pain, pressure.
Good job, Mama!
…“We urge you to stay indoors, many buildings have lost their roofing…”
JESUS, HELP ME!
One more push! She is coming!
AUUGGHHHHRRRRRR! **I give it EVERYTHING!**
A RUSH. In the physical realm, in the spiritual realm! She was immediately the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I remember being amazed that a human being just exited my BODY.
THERE SHE IS. MY DAUGHTER!
Then silence. She didn’t cry, she didn’t move. In that moment, I summoned what would become MANY a “mom prayer.” It was simply, please Jesus…please. My Spirit made utterances that my mind couldn’t comprehend, and where there were gaps in-between, Holy Spirit intervened.
There is nearly no sound in the room. The Weather Man is silent. I only hear the wind and rain from the television set.
And then her tiny cry. Music to my ears! And her wriggling little body placed on my belly. Angels are present in the room now, I swear to you. I feel their presence welcoming my daughter.
It was as if God whispered in my ear, “You can take your eyes off the storm now. LOOK! Look at her. Nothing else matters!”
My Focal Point has changed entirely, and for life.
The entire labor was three hours long, start to finish. It seemed MUCH longer, I can assure you. And there were some complications for my daughter and I. I nearly stroked out during the birth, the toxemia was not immediately relieved upon delivery as expected. She was three weeks early and had to have a little extra attention from the pediatricians.
Life is always more complicated than you hope.
But, ya’ll. The new life that came into the world as a result of the pain and pushing and impossibility…
Pain. WHAT pain? Have you seen my baby? She is a MIRACLE!
I wanted to tell everyone, “Hey, I know you THINK you know what love is, but let me tell you…..to have a baby is to REALLY know.”
Bringing it back around to the current day – 2015 has kind of a gestation year for me. I’ve kind of had my eye on the storm. It didn’t start – nor is it exiting – in quite the way I expected.
But the impossible is going to come into being. I’m claiming it. Because God is always working on the good for those who call Him savior. He’s always brewing up, stirring up, putting things in motion.
We are living in crazy, radical, extreme times. The storm is intensifying…can you feel it? Spiritually, our world is spinning in what amounts to far beyond a Category 5 storm.
Take precautions. This is a dangerous world. Yet, even in the chaotic frenzy, God is unchanged. People need to know that He is a worthy Focal Point.
Jesus is coming back, and He’s coming back fast.
My prayer for the new year is “HOLY SPIRIT, MAKE LANDFALL!”
Yep, I’m a little scared and intimidated by new opportunities. Things like public speaking and possibly giving my testimony to a national TV audience. Out of my comfort zone, just a tad. I’m giving it EVERYTHING.
I want to say to the world, “Hey, I know you think you know what love is, but to be redeemed in Christ is to REALLY know. Your Creator LOVES YOU just exactly where you are, even in the eye of the storm.”
Please pray with me that God’s voice will rise above the audio-soup of chaos in 2016, and that the hurting ones will receive it.
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ and he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” – Mark 4:35-41
Yesterday as a super weird day. Ever feel ‘off’? Ever feel ‘unhinged?’ That was me yesterday, all day.
I woke up upset about the state of the world – the terrorist attacks in Paris, more specifically. Then I got more and more upset about how improperly people were responding to it.
People I love dearly, suggesting we all basically sit in a giant circle around the globe and sing Kumbaya until mean people stop being mean. Honestly, that makes no sense to me. You’d think you would catch on to the ineffectiveness of that plan already. It’s not working.
Then I wrote about it on this blog, and poised my finger over the ‘publish’ button on WordPress. It was a stellar piece, really. Full of common sense and righteous indignation, and I really wanted to post it. I wanted to post it and share it so that I could stick some facts and impassioned logic in the faces of people who are just NOT getting it. People who make me wonder where the world would be if we applied tolerance liberally to the Nazi regime. (Spoiler alert: The gentiles among us would all be speaking German and the Jews would all have been murdered years ago….)
I am related to some very dove-ish people, they are hopelessly and unrealistically optimistic. I love them dearly, even in their perceived wrongness.
Finger poised over the ‘publish’ key, I decided to shut down the computer. I was simply too sad to even post it.
Now, although I reserve the right to publish it later (and probably WILL at some point) God had other plans for my spirit yesterday, plans put into motion by My Beloved. That man is a saint in sinner’s clothing, I’m absolutely convinced of it.
“Lets take a ride,” he suggests. Understand that I am alternately glowering and crying, slamming things around. I don’t feel like a ride. I feel like crying, and can you not plainly SEE this? But I know the plans he (my husband) has for me, and they are entirely good, always. So I ride along.
While we are driving down to Southport, a quaint little harbor town nearly an hour away, I am on my phone texting madly with my adult daughters. They are not upset enough at the right people my liking about the whole Paris thing, and I am going to MAKE THEM SEE the light. I am also having an internal conversation with God, who keeps insisting that maybe it’s time to trust Him with my daughters (and, um….everything else.)
