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Archive for August, 2009

I once visited an art exhibit where there was a piece entitled “There is something you should know.” The piece was just that sentence written across a section of the wall in green letters. At the museum I found a brochure about the artist, and so I had my own copy of this piece hanging on the wall in my Cincinnati apartment. That was seven years ago.

Seven years ago in Cincinnati, I was hitting bottom. I had just moved back from New Orleans, and though I wanted to change my life, I simply could not stop drinking. I somehow managed to hold myself together enough to get an apartment and land a job, and I showed up every day for work and paid my rent on time. But inside there was a train wreck happening that caused a 10-car pile-up.

I began reading a book a friend of mine had given me just before I left New Orleans. It was a sort of manifesto for women, a book about allowing women to be themselves and speak out from where they stood, even if the story wasn’t all that nice or pretty. It’s called Cunt: a Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. Now, I know the title is jarring, and the content would probably upset many of my Christian friends. But I believe this book was a gift to me from God, and reading it completely changed the course of my life.

The part that changed me was this: there is a story in the book about the day Inga learned that her mother had been raped as a young girl. When all that pent up shame, anger and humiliation was shared with her by her mother many years later, Inga began to understand how important it is that women share these stories with one another. For several years before reading this, I had been struggling with murky recollections of sexual abuse I had been through as a child at the hand of some neighborhood boys. That night the memory came rushing back with clarity, and I sobbed as I wrote it out in my journal and then called my friend Jessa to tell her what had happened. She encouraged me to explore my feelings about this, and to allow myself to experience every emotion that came to me as I grieved and raged about the injustice of it all.

That night was also the night of my last drink. There were two beers in my fridge, which I drank alone while reading my book. I knew after talking with Jessa that if I continued to drink, I would cover up my emotions and dealing with my past would be put off for another year or two, or maybe I would never get around to it. And so I white knuckled it through some nearly unbearable nights, seething with rage and discomfort, until I found AA a few months later.

This coming September, I will celebrate seven years of sobriety. And I feel like I’m climbing up from the bottom once again. The past few months have brought challenges unprecedented in my life thus far, as I’ve struggled with anger and self-pity in a whole new light. As I shared in my last post, my temper was beginning to wreak havoc on my family and my community.

So the burning question is: how was the retreat? I returned to Koinonia last Saturday, and it’s going to take me a long time to fully process or recognize the impact of my week at Jubilee. My interactions with the people there were uplifting, challenging and inspiring. I was able to complete three small-scale collage projects, which were tools of meditation and prayer as well as a mode through which God communicated with me about what I need. I listened twice through a 4-CD set of trainings in Non-Violent Communication and began to learn how to fully accept responsibility for my own feelings. I began a habit of prayer and meditation that has continued (almost) every day since I returned. I fasted for almost 48 hours. I felt the prayers and encouragement of so many friends, and I received answers to questions that had been troubling me for a long time. And I gave my anger to God, flung it up there on the cross and asked Jesus to deal with it as he sees fit.

And I’m here to tell you that there is something you should know: God can handle absolutely anything.

No matter what the circumstances of your life, you do not have to face them on your own. Even if you have no one to talk with, no one who understands. God can handle it. He’s just there, waiting for us to call on him like only the most patient being in the universe is capable of doing. He’s watching us with love and understanding, waiting for us to acknowledge him as Abba, Father, Mother.

I now think of this every time I witness one of my children throwing a temper tantrum about something that seems insignificant to me. If I wait until she’s done, her raging subsides and the sadness or frustration behind it comes out. And when she’s ready, I’m able to comfort her. But if I intervene before she’s ready (which happens more often than not), I usually make matters worse. How does God do it? How does he just watch me flail around like a lunatic, and every time, every single time accepts me back into his grace no matter how far down the scale I have gone? A prodigal daughter again and again, and every time I return to ask for help there is a heavenly celebration.

Yes, no matter what it is, God can handle it. If only we would hand it over to his care. So that’s my prayer for all of us today, that we would each find a connection with our creator that will enable us to receive the gifts of such infinite, agape love. He’s just waiting for us to ask.

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