Her Name is Natalie

homeless man

By: Jana Greene

Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to them is an absolute crisis – and the deaths of those who overdose affects every facet of life in every community. It’s absolutely out of control.

I have the pleasure of living in a beautiful beach town, but the displeasure of living in what has become known as the “Opioid Capital” of the nation. My town is Wilmington, North Carolina. Things are bad here – addiction things. Really bad.

Last week, I was en route to a recovery meeting on a regular Monday night, in a less-than-pristine part of town. As I turned onto the venue street, a saw a young woman walking on the sidewalk parallel to the street. From the back she looked like every other 20-something  – she wore palazzo pants and a tank top, and her hair was atop her head in a messy bun. But she looked like a girl who was in a hurry to get nowhere. Her steps were unmeasured and unsteady. She looked only at the ground. As I passed her, I glanced back and saw that she had a look of defeat on her otherwise beautiful face.

As usual, there were a group of folks standing around the entrance to the building, just smoking and talking. As I’d never attended this particular meeting before, I rolled down the window and asked a gentleman if I was at the right place.

“Yes,” he said. But he wasn’t looking at me at all, but at the young woman walking by staring at the sidewalk as she passed.

“Natalie!” He yelled, as I took a parking space. “NATALIE!”

In my rear view mirror, I watched Natalie reluctantly saunter over to the man, whose name I would later learn was Bill. They were speaking right behind my vehicle, and when I got a better look at the girl, I felt a pang in my heart so suddenly that it left me breathless for a moment.

Natalie is a drug addict. She is what society labels a “junkie.” This young lady looked as if she were headed to knock on death’s door. I imagine she gets judged, everywhere she goes, what with the track bruises up and down her arms and hollow, sunken eyes. She is rail thin, and the look on her face is one of 100% proof hopelessness. She’s given up, and just waiting for her body to follow suit.

I watched Bill trying to convince her to come to the meeting. He was trying to convince her to get help. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, which mainly consisted of Bill lovingly encouraging her and reminding her there is a better way, and she mumbling “I know” with her eyes down as she shifted from foot to foot.

When I opened my car door and headed into the meeting, I heard Bill tell her that she is worth it. And I heard Natalie say, “I’m not a bad person; I just have a problem.”

She’s right. she is not a bad person. She is only a sick person.

I have heard offhanded comments about the Narcan – an FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdosethat infer taxpayers should not have to bear the cost to bring “just another junkie” back to life after an overdose. There is NO SUCH THING as “just a junkie.” It troubles me greatly that people could dismiss the value of human life so blithely.

Natalie is somebody’s little girl. Somebody once sang nursery rhymes with her and put oversized bows in her hair (or should have.) She was a tiny girl once, and then she most likely got hurt – maybe so deeply that she can’t bear to feel those haunted emotions. Maybe she grew up loved and safe, and suffered an injury and got hooked on pain meds. Maybe she just experimented with a drug “once,” and it rewired her brain and now she cannot stop. She might be somebody’s mother who should be putting oversized bows in her daughter’s hair right now, but wakes up to repeat the same nightmare day after day as the child grows up basically motherless. It’s a horrible cycle.

It really doesn’t matter how she got here. It matters that she survives it.

A couple of months ago, the opioid epidemic became manifest to me in the loss of a sweet girl who I loved and helped mentor. She grew up with my daughters, came to their sleepovers, went to the beach with us, and brightened all of our lives. She was funny and smart and beautiful, and 25 years old. The last time I heard from her, she had two entire solid years clean! In three month’s time, she would relapse one single time, and not survive to pursue her recovery again. What an absolute waste. She leaves behind a son, a loving family, and too many friends to count. She has left a hole in our community.

I’m writing this now in tribute to that beautiful friend. And for the sake of Natalie and everyone like her whose live has become a spiral of destruction and shame.

This deadly addiction is a spreading plague. It’s happening to the poor and downtrodden.  It’s happening in the pristine parts of town. It’s happening to people from good families. Parents who love their children are dying in front of them.  It’s got to stop. We are losing so many precious lives. What can we do?  I won’t pretend to know how to fix this. Nobody does. The issue is so big and monstrous.