But when a woman is high on anxiety and low on estrogen, there is no reasoning with her. In a group text, I reminded my kids about 9/11 and how dangerous it can be to try to reason with terrorists, worse even then reasoning with their hormone-depleted mother. They took offense, naturally, but I could not stop. I was going to make my point, dammit, for their own good.
It went abysmally, the whole exchange. They reminded me that they are adults and have their own opinions. I sometimes forget that.
MEANWHILE, as I’m furiously texting 90 words per minute, I am SOBBING. Absolutely just losing it. My poor husband.
Why is everything so SAD? Why don’t my kids GET IT? By the time we got to Southport, I’ve blown through an entire box of Puffs Plus. Little balls of snotty tissue littered the lovely leather interior of the car.
My Beloved pulls the car over at a little ice cream stand and insists I eat some ice cream. I look like a frog from crying hysterically and you think I want ICE CREAM?
Okay, I do want ice cream. So we sit out on the patio and I eat Mint Chocolate chip whilst crying. The kid at the counter looked so confused. I fought the urge to remind him to call his mother and be nice to her.
After the treat, My Beloved drove down to the water, and when we got out of the car, this happened:
It took my breath away, the calmness. I didn’t welcome it at first. I still wanted to hold on to my hysteria because the world is upside down (as if that HELPS turn it right side up?)
But then I just rested my eyes on the whole scene in front of me. You would never know that the world is on fire, if you were sitting at this little spot by the sea. And then came peace.
You have to LOOK for the calmness, it won’t come to you first.
The truth is that while I am very upset about terrorism, I am also upset about everything else changing in my world. From job loss to depression to major surgery to empty nest syndrome to becoming a grandparent….things are weird and different and I’m scared of all the change.
It’s chaos, if I’m looking around me.
Today I told God that I was SO over this planet and everyone on it. And what is the DEAL with humanity being so freaking hateful and disregarding human life and Lord God, do you even SEE what is going on here!?
“Teacher, do you not CARE that we are perishing!?”
And then this happened. In the midst of being so OVER everything, because that’s where He shows up. Smack dab in the middle.
And this happened too.
And then I say, “Okay, God. Now you’re just showing off.” But I’m not crying anymore.
My Heavenly Papa spoke to me.
“Hey you,” He said. “Get over yourself and look at this! Isn’t it incredible? I’m here, never left. Stop flailing about in worried hysteria. I’m still Me. This is to remind you where your eyes belong.”
I just love Him so much.
The world was still crazy when we drove back home. Real messed up. I tried not to watch the news at all. I was still hormonal and unhinged, but a little less weepy. I texted my children to ask them to please forgive my harsh tone and my expectation that they think like me. It’s unrealistic. If you’ve never asked your children to forgive you after a blow-up, it’s very humbling.
And they texted back that they love their mom and forgive her, just as they always do when I mess up. Just like I always do for them when they mess up. We try really hard not to let the sun set on our anger, no matter what. And this day, the sunset was absolutely spectacular (literally and figuratively.)
“Peace!” Jesus says. “Be still!'”
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Here’s a little insight: You cannot control a SINGLE act or reaction that another person exhibits. Not even a little bit. Don’t say I never taught you anything here at The Beggar’s Bakery.
But you can refocus your eyes. Even when it feels like God is sleeping.
Although pretty sunsets and ice cream don’t ‘fix’ what’s wrong, they can be a catalyst to changing your thinking, even for a while.
You have the right to look for calm in the midst of a crazy chaotic world. You have the right to use up a whole box of tissues in one sobbing sitting if you need to, but God gives us the privilege of refocusing on Him.
Very recently, I came across the prayer journal that I kept before I got sober on January 3, 2001. That is my D.O.S. (date of sobriety) which has become far more meaningful to me than my birthday or any other anniversary.
In this particular journal, the entries began about a month before my D.O.S. (the date in which my sobriety ‘stuck’) and continues only through about six months into recovery. There are about ten entries, total. It would not seem to be a very in-depth journaling exercise if, say, I were being graded on it. But I wasn’t being graded on it, of course. The number one key to keeping a journal, in my humble opinion, is remembering that nobody is going to grade you on it. It is for the benefit of you own tender spirit, and no one else.
I sat down with a cup of coffee to read my old, cringe-worthy journal just the other day.
On an entry dated December 11, 2000 – about three weeks before I came to the end of myself in my addiction – I am hopeful at the top of the page:
Reflections/notes: “I am saving this space to write in tonight when I am tempted to drink.”
And then scrawled in the center of the page many hours later …
Even today, nearly 15 years later, I can feel the collapse of my heart as if it just happened. Oh how vividly I remember that sensation of disappointment. I hope I always remember it, it helps keep me sober today.
