I don’t know about you, but when I first met God I felt totally unqualified to join His organization. I had no experience being a Christian and didn’t know if they took people like me. Aside from the fact that I didn’t look, act or talk like a Christian, I was overwhelmingly underqualified in every way to be part of this spotless team. But I was desperate.
My spiritual bank account was overdrawn. I had quit all my previous positions and was currently self-employed and didn’t like my boss all that much. I was ready for a new employer. However, I didn’t have a clue how to get my foot in the door.
How does one prepare a resume to be a Christian?
Under previous employment do I list all the faiths that I have dabbled in during my lifetime? What work history do I detail? I am not a Sunday school teacher. I have never been on a mission, anywhere. I haven’t led a bible study and can’t quote scripture.
My resume would look something like this:
Name: Jennifer Wilson
Best method of contact: Prayer
Position sought: Christian
Practicing Catholic 1968 –1984
Born to Catholic parents. Fulfilled the responsibilities of Catholic, including, but not limited to, Sunday school and church attendance, confession, genuflecting, standing, sitting. Able to recite the Hail Mary and The Lord’s Prayer. Received communion on a regular basis. Lit an Advent candle or two. Observed Lent, for the most part. Participated in several church functions. Owned a bible, probably.
Non-Practicing Catholic 1990 – 2004
Attended churches of all denominations for acceptance. Married by an Episcopalian minister. Had child baptized by a Catholic priest. Attended Methodist church out of convenience. Enrolled son in the Awana program through the Baptist Church for self-gratification. Participated in regular church service at least twelve times during a 15-year span. Developed the skill of relying only on myself and my abilities alone. When needed, and only when needed, relied on the counsel of friends, family, many antidepressants and paid professional therapists.
Wounded Soul 2004 –2006
After being confronted with circumstances I truly believed were beyond my control, sought refuge in local Christian church. Read bulletin and listened to the music. Expertly ignored the weekly message and diligently relied on guidance from paid professionals and well-meaning friends instead. Began to feel a familiarity with said church, however, made no commitment to it.
Know-It-All 2006 –2009
Performed all tasks required by single mother of three. Worked to support household, barely. Cleaned only when absolutely necessary. Cooked when I had to. Whined, moaned and cried on a consistent basis to any willing and unwilling ear. Developed a finely honed skill for blaming others for my circumstances. Strived to control every event and dilemma in my family’s life. Achieved the all too common status of well-meaning, pity-inducing, self-destructive Know-It-All.
Believer October 2009 – Eternity
Surrendered. Accepted that my ways had failed. Realized that problems in my life were too big for my mortal hands to fix. Turned everything over to an unfamiliar God, unwillingly. Trusted because there was no other option.
Achievements and Awards:
- Baptism, at infancy
- First Communion
- Accepting Jesus Christ as my savior.
Pretty pathetic, huh? If I were applying for any job in today’s market, I don’t think this would make the grade. My qualifications are far too sketchy. My only long-term commitment is not to commit at all. What an asset I would be! Can you imagine a prospective employer perusing this valuable body of work?
“Wow,” they would say. “Here’s just what we’ve been looking for. A person that has years of minimal experience in every area. No real expertise anywhere, except for messing things up.”
The only way my resume would escape the shredder is if the boss needed a good laugh! This shoddy sum of my life’s experience would never land me a job in the real world. But in the spiritual world, that’s a different story. When God got a glimpse of this, what did He do? Did He laugh at my misguided attempts to be a good person? Did He recount the times He presented challenges in my life and I turned away from Him? Did He rub my nose in my many past failures and sins which I conveniently omitted from the resume? Did He chastise me and scold me with an I Told You So attitude? No, He didn’t. Instead, He hired me.
That’s the beauty of God’s grace. Although my qualifications seem underwhelming at best, I am fully qualified to be a Christian. Now, let’s take a step back for a moment. I know, because of what the bible tells me, that I am accepted by God. I know that Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross. I know that no matter what I do, if I ask for forgiveness, I will receive it. And I know that God loves me. Even though God sees me as fully qualified, based on my lack of experience, I still feel unqualified. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV
The 2007 movie the Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, made it to the Academy Awards because it resonated with millions of people. We could identify with Morgan Freeman’s character, a man who had dreams he wanted to fulfill before he died. For many of us, if we didn’t have a bucket list before that movie, we did after.
My bucket list has several things on it, some of which may be on yours. I want to travel to Egypt and see the pyramids. I want to see the Redwood Forest in California. I want to write a bestselling book. And I want to go to the Academy Awards.