But I do implore you to do two things, even though I know that they are hard:

  1. Try not to assume things about a drug addict. You never know what personal Hell they’ve been through. You never know how utterly impossible getting clean seems to him / her.
  2. Treat addicts and alcoholics who are still active in their disease as if you believe there is hope for them, because there is. So long as they are breathing, there is hope. We don’t treat people battling cancer as if they are already dead; we treat them as if they will come out the other side. Drug addicts need you to love them as if they will get well. Not enable, mind you. Just love. It may be hard to treat people who are making really shitty choices with respect, but the true selves in them are not the junkie selves you see.

Natalie didn’t come to the meeting that evening. She was too addled by where she would get the next fix to listen to Bill. And that’s how this demonic thing works. She is thinking “just one more.” Just one more time, and then I’ll quit. I just have a problem. I will fix it tomorrow. But sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t come for these precious souls.

She’s not a bad person. God bless her broken heart.

How did this epidemic get started? Check out more alarming stats and facts here:  National Institute on Drug Abuse 

There’s no Graduating from Addiction (and why that’s a GOOD thing)

Present tense

By: Jana Greene

I follow a support board on Facebook that consists of women alcoholics and addicts. In a recent post, a member asked this simple question: “Do you think a person can ever say they’ve recovered from their addiction.” Out of 129 responses, there was only three ‘yes’ answers. And there’s a reason for this:

Addiction is a lifelong condition.

“Yeah, but….” you might be thinking. Consider the alcoholic uncle who just gave booze up cold turkey, after declaring that he just woke up one day and lost his taste for it.

Bully for Uncle Herbert. I’ve heard tell of people like this; I’ve just never known one.

For most of us, it takes work – and a lifetime of it. But the alternative is doing the same self-destructive thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s the definition of insanity. At the end of the day, ask yourself: Do I want to jump head first into the recovery life? Or do I want to perpetuate the insanity of active addiction until I end up in a jail or coffin?

Sounds pretty dramatic, right?

In my small city, the heroin epidemic is the worst in the state. Our sons and daughters are dying with needles in their arms. Children are becoming motherless or fatherless. That’s not drama. That’s real life. Raw, serious real life. What the citizenry of my city is experiencing is happening in every state in the nation. Something has to stem the tide.

Thank God there is an alternative!

The recovery life IS life. And when you have very nearly lost the one life you’re given, it’s time to wake up. The next time you need a fix, seek help. Help is out there for the asking!

You don’t have to participate in feeding your disease. I don’t believe we are ever ‘recovered.’ You don’t graduate and get to flip your tassel, but you DO get to experience life and find the harmony in yourself just below the surface you’ve been numbing.

In plain speak, life can be a real b*tch – seek out your recovery tribe and let them love you until you can love yourself.

A healthy, sustainable recovery is possible. Enjoyable, even. Being in lifelong recovery sounds daunting, but not nearly as daunting as the using life. Aren’t you curious to find out who you really are? Active recovery is the way to find out.

Did you know that you have friends you haven’t even met yet in the rooms? You are not alone. You have a safe place to fall.

As of this writing, here is a list of resources to get you on your way. Just click on the blue hyperlinks below.

God bless us, every one.

ALCOHOLISM (Alcoholics Anonymous)

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE ADMINISTRATION

National Alliance on Mental Illness

CELEBRATE RECOVERY

NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS

FRIENDS / FAMILY OF ADDICTS: AL ANON

 

Slay. That. Dragon.