In between those two writings, a full-on war was going on inside of me. Picking up a drink was, for me, setting down a portion of my faith that God was in control and could handle my problems. Drinking was my way of sitting out the game. Not only did I relinquish my part in saving my own ass, but I was shaking my fist at God for not helping me save it. By continuing to pick up, I was in essence tying the hands of God. He is a gentleman, you see, and will coerce by force. There must be surrender.
I don’t know why it took so long for my sobriety to become ‘sticky,’ I only know that it took what it took. And I know that I had to do the work to put my disease in its place. Meetings. Prayers. Surrender every minute of the day. Strategy. Every war requires expert strategists or it is doomed to fail.
Part of the strategy in very early sobriety was to give myself only two choices. Any more than two were completely overwhelming.
Today will be challenging in the same old ways. It will also be challenging in some brand-new ways. You have a choice. You can …
A) Drink/use anyway.
B) Have faith anyway.
The latter is so much more difficult than the former. But choosing the second option saved my life.
“Having faith anyway” looks messy! It means believing that which seems completely impossible. It means accepting THIS, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one SECOND at a time, if need be.
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (MSG)
It’s interesting to read the journal entries that followed. They were desperate. Here is the entry from five days sober:
“I cannot drink today, not today. Maybe not ever again. Nobody knows the extent of my disease. My hands are trembling, holding this pen. I feel toxic, inside and out. The alcohol is bad for my body but worse for my soul. It’s like acid and sweet nectar of oblivion, all in one. I cannot serve two gods anymore. I can feel the hand of Jesus reaching to me, I know He is with me, even now. I used to boast that Jesus was my crutch. I used to be embittered by all that happens in life, and talked to him every day. Over the years, the wine instead became my crutch….just a ‘little something’ to relax me, and then a few more, and then I don’t even remember, until an empty bottle or box. And so here I am on this cool January morning, trembling and calling out the demon. I want God back at the helm, and it’s not because I ‘deserve’ it, but because of this amazing, impossible-to-comprehend gift of Grace. I don’t want to feel the constant shame, the uneasy and bewildering guilt anymore. I’m ready to change, with His help.”
Lots of other notes in the journal follow.
“Okay, God….what is the DEAL with my LIFE?”
“Help me, God, I cannot do this!”
But I COULD choose option B…Have faith that if I surrender to the will of God, I will survive it – and thrive, even.
And so I chose Recovery Option B, no matter what.
Is everything falling apart and you can see no possible resolution? Choose faith anyway. He’s Got this, if you only surrender your will to His.
Are you hurting – mind, body, and soul?
Choose faith anyway. NOTHING has ever been healed by drinking / using the toxins.
Angry, bitter, fed-up?
Don’t pick up and HAVE FAITH ANYWAY. Have faith that your D.O.S. – that glorious, meaningful GIFT of a date – is yours to keep, but you’ve got to work to keep it.
And surround yourself in a healthy recovery community. Journal, if it helps, and remember nobody is grading you! Don’t sit out the game of your own life. Don’t tie the hands of God. He has SUCH good plans for you. He knows you far better than you know yourself. And He is madly in love with YOU. When you get tired, ask for His Spirit to help you along. It’s a messy thing, recovery. But oh how your tender spirit will rejoice on the journey, one single day at a time.
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
“There are some secrets I will take to my grave.”
Have you ever said the statement above? I have. It is a sentiment that keeps sickness active and recovery stunted. Step Four helped us form an inventory and delve into the wrongs done to us and done by us to others. What to do with the indiscretions laid bare by the hardscrabble work of the fourth step?
Step Five is clear about taking action.
Words have power. What you speak from your mouth can change the trajectory of your healthy recovery, even change the world around you. Speak light and life over people, and their lives change. Speak darkness and it attracts darkness. Let’s not confuse admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another human being as speaking darkness. To the contrary, as our searching and fearless moral inventories, they can be cleanly dealt with. It’s hard to see in the dark. But whatever the light touches is seen. And can be grasped to be fully put behind you.
Some items on our inventories might be harder to admit than others. Some may seem impossible to own before God, much less a sponsor or accountability partner. But our wrongs – our sins – stay powerful unless confessed to those we trust. Confessing them deflates them so that we can step over them and move forward.
The exact nature of our wrongs, taking responsibility for those things so shameful we vowed never to admit them on this side of the dirt. You really are only as sick as your secrets.
The problem with taking secrets to your grave is that it requires you to lead a grave-tender’s life to some degree. It forces you to spend your lifetime keeping something destructive underground, making sure it stays covered up. Part of you is always tending to that, protecting it. Digging it back up to make sure it is still there so that you can flog yourself with it’s shame, reburying it twice as deep. It’s a lot of work to keep secrets.
“You don’t know what I’ve done,” you might be saying.
And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that – in order to live victoriously in recovery – you must not keep it to yourself. All the things you’ve done in active disease and otherwise are covered under the blood of Christ Jesus if you accept Him and His love.
