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Archive for October, 2009

I found strange comfort this week in the realization that I’m just a run-of-the-mill perfectionist, workaholic alcoholic. Honestly, saying those words out loud freed me to get over it and carry on with my life. A couple of nights ago I was obsessing, yet again, over simple mistakes and perceived grievances that others must have been holding against me. It had taken me to tears, into that space where I was riding the downward spiral, and there was nothing keeping me from descending into the darkness of fear.

Thankfully, I have the most wonderful sponsor who has taught me so much about what it means to serve others. I can call her literally any time of the day or night. She always answers, and even if I’ve woken her from deep sleep she tells me she’s glad I called. So I called her at a reasonable hour with all my woes, and she listened as they compounded. And then she did this amazing thing where she made me feel terribly small and fully valid all in the same breath.

She simply called me out where I stood in that moment. I was nothing but an alcoholic, overcome by a tendency towards perfectionism, in the throes of a workaholic binge. It might sound strange to those of you who have never been addicted to anything. She was not being self-righteous or preachy. In fact, she delivered this diagnosis with love and understanding.

It takes me back to a horrible week when I lived in New Orleans and I was in the process of breaking a relationship with the first man I ever truly loved. I was beginning what became my last big alcoholic binge, and things were extra-messy. I had no close friends in the city, and so every day I would call my dear friend Jessa. In between my heaving sobs, I would listen to her wise words, and they would give me the strength to finish out the day. At one point Jessa said to me, “Everything is already perfect.” It seemed like nonsense at the time because I was so consumed by pain, but somehow I knew she was right, even as I was about to hit my lowest low, and I believed her. Everything was happening for a reason, there was some sort of grand design that I couldn’t comprehend.

At that point in my life, I was completely alienated from God. In fact, it’s amazing to me that I could have bought into the idea of a universal plan, because I think I had chosen atheism as my belief system du jour. But that’s how miracles work…there’s not much sense in them, yet nothing else could be more real.

When I became a Christian many years later, I struggled with the idea of perfection. If God is perfect, and I’m doomed to a life of sin, but then Jesus redeems me, then what happens to my life after I accept that? I didn’t want to hear that things would be perfect in heaven, I wanted an answer about all this suffering on Earth. The first time I discovered the answer in scripture, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

Galatians 5:22-23But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Note that it doesn’t say “some things are holy, some not.” It says that a basic holiness permeates. In other words, creation is infused with holiness. It cannot be contained!

This past week I’ve found myself stuck in Romans chapter 14. The whole chapter is amazing, filled with literal food for thought, and instruction on action. But again, there is that blessed assurance that the perfect God is everywhere, in everything.

Romans 14:13-14Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

“Everything as it is in itself is holy.” This is the message Jesus brings. Even with my obsessive thoughts, with all of my -isms, I am holy. Not because of anything I have done to deserve this status, but because God loved me enough to allow me to exist.

It’s not always my first thought, but I’m remembering a little quicker these days: It’s already perfect. I don’t have to alter, manipulate, manage or convince anyone of anything. God’s got it all under control. I can always choose to reject God, but when I allow myself to be called back to true perfection, the kingdom of God seems pretty close at hand.

It feels a little hokey saying this, but I’ll put my ego aside to reveal what’s in my heart. My prayer for tonight is that God would reveal his perfect plan to each of us, and that we might learn to share it with one another until the day the kingdom comes to stay, right here on Earth.

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