17

By: Jana Greene

I know I’ve milked this 17 years of sobriety thing for an entire week now, and for that I’m sorry. If you are sick of hearing about it, I don’t blame you in the least.. But you are my friends and I want to be 100% transparent with you.
January 3rd is my official DOS (date of sobriety). I was going to pick up my chip on the 1st but it was special order and hadn’t arrived yet, which was fine with me. Because I really – for the first time ever – had zero enthusiasm for collecting that !little token of time earned through sobriety.
I rather resent the past year, which has been the most difficult to avoid relapse, if I’m honest. I made it – but by the skin of my teeth. At one point, I even opened a bottle of brandy I found that my husband had had for years and sat it on my bedside table. I curled up on my bed and cried. Then I opened the bottle. And I smelled the brandy, which smelled like an old friend, or how a grandpa used to smell when you were a kid. I never should have smelled that Brandy. Then I cried some more. I had words with God, and he listened so patiently, and I could feel His Spirit near me and in me, and it aggravated me to no end because without that presence I could pick up that bottle and just let the dragon have his way. I was so exhausted from fighting it and running from it.
See, having an addiction is a lot like having a dragon follow you around everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Your deepest thoughts. Your stress and anxiety. The crapper. EVERYWHERE. He taunts you, sometimes far more aggressively than others, This past year,, he has been practically crawling up my ass. One thing after another after another. In that moment in a fetal position on my bed with a bottle of Dragon Sedative sitting RIGHT THERE, so close – I wished God would bugger off.
But, that sliver of my soul that so values the life I’ve been granted – this beautiful second chance – gave voice above the din of my disgruntled sobbing. My lips said “please.’ Just “please;” that’s all. Over and over and over and over until I wasn’t crying anymore, and the brandy starting stinking, and I could feel my father’s arms around me. I wiped off the snot and tears, took the bottle to the bathroom sink, and poured it’s contents down the drain. I didn’t feel victorious. I felt nothing at all.
Soon after, that damn dragon was on my heels again. But I started trying to self care a little better – including joining my tribe at meetings. As the big anniversary approached, I felt unworthy of going through the ceremonial celebration of Chipdom, whereas I had ALWAYS looked forward to picking it up every other year. I’ll be sober 17 years. Cherrio! (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of “The Crown.”) Yay. Blargh. I don’t deserve it. I’ve been a terrible role model for recovery lately.
But something happened between last week and this week. Clear up until the moment I arrived at the meeting (with one of my daughters, who came for moral support,) I felt that same malaise.
The program is the same each week, as it was tonight: Worship, the reading of the 12 Steps, announcements, and then The Bestowing of the Chips.
Two people went up to pick up surrender chips, and my heart melted for them. I remember picking up that chip and finally admitting I had been drinking myself to death. I kept going – 90 meetings in 90 days – collecting chips with awe and wonder every noteworthy time chips were given.
Hey…..
Today is January 8, 2018. I can remember when I could only make it one day without drinking and having to start over. I remember when a month was an eternity, but a wonderful eternity of self-discovery. The whites of my eyes lost the yellow tinge. I worked on ME. And most importantly, I didn’t drink.
Well guess what? 2017 was a dadgum BITCH. Every thing in our lives changed, and not for the better. I had 6-10 migraines per month. I’ve still not found employment. A million stressful circumstances riled up my dragon like crazy.
But I did not drink. By God’s GRACE.
Tonight – when my friend who was giving out chips asked with a wink if anyone here tonight has 17 years, I felt like the conflab Grinch himself – my heart started expanding.
OH MY GOD. 17 YEARS.
And despite the suckiness of 2017, I DID NOT DRINK.
I became suddenly exhilarated beyond explanation. My daughter stood and applauded as I approached the stage to pick up my chip. I gave my friend a hug and he put the brass chip in my hand.
And I sobbed because the weight of it felt like lead. It felt like all the weight I’d been carrying on my shoulders for a year, but as golden treasure, not the heart-heaviness of  dragon bullying. I became giddy, ya’ll. I’ve never been so happy to pick up a chip in my whole entire recovery life, and I’ve had some doozies of difficult years. The dragon has tried to push me off the wagon many, many times, but today?
God flipped the script. All the ways I felt I’d failed this year felt instead like victories. Yes, I had close scrapes, but God gave me the strength to carry on and hold fast to my precious recovery – the thing that has made all other good things possible. The reason my children are not motherless. The reason I’m not 6 feet under. The reason I get to watch my grandchild grow up.
So ya’ll….I think this chip is my FAVORITE chip. Of. All. TIME. The hardest earned. Ultimately, the most gloriously received.
Oh God, thank you.
Thank you for getting me through, even if my the skin of my teeth. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t relapse.
(And it could not have happened without the boundless grace of God. And WONDERFUL friends. And my tribe – my homegroup. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband.)
And the dragon?
I. SLAYED. THAT. BITCH.
SLAY.
The sword is sharpened with every hardship.
And I’m so grateful.