You see, God already knows what you’ve done, and is crazy in love with you anyway. If you are in a 12 Step program, you already know people who are equipped to help you admit the exact nature of your wrongs.
“I’ve done bad things” doesn’t cut it when working Step Five. Share your heart with someone who is trustworthy and then burn or bury your past indiscretions in the place of the secrets that have required you to tend to your grave as you are in the living.
So that you can say “Grave? What grave?”
So that you can get on with this big, juicy life you’ve been given and ask “What’s next, Papa?”
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” – Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)
We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Biblical Comparison: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40
If Step Four had a tagline in the current vernacular, it would be: “Shit Just Got Real.” Apologies for the profanity, but really….there is no other way to say it to get my point across.
No longer are we just admitting that there are issues, but we are exploring what led to our active disease in a “searching” and “fearless” (and MORAL!) way.
This one takes time, deliberate work, and a “letting it all hang out” with your sponsor or someone you trust in the program who you can be real with.
Left to my own devices, my Step Four work might be a light inventory such as one might engage in when counting boxes of cereal at the grocery store. But no, that will never do for a true Step Four experience.
Step Four calls for searching my heart and asking my spirit the really hard questions.
It requires fearlessly moving forward in taking that inventory, no matter what that looks like.
And not being intimidated by taking such moral inventory of ourselves.
There is nothing to lose but the secrets that keep us sick, after all.
Here are 7 practical tips to working on Step Four:
1) Write your Fourth Step Inventory. There are many ways to go about this. You can use columns or spreadsheets (If you are really savvy,) but I use the journaling approach, and I do so old-school with a pen and paper. When I free-style write, it flows more easily. There are no hard-and-fast-rules to tracking Step Four progress. The idea is to write a record of who has wronged you, and whom you have wronged, and to make amends to those people you have harmed, except when doing so is destructive to you or others.
2) The Big Book in AA instructs participants to inventory three “common manifestations” of self-will that often precede inventory items: Resentments, fears, and harm done to others. Working within the parameters of these categories has helped me many times. Sometimes there is an over-lap, and that’s okay too. Life is a messy endeavor, and recovery is certainly a fertile ground for that messy factor.
3) Don’t forget to list yourself as part of your inventory. You need addressing and forgiving, too. Are you your own worst enemy? Yeah, me too. Include the self-destructive habits you engage or engaged in, and explore deep enough to expose the root cause for that behavior. Self-harm is a slippery serpent, and you must chop it off at the head. Sometimes the same harm that you inflict on others, you regularly inflict on yourself and without realizing it.
4) Pray throughout the process. Talk to the Almighty like He is your best friend. Because He is.Ask God to reveal people to your heart whom you need to make amends with. Sometimes, the Father reminds us gently, and other times people who sincerely traumatized us are brought to mind. In those times, remember that the past has no power over you when you are working the fourth step. The idea is not to dredge up pain, but to bring it to the surface enough to be dealt with.
5) Remember to list all others who have hurt you – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Do not confuse this with taking THEIR inventory. Remember, you can only handle taking your own.
6) Remember to list all those whom you have hurt – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Ask them for forgiveness if you can. Write a letter, if need be. You are responsible for your efforts to make amends. The OTHER person is responsible for how they respond to you. You cannot control another person’s reaction.
7) Think of your Step Four work as attending the birth of a new baby, and not a funeral. The old ways (the ones that never worked for you anyway) are being addressed so that NEW ways can be instated. And with new ways comes new life. YOUR new life.
You are probably realizing by now that Step Four is not a “quickie” step. At all. Seek through prayer and meditation the most honest inventory you can take. And then camp out there for a while. Step Four cannot be rushed.
Examine your ways honestly and return to the Lord. He is waiting for you with open arms!
We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Biblical Comparison: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1
Standing at the counter of the DMV among the throng of other vehicle owners at the License Plate Tag Office, I was feeling more than a little stressed out. I’d formed an emotional attachment to the car whose tags I would be turning in today. In turning in the license plates, I was essentially saying, “She’d been a good little car, I’ve had lots of good memories with her. But she isn’t safe anymore. The car was no longer getting the job of getting me where I need to be reliably anymore. It was time to turn in the tags.
How do you know it’s time to turn in your way of living? Is your life unmanageable? Turning can be hard, but a life driven by peace and love under the care of God is so much better than one driven by our own devices.
Step Three assures us that God is worthy to turn to. In much the same way you would turn license plates in to the DMV after a car has stopped working for you, you can turn your life and will over to the care of a loving and redeeming God if it isn’t working.
We often form emotional attachments to things, making “letting go” difficult.
“Well, my situation may suck, but at least it’s familiar to me.”
“How do I know sobriety will ‘stick’ this time? I’ve turned my will over to God Before, and I am using again. (Answer: Put that thing down and don’t pick it up again no matter what happens…and trust Him to help you!)
