However, another rope has been lowered in front of me via therapy and residency, slowly and over several months. It's a rope made up of my strength and courage and resilience, of my worthiness of love and affection, of my ability to meet my own needs or to have them met by others around me. It's made up of my okay-ness when a relationship ends or transitions into something else.
SOMETIMES I THINK IT IS MY MISSION TO BRING FAITH TO THE FAITHLESS, AND DOUBT TO THE FAITHFUL ― PAUL TILLICH
Rambling. I do it when I feel vulnerable. Doubt makes me feel vulnerable. I like people to think I have my shit together, that I know something about something. I like to feel competent and trustworthy. But in the world of chaplaincy, of caring for the spirit in the throes of crisis and loss, it would seem my doubt and disbelief are gifts. It isn't that I disbelieve in a *fill in the blank with a typical, evangelical Christian adjective* God. It's that I don't mind questions. I hate not knowing, but I don't mind the questions that come out of the not knowing.
...if you were to ask me, "Where do you see God working in your life," I might be able to answer you. I might be able to tell you that I've felt God's presence in such and such event, in this conversation or in that encounter. The other day, I started a sentence with, "I felt the Spirit," and I nearly had to stop myself from stopping myself. I don't cringe at words like "salvation" or "God's will" like I did for a while there. Perhaps most importantly, my response to the inquiry of "How are you and God" would be, "We're good. We're okay."
THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT WORDS. IN EXPERT HANDS, MANIPULATED DEFTLY, THEY TAKE YOU PRISONER. WIND THEMSELVES AROUND YOUR LIMBS LIKE SPIDER SILK, AND WHEN YOU ARE SO ENTHRALLED YOU CANNOT MOVE, THEY PIERCE YOUR SKIN, ENTER YOUR BLOOD, NUMB YOUR THOUGHTS. INSIDE YOU THEY WORK THEIR MAGIC — DIANE SETTERFIELD
Growing up, I was raised to believe that the Bible is the "inspired" word of God. More often than not, that meant believing that Bible in its current form is God's literal word. Perfect. Inerrant. Infallible. Now, it's been several years since I believed this doctrine. However, truth be told, I think I threw the baby out with the bathwater. In debunking Biblical inerrancy, I dumbed Scripture down to a mere children's tale, an archaic history book that has become a means of obtaining power over the masses and creating mindless drones. But this is far from the actual state of things.
Jesus' intent for most if not all of his encounters with people isn't just about living. It's about thriving. It's about being a part of community, about having a place to call home. Often, after Jesus healed someone in scripture, that person would ask to follow Jesus, would show a desire to be a part of the work he was doing. More often than not, Jesus' response was, "No. Go home. Go back to where you belong." It wasn't that Jesus' didn't want the company or the friendship. It was that his healing a person was always more than just a physical act. It was holistic, encompassing the whole of a person's life.
In any twelve-step program, as I understand it, step one is taking ownership and responsibility for who you are and what your struggle is (I warn you, I will fumble over this, so please be patient). I begin with this phrase because my addiction is not singular. It isn't just alcohol or nicotine or drugs or sex or porn or *insert possible addiction here*. My addiction is any or all of these at any given moment. How I've made it this far without any one of these crippling me is a miracle, but still, I struggle. And I'm tired of pretending that I don't. Secrets are too much, and they take too high a toll on one's life...
Most often, when people experience a loss, their minds go to one of two places initially: either they start to wrestle with the what-ifs of a situation or they jump right into the details of the what's-next. In the moment of pain, crisis, and loss, it's hard for most of us to sit in that pain and bear it. To do so would be to accept that change is coming, whether we like it or not. It is often the job (and privilege) of those of us on the periphery to help contain the questions that surface. We don't have to offer answers. We just need to show up.
I fight the temptation to define my own worth and value by what I own, by the money in my bank account, by the labels on my clothes. And yet this time of year I am reminded of the source of my worth, of the One who found me so valuable that he would rather become like me in order to join me than stay where he was and remain distant.