 

 

Happy New Year! And Happy 17 Truly – and I cannot stress this enough – TRULY Miraculous Continuous Sobriety Years to Me!

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By: Jana Greene

Happy New Year, dear Readers! I hope your 2017 was awesome, but for me it was a virtual cascade of sh*t storm after sh*t storm. So SEE YA, 2017. And welcome 2018. Please Lord Jesus, make it better!

Last night, I picked up my 17 year recovery chip. THIS IS A MIRACLE. I’m not sure anyone outside of the program understands the significance and representation of a simple coin with no value outside of recovery circles. Anyway….

At tonight’s 12 Step Meeting,  I got to say a few words to the crowd – what an honor- and I didn’t sugarcoat a thing. It went a little something like this:

How did i do it? Stay over 17 years?

Even a year ago, I would have said it’s only Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

But this year my answer is different.

God’s grace is always, always available to us, but let’s face it. Most of us are here because our natural default is to numb out. Grace or no grace, obliterating can be our inclination. I don’t care how long you’ve been sober, and that’s the truth.

As a matter of fact, this past year year was the hardest to maintain recovery ever. Shit hit the fan repeatedly and with endless supply. Yes, it is Jesus, Jesus,Jesus that’s kept me hanging on by the skin of my teeth, but I play a part in it too.

I learned I have to supply the willingness to surrender DAILY. Because there ain’t no graduation day for this. That’s my responsibility. I have to keep up with self care. I have to surrender my will. I have to remember what a sick drunk I was and how many people I hurt.

The rigorous honesty truth of the matter is that recently, I’ve gotten lazy about working the steps as I should. Last year kicked my ass, y’all. But I never survived any of it alone.

Holy Ghost is a gentleman in that his teaching is gentle. But he has also given us another way to ensure we are never alone. We have each other. I need you; you need me. We need our tribe, because we all GET it. We get how difficult surrender is.

No one ever woke up after a relapse grateful. But I’m grateful to have this place and so glad to be here.

Those things that kick your butt and make you doubt your recovery will always happen.

But they always pass.

Keep your recovery. It’s your choice to make it priority. Minute by minite if necessarily.

Helping each other keeps us well.

Thank you for letting me share

Moral Failing or Disease? Substance Abuse and the People we Love

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers.

Earlier today, a friend whom I respect very much asked if I believed addiction was really 100% a legitimate disease.

I do.

In much the same way that the medical establishment used to consider homosexuality a mental disorder and have learned otherwise, I think we will come to understand substance abuse a disease, rather than a moral failure. The science is there.

Today, I hope to write about this subject, which can bring up volatile reactions. I hope to open a respectful dialogue between the addicts AND the people who love them.

Before you read on, I encourage you to visit YouTube and watch this little video. It is simple and profound, and might help us all to understand the nature of addiction a little better:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

 

In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I do battle with several other diseases on the daily. Through no ‘fault’ of my own, I suffer chronic pain from one disorder and a plethora of horrible symptoms from others – lots of others.

I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADD/OCD. There’s no point in presenting a picture of myself to you that has been polished up – this is the plain truth.

I’m pretty sure that everyone these days is on board with believing that mental illness is just that – illness.

Disease.

But for many people, addiction is a moral failing;  a matter of “Don’t you know right from wrong?” Calling it a disease seems like a really convenient cop-out. It can be highly offensive to people to people who do battle with recognized physical diseases such as cancer – innocent of being an accessory to their own illness.

I felt as helpless to recover from my alcoholism 16 years ago as I feel now to recover from my painful migraines or treat my connective tissue disorder.

The difference between addiction and cancer or diabetes is that addiction is so brutal on others who love the addict. Often, a trail of destruction is left for others to clean up. The user may actively choose the drug rather than the loved one. And that, my friend, hurts like crazy for those around him.