Turning away from the hurts, habits, and hangups that have put you in this despondent place? Well, they just aren’t worth going back to look for and picking back up.
God is a gentleman. He will allow you to choose what you hang on to, and what you lose. He will not keep you from turning back around and resurrecting the addiction or pain you are trying to overcome. It’s your choice to turn your life over to His care.
If you desire a lifetime driven by peace and love, make the conscious decision to turn your will and life over to the care of God is yours and yours alone. Turn in those tags! The vehicle isn’t keeping you safe; in fact, it is causing you harm.
And don’t look back, my friend.
Musicians The Byrds had a great song, pulled from the book of Ecclesiastics about this very thing:
To Everything Turn Turn Turn
To everything – turn, turn, turn There is a season – turn, turn, turn And a time for every purpose under Heaven.
A time to build up, a time to break down A time to dance, a time to mourn A time to cast away stones A time to gather stones together.
A time to turn.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you know the innermost parts of our spirits, and you long for us to be free of our hurts, habits, and hangups. We cannot do this alone. We ask humbly for your help to take our character defects, and give us beauty for ashes for each one of our issues. Thank you for always being accessible. We love you. We trust you.
We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Biblical comparison: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13
There is a God out there. And I am not Him.
Seems a reasonable enough, right? I’m pretty sure YOU know that I am not God, that I didn’t mastermind the universe and place the heavenly bodies in orbit.
But at one point in my life as an active alcoholic – on some really deeply corroded level – I behaved as if I were perhaps God.
No, I didn’t create the universe, but I believed I was able to control my consumption from a liquid in a bottle.
Yet, over and over again, I made hollow promises to myself that tomorrow I would not drink. Period. After a period of thousands of ‘tomorrows’ and repeating the same behavior, I began to question my sanity. Isn’t the definition of ‘insanity’ doing the same thing the very same way over and over, expecting a different result?”
Time, Higher Power, and that pesky Sanity
Step Two is an action step, in that it takes movement and time on your part.
It doesn’t say “We believe that a power grater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
It states “We came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Another way of saying “I came to believe” is that I have faith. How do you ‘get’ faith? We have long heard that you either have faith or you don’t, that you can exercise your ‘faith muscle’, and even that faith is ‘blind.’ I believe none of those things, actually. Because each and every one of those misconceptions places the glory of your faith squarely on you. Faith is not earned, it is a gift that our Father wants us all to know we have. Ask God to help you trust in the faith he has already planted in you – trusting Him to do what you cannot do for yourself – and your faith will grow.
He is a good father. If you ask for bread, He will not give you a stone.
“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” – Luke 11:11 (MSG)
In Luke 17, the apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.” But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy-seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.”
Wouldn’t you like to tell your addiction to go jump in a lake?
Understanding that and really embracing it is a process. It’s a faith thing, not a ‘knowing’ thing, so I cannot open a text book and show you it’s true. It takes time to allow what you are wrapping around your mind to melt down into your heart and get gooey love into the deepest crevices of your spirit and what you believe.
What is the catalyst for making that happen in Step Two? Higher Power, of course. My Highest Power (and personal friend, and counselor, and Creator who masterminded the universe and placed the Heavenly bodies in orbit…yeah, that one) is Jesus Christ. I know that in many 12 Step programs, many different applications of a Higher Power are utilized – and in some, none is recognized at all. All I can tell you is what works for me, and Jesus is the ONLY way I’ve maintained sobriety for over fourteen years now (still, one day at a time.)
He is as real as can be – even more so than you or I. Ask Him for help every single day, and he will never forsake you. He loves the brokenhearted, the addicted, the desperate. And He is a Restoration Specialist, especially when it comes to Sanity. We are all a little crazy, right? I think that’s fair to say.
The sanity referred to in Step Two is not addressing our quirks and individual weirdness. It is speaking to rebuke the insane behaviors that we engage in as active alcoholics and addicts.
The insanity that spurs you to place your drug of choice above your children and family.
The insanity that manifests when you tell yourself, “never again” (and really MEAN it each time,) only to drink and use the next chance you get.
The insanity that keeps you down, telling you that you will NEVER be well. You will NEVER get clean.
The insanity that makes you a person that you detest, who does things you know are wrong and destructive.
There is a better way, and Step Two puts it at your fingertips. Take off the God Pants (they are an awful fit, anyway) and ask your Higher Power to restore you to sanity, to really living. Ask Him to take that poppy-seed sized grain of faith you have and activate it so that it can expand and you can apply it to your recovery. He is the Restoration Specialist, and He loves you more than you can ever understand.
Prayer: Father God, fill us with Holy Spirit in all the spaces chemicals used to reside. Don’t let our faith lie dormant, but help us understand the power we carry that makes all things – sobriety among them – possible through you! We’ve done it our way….Jesus, do it your way now, and help us to trust you through every step. – Amen
We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. – Celebrate Recovery
Biblical comparison: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18
I don’t know if you are supposed to play favorites with the Steps, but I am rather fond of Steps One and Twelve – One because it gives you the opportunity to admit “defeat” over a substance or habit, and Twelve because – having become victorious over an issue or addiction in Steps 2-11 – you actively become the person paying your new life forward by giving yourself to others. From “It’s all about me and what I cannot handle” to “It’s all about you and I think I can help!”
