Ruminations on Healing

The journey towards healing can feel at times like a disjointed rummaging through the cracks of the soul; a seeking out the darker corners in order to let in the warm sunlight of God’s love into all the places of my world.

Healing is sometimes akin to things like beauty, truth and spirituality: ineffable yet quite real and rather than define “it”, it defines us.

In this place, I am able to find meaning in both my scars and my healing, rather than being merely defined by my scars (or my addictions, my pain, my darkness, etc.).

This rag-tag, one foot in the front of the other, one day at a time journey is the journey of a lifetime that occurs in every diminutive detail and every instance.  God is present in all of it, at all times, in a myriad of ways.

Sometimes I can’t even define my “healing journey” or necessarily point to specific events or scars that are evidence of healing.  Sometimes,  the very things I am being healed of have been accrued over a life filled with the paradoxes of poor choices and God’s ever intervening grace, with both being somewhat messy yet always real; undefinable, but still quite real.

In all truth, as I near fifty years of age, a lifetime in and of itself, I am velveteen rabbit-like in my journey.  For you see my eyes are popping off, my fur is being rubbed off, my stuffing pulled from my fragile innards, yet I know I am loved…loved by a generous and gracious God.  Oddly enough, I even know this at this precise moment when I do not ‘feel’ or sense it.

At this juncture I am peeling away the dried mud of anger and resentment that has splattered me after hitting the proverbial fan. I am not in a tender place, or feeling very forgiving, and I most certainly am not sensing God’s presence.

But none of that matters.

God is faithful even when my feelings are not.  God doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether I feel loved or not; God just loves.  Period.

God is my constant companion; God is both the Journey and the final destination of this journey towards healing and recovery.  And whether I feel it or not, like it or not, or even care about it – my life is the hands of a gracious and loving God.  And not that fleshly, feeble, finite love.

No!

No, I’m talking about a love that dangles from a Cross forgiving the murderers who nailed him there; a love that is all consuming, all powerful, all present, all knowing and ever-faithful.  And regardless of what friend or foe says to me or about me, THAT truth –  that Love – is the motive, the power, the hunger, and the very reason I am even able to write this today; to live another day sober, to walk this path back to a place called Home.

Stories: Paradox and Power

The thought of discovering spirituality and a deepening relationship with God in a room full of drunks and drug addicts telling stories about their foibles and failures might seem like a paradoxical oxymoron.  But far from it…

For us alcoholics and addicts in recovery, stories are what save our lives.

Ancient truth and history reveal that stories are one of the very foundations of both cultures and religions; stories are what God uses to reveal the Divine to us most commonly.  And it is such transformative stories that are found in the rooms of recovery.

Jesus told stories – some offensive, some hilarious, all of them insightful – as he taught and lived these very stories as a means of communicating God’s infinite and tender love for us.

Stories in general, and our stories in particular, are what keep people like me clean and sober.  We share what we have done and who we have been in the hopes of opening up our hearts to let the grace of God fill and transform us, so we do not remain those fractured characters of our stories past.   In sharing our stories, in sharing my story, I find I am freed from the bondage of the past and the restraints of the disease named addiction.  When my story is unleashed, I am unchained.

Stories are the vehicle for God’s grace as it comes in tenderness, in messiness, in darkness and shifting shadows…but come it does when I open my heart and share the truth of who I am and what I have been like.  And in stories, in the sharing of my past wreckage and destruction, healing is found and divine light is released into the world, shining so as to light the path for those who walk with me and those who will come after.

Addiction is indeed cunning and baffling for you, me, for the professionals treating it; but not so for God.  One more time: addiction is not cunning and baffling for God; God is not baffled by my dis-ease.  God is the great Mystery that swallows up all the mysteries of the how’s and why’s of addiction.  God is the truth in the lies, the light in the darkness.  Indeed, God is the tenderness to my sharp edges.

That is the grace and power of our stories – stories of addiction and recovery shared become the paradox of our freedom. 

Only in a room full of addicts and alcoholics (the walking wounded and wonderful) do I learn that I cannot keep what I do not give away.  And like the ancient echoes of the prayer of St. Francis, I learn daily that in giving, I receive; in pardoning, I am pardoned; and in dying daily to my selfish ego, I am born anew in the living grace of a loving God.

The Myth of Addictus (reposted)

The Myth of Addictus was about a slave whose master set him free but the slave was so used to his chains and his pain that when his master allowed him to roam and be free, the slave wandered the land with his “chains” still intact.  All the time he wandered his chains were unlocked and he could have simply taken them off, but being so used to and so in love with his chains and pains he chose to NOT take them off.

That is what it is like for those of who have lived our lives enslaved to drugs and alcohol, or to religious systems and other abusive environments.  We are shown a life of freedom, but until a spiritual transformation occurs, we surrender our  voice, surrender our very selves to the bondage of addiction.  Addiction is about surrendering our voices and beings; recovery is about surrendering to God in order to find our voice and our selves.

The following is an article that I “stumbled” upon years ago.   It was written by the spirited writer and addictions specialists, Thomas Lavis.  I have been unable to find a link to the article, and this original link seems to be dead but for the purposes of citing the source for Lavis’ words, it was found at http://www.lapismagazine.org/return-of-the-spirit-by-thomas-lavin/

To be addicted comes from the Latin word addicere, “to give my voice over to.”  Someone who is addicted has no voice.  Linda Leonard wrote a wonderful book called Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of Addiction in which she talks about the word “addiction”:

What does it mean? Where does it come from? “Ad” means to or toward…“Dicere” means to speak

[Addiction is when I] give my voice to or toward some person, place, thing, or even a process. Process addictions are rigid attitudinal ways of approaching the world.  Addiction need not be limited to alcohol or drugs. I can give myself over—hand over my voice—to anything.