I believe that is why there is such a knee-jerk reaction to calling substance abuse a ‘disease.’ I used to get bent out of shape when people inferred that my drinking was all ‘choice’ and poor decision making, but now I feel more compassion for them. Many are thrust into the darkness through no fault of their own.

For those of you who are hurting from the behaviors of an addict or alcoholic you love, let me first say that I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry that you are going through what you are. And if I had only my laundry list of physical health issues to deal with, and someone tried to convince me that an alcoholic was suffering from a disease, I’d probably be pretty ticked off, too.

But shaming the addict only makes them feel more hopeless about seeking treatment.

I promise you that your family member did not aspire to be a user before she got addicted. She is undoubtedly ashamed beyond reason.

Before I got sober, of course I knew that my drinking was wrong. My life had clearly become unmanageable. I knew right from wrong and I knew I was hurting people I loved while killing myself. Every morning I would swear not to touch a drop, and every evening, I would get blind drunk. The very definition of insanity.

From the very first drink I ever had, I needed more. There was no segue into addiction for me. Something in my brain that had been genetically present all my life was activated in that moment. I felt like it was what I was born to do. A switch flipped.

How many people do you know who have never tried a drop of alcohol? What if a portion of people who tried a drink came to crave the high compulsively and became convinced that they must indulge just to feel ‘normal?’ With other drugs, the switch can flip even faster and harder.

It was as if I was possessed. My mind felt hijacked. Eventually, I’d convinced myself I’d be a better mother if I had my nightly glass of wine (which, by the way, was NEVER a single glass.) I’m naturally so keyed up and worrisome, I’m doing everyone a big, fat favor by having a drink. You can tell yourself a lot of things and eventually believe them. Before you know it, your life revolves around getting/keeping/using more – it’s an obsession.

We cling on to our ‘best friend’ –  who we thought would numb our hurts and lift our spirits and make us better – and defend it rabidly. At its core, addiction is a spiritual disease that branches out into the mind and body. It’s all intertwined and it’s all very difficult to stop once it has taken root. Without direct intervention from my Higher Power, I am doomed to do things my way, which didn’t work and never will.

If you are the addict or alcoholic in this scenario, let me also say this – I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m so sorry the monster has taken over and you feel helpless to stop it.

Nobody WANTS to get to that point. Most of us don’t realize it too late – we are already caught in the spiral. Do we have the choice to quit and get it together? We do! Do we know HOW to make that happen while in the throes of addiction?

Most of us do not.

In much the same way a diabetic who eats an entire cake in one sitting is giving in to his disease and soothing himself,  we might drink or use for the same reason. It is ultimately up to us to choose to take action and get sober.

So then, are we addicts and alcoholics off the hook because it’s a legitimate medical illness?  We are not.  Addiction is a TREATABLE disease. There are resources to help and vibrant recovery communities in many places. There are proven methods of assistance and reliable support groups to help. You need never feel alone.

We can and DO recover! And when we do, the whole family experiences healing.

If you are concerned about your use, you can start to seek help by talking to your medical doctor.

Because, you know…it’s a disease.

And lastly, this:

The National Center for Addiction and Substance abuse published nifty information on why substance abuse is a legitimate disease. For more information, check it out here:

How Substance Use Changes the Brain

God bless us, EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers.

Earlier today, a friend whom I respect very much asked if I believed addiction was really 100% a legitimate disease.

I do.

In much the same way that the medical establishment used to consider homosexuality a mental disorder and have learned otherwise, I think we will come to understand substance as a disease, rather than a moral failure. The science is there.

Today, I hope to write about this subject, which can bring up volatile reactions. I hope to open a respectful dialogue between the addicts AND the people who love them.

Before you read on, I encourage you to visit YouTube and watch this little video. It is simple and profound, and might help us all to understand the nature of addiction a little better:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

 

In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I do battle with several other diseases on the daily. Through no ‘fault’ of my own, I suffer chronic pain from one disorder and a plethora of horrible symptoms from others – lots of others. Life is not a bed of roses for me, as it is no doubt also NOT for you.

I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADD/OCD. There’s no point in presenting a picture of myself to you that has been polished up – this is the plain truth.