In some of my 12th Step work, I have been given opportunities to help others get involved in the programs, and nothing brings me joy quite like seeing someone pick up their “Surrender Chip” at a meeting. Each of the plastic chips designates a different amount of “clean time,” and the “Surrender” chip is the very first one taken as an act of letting go and letting God. I can feel the energy coming off of my friend, the Newcomer, who is here for the first time tonight. Although I’ve seen it 100 times, the it’s all new to her. She is waging a war in her own mind about accepting the “Surrender” chip.
I cannot do this. There are so many people here. What if someone knows me? There is no going back once I stand up.
But I must do it. My way isn’t working. How many times have I tried to get sober on my own? I need to find another way.
If I surrender, I am giving it up. There will be a hole left where my drug of choice took up space…..a lot of space.
But these people seem to know another way. Some of them are even laughing and joking!
It’s all I know, drinking.
But it’s crushing my relationships and killing me from the inside out.
Every day I say NO MORE! But every day I find myself right back in the center of drunkenness and drama.
I think I need to surrender.
Yeah, I know I need to surrender.
And with legs shaking and heart palpitating, she rises from her chair and excuses herself as she walks past the people in her row. They are clapping and cheering, like surrendering her addiction was a GOOD thing.
A gentleman holds out the blue chip to her, and embraces her as she takes it. She didn’t realize that she was crying, but she was – tears streaming down her face. When she turns to walk back to her seat, all attendees are on their feet, applauding. They know how hard it is to surrender an addiction. They, too, are powerless over their addictions and compulsive behaviors, and as their lives became unmanageable, they had mustered the courage to walk up and pick up a “Surrender” chip.
Many folks get caught up on the powerlessness angle of the First Step. How DARE anyone refer to me as powerless? We live in an age in which we are all expected to be super heroes in our lives, figure it all out, and certainly be the conquerors of our own worlds. Being powerful is highly esteemed by society (although society holds equal disdain for the powerful among us, too) because being “in control” is where it’s at, right?
Wrong. The only way for an addict or alcoholic to regain control of his or her life is to surrender. My Highest Power is Jesus Christ. When I surrendered my will to him in regards to getting sober fourteen years ago, it was not an occasion taken lightly. I was giving him my very own will, since my will was only serving to make me sicker and sicker. I tried many times to do it “my way,” with abysmal results. Like Paul wrote in the book of Romans in the Bible, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”
Ever tried really hard to do something you knew would result in destruction? I’ve tried thousands of times. Why can I not carry it out?
Because complete Surrender must precede the abstinence from alcohol, the drug. Not partaking in drugs and alcohol is a nifty concept, but it just doesn’t work. Unless you want to live the rest of your life as a “Dry Drunk,” it’s essential. Surrender to God has to stay strategy #1, or my life becomes unmanageable all over again.
Admitting “defeat” over the drugs and drink is the most powerful thing you can do.
And in the not-to-distant future, you will be paying your life and gratitude forward by helping a shaky-legged, tearful Newcomer take that First Step
Everyone (even pop culture) seems to know that “admitting you have a problem” is the First Step proper. But does that admittance look like? And what about after Step One? And what does “Step Work” look like in practical living?
This series has been on my mind and in my heart for quite some time, because I know how confusing step work can be. The following blog entries will explore the traditional life-changing and oft-intimidating 12 Steps through observations made along the way. Each day will invite you to ponder a different step. It is only sharing my own experience, strength and hope, nothing more. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the rooms. If the 12 Steps can help me, they can help anyone. I promise.
“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
The first time I darkened the door of an AA meeting, I was a 20 year-old. I wanted recovery, but I wanted it yesterday, and my understanding of the program reflected my impatience. These are actual thoughts I experienced when I first walked into my first 12 Step meeting:
“Well, Step One…..check! I admitted I have a problem, so that one is done. On to Step Two.”
“And I believe that a Power Greater than Myself can restore me to sanity, on account of I’m clearly not in charge here. So, worked that step already. Next!”
“Turning my will and life over to the care of God? Okay, I’m down with that. ‘God, I turn my will over.’ This isn’t so hard…..”
“Step Four: Making a fearless and moral inventory of myself……yikes.”
And with this one, I was stuck. Trust me when I tell you that Step Four cannot be done in one afternoon, even if you have the whole day off. Truly. You can take an inventory haphazardly, but not a searching and fearless one. This is where the rubber meets the road, right here on Step Four. (And sadly, yes … I actually believed that I had ‘worked’ Steps 1-3 in the course of a one-hour meeting. Ta daaaaa! Of course I only believed that because of, um….denial reasons.)