In fact, the original meaning of “addictus” was spiritual, in the sense of someone dedicated to the gods, one whose voice was given over to the Divine (e.g. the 3rd Step of A.A.).  Thus, inherent in the meaning of addiction is the sense of dedication, or bearing witness, to creative energies.

Among the Romans, addiction also signified the making over of goods to another by a legal sale. A slave was even known as an addictus, someone who had no voice, who was a slave to a master.

Addiction is the act of giving oneself over to something as one’s master.

Addiction is terrible, it is true, but addiction can be transformed. How can the addict get her or his voice back, so that they can respond [to what they have been called to]?

Within every addiction there is a vocation, a calling (vocation coming from the Latin word meaning to hear or listen and therefore to respond).  Addiction is [far from] the end of the line.

Like the biblical prophet Samuel did in the night, how do I respond if I don’t have a voice? Samuel went to his guru and said, “I think I hear my name called.” And he’s told by the Prophet Eli, “Say ‘Here I am.’” [ref: 1st Samuel, Chapter 3].

Saying yes is part of dealing with addiction. The spiritual part of addiction…getting my voice back…is to be able to say yes to all of life. No one, no thing, is excluded, precluded, left out.

In dealing with addiction, we have to see it as one side. It might be a sad story, maybe generations of sad stories, but we can’t talk about addiction, whether positive or negative, without pain, because people who get their spirit back have to deal with the pain of staying with their own creative spirit.”

 

Musings on Dignity and Value

No matter where I am with the ‘organized religion’ part of my faith, I am constantly in awe of the person of Jesus.  He is without a doubt, amazing.  I mean when you remove him from all the religiosity of our present day, all the cultural entrapments of ‘Churchianity’ – he still stands out as one of the most remarkable beings we have on record.

Jesus was an incredibly devout Jew, but time and again he was a rebel and a rabble rouser within his own faith.  He comforted and disturbed people in that he constantly called them back to both the center and the edge of their faith and comfort zones.  The center was Jesus calling people back to the simple foundation of the Jewish faith – namely the Two Great Commandments to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself.  The edge was that Jesus called us to love people who are hard to love and make us uncomfortable: our enemies, those different than us, and those we deem unworthy of divine love.

The manner in which Jesus loved all people, the example we are called to follow and emulate, Jesus is affirming the worth and dignity of every human being he came into contact with: prostitutes, tax collectors (considered unpatriotic, greedy traitors), the poor and sick (to be sick was to be cursed by God) as well as the smug and seemingly righteous.  Jesus did not dismiss people with categories, prejudices, or negative assumptions.  He accepted people as they were, as they came to him, and he loved them.

The painful and disquieting truth is Jesus shows us how and who to love, for he loved people just as God loves all people – unconditionally, as they are, and starting at where they are. 

 

 

“Jesus as Scapegoat – Cross as Agenda” (Fr. Richard Rohr)

Jesus as Scapegoat – Cross as Agenda
Friday, May 5, 2017

In terms of healing and symbolism, everything hinges on the cross. The cross is about how to fight and not become a casualty yourself. The cross is about being the victory instead of just winning a victory. The cross is about refusing the simplistic win-lose scenario and holding out for a possible win-win scenario.

The cross clearly says that evil is to be opposed but we must first hold the tension, ambiguity, and pain of it. “Resist evil and overcome it with good,” as Paul says (Romans 12:21). The cross moves us from the rather universal myth of redemptive violence to a new scenario of transformative suffering.

On the cross of life, we accept our own complicity and cooperation with evil, instead of imagining ourselves on some pedestal of moral superiority. As Paul taught: “everyone has sinned” (Romans 5:12) and Jesus the Lamb of God had the humility to “become sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) with us.

The mystery of the cross teaches us how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil ourselves.

Can you feel yourself stretching in both directions—toward God’s goodness and also toward recognition of your own complicity in evil? If you look at yourself at that moment, you will feel crucified. You hang in between, without resolution, your very life a paradox, held in hope by God (see Romans 8:23-25).

The goal of God’s work is always healing reconciliation, not retributive justice.  

And like Jesus, we must invest ourselves in this work of reconciliation that “the two might become one” (see Ephesians 2:13-18).

Human existence is neither perfectly consistent, nor is it total chaos, but it has a “cruciform” shape of cross purposes, always needing to be reconciled in us.  To hold the contradictions with God, with Jesus, is to participate in the redemption of the world (Colossians 1:24). We all must forgive reality for being what it is. We can’t do this alone, but only by a deep identification with the Crucified One and with crucified humanity. Christ then “carries” us across!

The risen, victorious Jesus gives us a history and hopeful future that moves beyond predictable violence. He destroys death and sin not by canceling it out; but by making a trophy of it. Think about that for a long time until it cracks you open. And it will!

Reference:

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 203-205.

Musings on Fear…

Fear speaks to my doubts. God speaks my name.

Fear exploits my weaknesses. God loves them and uses them to heal and serve.

Fear is a ruinous drug that blurs my mind and chokes my heart.  God’s love and presence are a healing salve touching body and mind, spirit and soul. 

Fear says I am alone.  God says I AM with you always, even to the end of the ages.

Fear is limiting, stunting, holding only the sway of dumbing me down and shrinking my world.  God is Infinite; His love unconditional, His presence all pervasive, His mercy new every morning.

Fear is my addiction raging.  God is my recovery in bloom.

Fear says die.  God says Live.

Fear comes like a thief in the night, it only wants to steal and to kill.  But God comes as One who gives Life, and gives that Life abundantly (John 10:10).

 

 

“Under a Delusion” (Frederick Buechner)

If the World is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party.

The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own—and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give.

In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow [Jesus] without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.