When my husband and I were discussing our bucket lists, this one came as a surprise to him. “Really? The Academy Awards?” he said, a puzzled look on his face. “That would be kind of cool, but I’ve never heard you mention that before.”
Oh yes. I’ve always wanted to go to the Academy Awards.
In my younger year I watched the Academy Awards every year. My girlfriends and I were avid readers of the tabloids and knew all of the actors by name, age and dress size. Many of my early years as a stay-at-home mother were spent flipping through the latest version of US Weekly or People, reading the latest gossip on who was having an affair with whom. And what was the hottest fashion trend that season. My personal favorite was the What Not To Wear section featured in the back of the magazines. In it, expert fashionistas would deftly and comically rip apart the unfortunate ensemble of some pop icon. My friends and I would eat it up, adding our own comments.
I always saw being at the Academy Awards as some great achievement.
Oh, to be in a room with that much fame, fortune and stature. To me, talent took a back seat to the diamonds, good looks and ridiculous amounts of money that would engulf me as I sat among the stars. I never had the desire to be one of them, just rub shoulders with them. I just wanted to inhale their wealth and popularity. I thought that if I got lucky, some of their good fortune would rub off on me.
One year, during the height of my idol worship, I researched the Academy Awards to see if average nobodies like myself could actually buy a ticket. Just as I thought, this was not an option, exactly. Hollywood award ceremonies, like most award ceremonies, are more about illusion than excellence. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are many worthy works of art and artists that receive well deserved recognition. But to us, the people on the other side of the flat screen, it’s about fantasy and illusion.
We see brightly shining diamonds. They’re on loan from Harry Winston. We see beautifully cut dresses wrapped against flawless bodies. The Spanx never show. We see perfectly straight, brighter than white teeth, smiling into our living rooms. The coffee and cigarette stains were bleached away hours before. And we see joy in the eyes of the happy couple, Hollywood love on the red carpet. The divorce papers were filed the following day.
But to me, being there would have been enough. And I discovered that I could go as a seat filler. That’s right. Because to the viewers at home, the illusion of grandeur and perfection has to be maintained at all times. What would we think if there were empty seats at such a glitzy event as the Academy Awards? I mean, really? If the stars don’t want to attend, then it can’t be that good, right? Why should I watch if they can’t even fill the house? So seats are raffled off for a price.
Would I have done it? You bet! And if I had, I know I would have loved it. I would have sat among Hollywood royalty. I would have dined with kings, laughed with queens and applauded with fame. No one would have ever read my name off of a card, and I certainly wouldn’t be escorted off the stage by a Venus-like model, holding my shiny Oscar. But I would have acted the part. And no one sitting at home would have ever known the difference.
I have long since overcome my adoration of all things Hollywood. But I find that I still only act the part in my faith life.
And I know other people do it, too. Are you a seat filler for God? When you finally attend the greatest award show of all, and we all will, will you be sitting in the audience unnoticed? Or will your name be called? Will the holiest academy of all recognize your contribution?
Too many of us are seat fillers. I have been one. Who knows? Maybe I still am. I know I’m not alone. I go to church and see the same people in regular attendance every week. But when they leave, do they discard their Vera Wangs and don their Dockers, back to normal life? Do they look like a star one hour a week, only to be unrecognizable the rest of the seven days? Or after the show, do they get into character, their true character, and risk embarrassment at the expense of great achievement? Do they try to hone their God-given talents and bring joy to the audience of mankind regardless of whether they ever get an Academy Award or not? All true stars do. They strive to be the best at what they do. Have you ever cried at a movie? Have you laughed so hard you almost peed during a great comedy? The artists responsible have touched millions and their works have moved us. Some have even changed our lives.
For all of us seat fillers out there, when’s the last time we’ve touched someone else’s life? When have we chosen, rather than sitting idly by as others take the risks, to actively strive to use the gifts God gave us to make a difference?When have we made the conscious decision, after the sermon and snacks, to be a star for God? And whether we feel qualified or not, God made us to shine for him. No raffles here folks. There’s only one way to get to the ultimate award show – we must use the talents he blessed us with to bless others. Taking what we do and using it to impact others for God guarantees us not only an invitation, but also a pretty good shot at getting the greatest award of all.
– from Confessions of a Clumsy Christian – Unqualified (get more information here)
Good morning God,
I have to do this thing for a family member this weekend and I really don’t want to. I mean, I work all week and look forward to the weekends for ME time. I want to get out of this commitment but don’t know how. What do you think I should do?