It would be many years before I would get serious enough about working the 12-Steps to truly explore what they look like in ‘real time,’ how they play out as workable ways to live life on life’s terms. Now, in my fourteenth year of continuous sobriety, I am just starting to get it. Here are some of the stones that I picked up on my ongoing walks with God. With them, I am building a future; and a good future at that!
Musing on 12 Step programs:
You will work the steps more than once. If you had a flow chart that depicted each of your issues and where you are Step-wise on each, well, there wouldn’t be enough ink or paper on the planet to print it out. Seriously, there wouldn’t. It is an overused analogy, but recovery really is peeling an onion. One layer gets addressed and another is exposed. I’ve employed the steps in a number of situations in my life and will continue to do so, and personally, I think they are applicable for anyone – addict or not – to apply. Unless your life is perfect, in which case you can go ahead and stop reading now, because you will not be able to relate to me at all.
Our addictions may look differently, but the root causes that trigger them are almost always similar. Alcohol was my drug of choice, heroin might be yours. I really don’t care because it matters little what you drink, smoke, or shoot, because I would venture to bet that the core issues that drove you to do so are pretty identical to mine. The answer is the same for all of these problems, as well. Without my Highest Power Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t have survived my addiction to tell the tale. One of the things I love most about the Celebrate Recovery program is that it is for anyone to experience the overcoming of any hurt, habit, or hang-up. In my estimation, if an issue or addiction is coming between me and God, it’s a problem worthy of applying the 12-Steps to. Alcohol, drugs, food, porn, gambling….you can learn a new way to live as an Over-comer with any struggle.
There is no schedule for working the 12 Steps. Oh how I wished for a timetable for the 12-Steps when I first got into recovery! Someone to say, “Okay, you will do A, B, and C, and then you will never want to drink again.” It does not work that way, at all. You will, if you are honest, become ‘stuck’ on a step. This used to frustrate me to no end, until I learned to think of the phenomenon as “marinating” in step work. “Working the steps” alludes to putting in time and energy and waiting for the quittin’ time whistle to blow. Marinating in a step brings to mind a soaking-up, a “take-your-time because it’s gonna be worth the wait” mindset. A good marinade cannot be rushed. For it to become part of the meat, it needs time. But you don’t want to spend your entire life in a bowl of marinade either.
If you can find a Step Study Group, by all means, please explore it! It is not for the faint of heart, it is for the determined to survive. But under guidance from a Step Study Leader and some very fine workshop materials, an in-depth study of each of the steps can be a game changer. No longer floating about in the Program of Your Understanding, but in a group in which everyone has Experience, Strength and Hope, and everyone brings it to the table in order to get well. You will bring ESH to your group that only you can bring. The value of having people delving into the steps one-by-one alongside you cannot be overstated. Find a group in your area and ask if Step Studies are being done. They are a separate animal altogether from the meetings, but incredibly worth your time.
There are no two recoveries alike. They are the snowflakes of the wellness world – each and every one is different. One of the slipperiest slopes out there is to see someone else’s recovery journey and decide they are not doing it right. Trust me when I say that your own side of the street is enough to keep clean. Don’t be passing judgement on someone else’s sidewalk, just stay on yours, keep it clean, and lead by example. I have had people tell me that I’m not really sober because I don’t have a sponsor. I’ve been told a plethora of things by a myriad of people; people who are – just like me – learning to live life on life’s terms. You just do you, and I’m going to do me.
Put one foot in front of the other and ask God to bless your footfalls. And marinate in this new way of living.
Celebrate Recovery 12 Steps and Biblical Comparisons
1) We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18
2) We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13
3) We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1
4) We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40
5) We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
6) We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10
7) We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” – 1 John 1:9
8) We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31
9) We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
10) We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – 1 Corinthians 10:12
11) We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” – Colossians 3:16
12) Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
Last week was an almost magical week for me, having had the opportunity to connect with some family members and friends, with whom I needed connecting. For a few days I was back in my state of origin, geographically. But my spirit was in it’s element…happy. There were times that I felt my heart would burst from the pure enjoyment of living one moment at a time, just as my belt would burst from so much Texas barbecue. My face was sore from smiling. There was healing and forgiveness bestowed and accepted, and the kind of camaraderie that only dear childhood friends can resurrect.
Visiting rivers and singing along to songs in the car to Pandora’s “’80’s Radio Hits.”
Seeing how much my hands are like those of my father, who I’ve only ever seen a handful of times in my 46 years.
Coming to know my half-sister and her family.
Remembering that I do have people.
Happiness is to serenity, as serenity is to joy – the ultimate goal, the place where we are in God’s presence with no distractions. We long for supreme happiness, but have only delicious, fleeting tastes of it.
What made me happy last week – Texas – might be different than what makes me feel happy next week. We are fickle creatures.