I’m pretty sure that everyone these days is on board with believing that mental illness is just that – illness.

Disease.

But for many people, addiction is a moral failing;  a matter of “Don’t you know right from wrong?” Calling it a disease seems like a really convenient cop-out. It can be highly offensive to people to people who do battle with ‘real’ diseases such as cancer – innocent of being an accessory to their own illness.

The difference between addiction and cancer or diabetes is that addiction is so brutal on others who love the addict. Often, a trail of destruction is left for others to clean up. The user may actively choose the drug rather than the loved one. And that, my friend, hurts like crazy for those around him.

I believe that is why there is such a knee-jerk reaction to calling substance abuse a ‘disease.’ I used to get bent out of shape when people inferred that my drinking was all ‘choice’ and poor decision making, but now I feel more compassion for them. Many are thrust into the darkness through no fault of their own.

For those of you who are hurting from the behaviors of an addict or alcoholic you love, let me first say that I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry that you are going through what you are. And if I had only my laundry list of physical health issues do deal with, and someone tried to convince me that an alcoholic was suffering from a disease, I’d probably be pretty ticked off, too.

But shaming the addict only makes them feel more hopeless about seeking treatment.

I promise you that your family member did not aspire to be a user before she got addicted. She is undoubtedly ashamed beyond reason.

I felt as helpless to get better from my alcoholism as I feel these days to get better from my painful migraines or connective tissue disorder.

Before I got sober, of course I knew that my drinking was wrong. My life had clearly become unmanageable. I knew right from wrong and I knew I was hurting people I loved while killing myself. Every morning I would swear not to touch a drop, and every evening, I would get blind drunk. The very definition of insanity.

From the very first drink I ever had, I needed more. There was no segue into addiction for me. Something in my brain that had been genetically present all my life was activated in that moment. I felt like it was what I was born to do. A switch flipped.

How many people do you know who have never had a drop of alcohol? What if a portion of people who tried a drink came to crave the high compulsively and became convinced that they must indulge just to feel ‘normal?’ With other drugs, the switch can flip even faster and harder.

It was as if I was possessed. My mind felt hijacked. Eventually, I’d convinced myself I’d be a better mother if I had my nightly glass of wine (which, by the way, was NEVER a single glass.) I’m naturally so keyed up and worrisome, I’m doing everyone a big, fat favor by having a drink. You can tell yourself a lot of things and eventually believe them. Before you know it, your life revolves around getting/keeping/using more – it’s an obsession.

We cling on to our ‘best friend’ –  who we thought would numb our hurts and lift our spirits and make us better – and defend it rabidly. At its core, addiction is a spiritual disease that branches out into the mind and body. It’s all intertwined and it’s all very difficult to stop once it has taken root. Without direct intervention from my Higher Power, I am doomed to do things my way, which didn’t work and never will.

If you are the addict or alcoholic in this scenario, let me also say this – I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m so sorry the monster has taken over and you feel helpless to stop it.

Nobody WANTS to get to that point. Most of us don’t realize that too late – we are already caught in the spiral. Do we have the choice to quit and get it together? We do! Do we know HOW to make that happen while in the throes of addiction?

Most of us do not.

In much the same way a diabetic who eats an entire cake in one sitting is giving in to his disease and soothing himself,  we might drink or use for the same reason. It is ultimately up to us to choose to take action and get sober.

So then, are we addicts and alcoholics off the hook because it’s a legitimate medical illness?  We are not.  Addiction is a TREATABLE disease. There are resources to help and vibrant recovery communities in many places. There are proven methods of assistance and reliable support groups to help. You need never alone.

We can and DO recover! And when we do, the whole family experiences healing.

If you are concerned about your use, you can start to seek help by talking to your medical doctor.

Because, you know…it’s a disease.

And lastly, this:

The National Center for Addiction and Substance abuse published nifty information on why substance abuse is a legitimate disease. For more information, check it out here:

How Substance Use Changes the Brain

God bless us, EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Natured Father (Part I)

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Good day, Dear Readers.

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.

Or….

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

What if God’s nature is really only good?

Part II to be published Sunday, June 25th