I suppose I have kind of an emotional hangover. Today, I’m weepy and sentimental, and have this crazy urgent want to make all things right. But that’s a problem in this world, because setting all things right is not my job. Trying to make it my job leads straight to unhappiness. I know enough to know that.
It makes me think that maybe perfect happiness is too much…just too much to ask for. I can’t wait around for everything to get it’s collective act together before I allow myself a slice of ‘happy.’
Oh, how I love the Serenity Prayer – such a simple thing! Most people know the first refrains of it, but it is the last half of the famous prayer that really speak to my heart.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
– Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
It’s hard to take this world as it is, not as I would have it. Expecting supreme happiness in this life being unreasonable and all.
The state of my origin can also be melancholy, and sometimes I get my wheels stuck in the muck of melancholy. It helps if I just go ahead and feel what I’m feeling already, instead of attempting to stuff, manipulate, or eat my feelings.
Feel the bittersweet. Feel the melancholy. Really let it squish around between my toes like Texas mud. And then step out of it to walk into the courage to change the things that I can. Because I can’t experience the pure joy of living one day at a time any other way than to surrender to His will.
Accept that hardships – those stumbling blocks to happiness (a feeling) – are nothing but paving stones for the pathway of peace.
Grant me reasonable happiness and help me to trust YOU to make all things right.
If I had a self-help book for every time I didn’t feel I was enough, I’d have a library of self-help books.
Wait, I do.
I buy the books (and occasionally even read them) to convince myself that I am enough. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of actualizing self; it’s just that sometimes my ‘self’ is a bullshit artist. I know this because she constantly tells me that I’m not now – nor will I ever be – enough.
Not pretty enough.
Not healthy enough.
Not thin enough.
Not pious and thoughtful enough.
Just not good enough. And although the arguments in favor of all of these things being true are pretty concrete, it isn’t what my Creator says about me.
When you become a Christ-follower and “walk with him,” it doesn’t mean that the people-pleasing, self-flagellating, hurting person inside of you pipes down all the days of your life. I am a new creation in Christ, but the devil is still a liar and I’m still working through some pains.
I continually have to give up my frustrations, but sometimes they roll downhill at a pretty high clip and make me feel bulldozed. God knows I am not trying to minimize his awesome power, but I’m just being honest about how I feel (which all the self-help books say is important, and also my recovery experience has taught me.) Denial ain’t just a river, but it can drown you all the same.
I am so blessed, yes. I long for the day that I can blithely respond to people who ask me “How are you?” that I am “too blessed to be stressed” or “blessed and highly favored!” But then again nevermind. Christians who spout off things like that when it is clear they are hurting have always secretly made me want to throw up. On them.
Because, you see, sometimes I still struggle with feeling enough.
My inner critic is a heartless wench, a dominatrix, really. She combines lording my inadequacies over me with equal parts humiliation.
“Roll up your sleeves, and do! You must do more to be more. … Well, you really fell short there. You did it again. Get it together, already!”
She cracks that whip with enough force to split me in two, and she has.
I really just want to know that I am enough already.
I don’t have to prove my worth or disprove my frailties.
That people will run their mouths about things they know nothing about, and that’s okay. I’ve run my mouth plenty. It’s what people do. (What is that old AA adage? “What you think of me is none of my business.”)
That having spent a lifetime on one pursuit and have the season end, doesn’t mean that I’m spent altogether.
That I cannot control my own flesh and it’s propensities, but I can rest in that flesh instead of fight against it. That bodies wear down against our wills. Somehow I’d like to learn how to keep my will from breaking down with it.
God knows that it’s hard to roll up your sleeve when you wear your heart on it!
And therein lies the answer, I think.
I know in the deepest pools of my spirit that what God believes about me is absolute truth, that everything else is either bullshit or outright lies. Everything else is having my spirit ‘taken behind the woodshed’ and beaten to a bloody pulp. People will try to take you back there, you know…behind the proverbial woodshed. Don’t follow them – or your inner critic – there.
God says I am already enough. He said, “It is finished.” That’s a really good thing, because I’m tired, Lord.
“It is finished already.” That’s what Abba tells my soul. “Stop making idols of people whose opinions of you don’t matter.”
(Why do I DO that? When will I learn? What’s my DEAL? See? Self-flagellation engage.)
Today, I am asking God to do what I cannot seem to do for myself (for the millionth time) – remind me that I am enough, more than a conqueror, in flighty emotions and failing flesh.
I’m praying he will convince me of it – not in some flashy way – but with an installation in my spirit too deep for my inner critic to deny. Because knowing that I am enough will never truly come from any other source – not an entire library of books, not from the opinions of others – only from God.
ONLY from God.
But his is the only opinion that matters. He has no use at all for pious. He needs present. He doesn’t care about ‘thin,’ he just wants to know I’m IN.
It is finished, it is finished, it is finished.
So, pipe down inner-critic, and naysayers, devil and other purveyors of bullshit.