When you serve others it pleases me. Serving others when it is inconvenient for you honors me. Keeping your commitments to serve others when it is inconvenient for you thrills me. I think you know where I’m going with this.
Want more God Talks?
Subscribe to to ClumsyChristian.com and
Get 30 days of FREE God Talks!
I just returned from Women of Faith on Saturday night, one night earlier than I expected. I left my tribe on Friday afternoon after making sure the dogs were in the crate, the dishes were done, my kids had their house keys and the bed was made. Why I made the bed, I’m still not sure. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping in it. And I don’t usually go out of my way to be nice to other people for no reason at all. Honestly, I just don’t. It requires thought and effort for me to be nice. I’m just not a naturally generous person. So, unless I’m going to be sleeping in the bed, I’m usually not going to make it. But for whatever reason, it was made.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ride up, the fellowship with other crazy women, the speakers, the music and the experience of being reminded of just how brokenly human and humanly broken we all are. I was reminded that it’s okay to scream, nag and fail. I was urged to be gentle with myself and those who are put in my path. I was encouraged to be vulnerable, honest and to share my story. I cried, laughed and soaked it all in. I left exhausted and recharged, ready to take on the world and eager to put my feet up and sleep in my own bed.
I warned my family that I would be returning a night early and they were thrilled, mostly. My dear friend Nancy drove us home and we told stories about bugs and our reaction to them. We discussed the gargantuan size of arachnids in Costa Rica and shared stories of our pasts, our children and our husbands – of which we had seven in total.
And then we arrived at my house. We pulled up the driveway to a closed garage door and no exterior lights. Looking back, I think that’s when it began. It was as if my driveway was some sort of invisible portal that transformed me from good Christian woman of faith Jen to Linda Blair or Mommy Dearest. But it didn’t happen to my friend. It was only me. So I’m pretty sure the portal was hidden in my front door. My very dark, closed, uninviting, anti-welcome-home-mom front door.
I waved goodbye as Nancy backed her car down the driveway after shining her lights on the dark front door so I could see my way inside. I never heard the portal close as I shut the door behind me. I made my way down the short foyer and into the dark great room, noticing the crap on the dining room table, the morning coffee still in the pot, the food and dishes on the counter and the scattered, tattered, dog toy stuffing all over the house. I caught a glimpse of three and half pairs of shoes belonging to my daughter and saw a hole in one of my favorite blankets as it hung from the edge of the couch. I noticed all of this in less than two minutes in very dim lighting.
I opened my mouth and after a quick hug and hello, spewed a number of irritating questions to my husband and daughter who had jumped up from their television show when they heard me come in. My daughter had jumped up eagerly but I’m pretty sure my husband Josh jumped up worried about what I’d complain about. Jack, my 18 year old, was smart enough to stay in his room. He must have known about the portal.
“What’s all over the table? Is the coffee made? What’s with all the food? Why is there French toast sitting on a plate on the counter? Did you feed the dogs?” I assaulted my tribe with a few more nasty quips before disappearing into the bedroom. “And thanks for leaving the lights on for me.”
I floated past the bed, which was, of course, unmade. I rolled my eyes and turned back around, stuck my head out the bedroom door and said, “Could you please turn the television down one or five notches?” I shut the bedroom door behind me, walked into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet.
I had been inside my house for less than five minutes and had managed to criticize, insult, offend and disrupt the two members of my family that actually wanted to see me.
I realized in that moment what a monster I had just been. And yet they weren’t shocked. My hubby and child were not surprised by my nastiness. That made it worse. When Josh had jumped up from the sofa he didn’t look at me first. His eyes darted around the kitchen because he was trying to figure out if he had enough time to quickly pick everything up so that I wouldn’t yell at him. That was probably his first thought. That is reality. And that sucks.
After I calmed down and relaxed by unpacking my bag and making the bed, I apologized because that’s what I do now. Some days I only have to apologize a little. Other days I have to make big bad apologies. Most days I just have to say I’m sorry a lot. I looked at Josh and said, “I bet you wish I’d stayed the extra night.” He did.
You see, it wasn’t that he wasn’t glad to see me. He just would have been happier to see me before I went through the portal. Before the goodness of the weekend was washed off of me. But the goodness is like beach sand. Even though most of it washes off, a lot of sticks. It sticks in the little cracks of my character, gritty and salty. It rubs me in between my normal nagginess and reminds me of the fresh ocean air and the awesomeness of the waves. The goodness of a recharge weekend like this one, the power of it gets stuck between my toes and under my fingernails. Even though the portal of reality tries to wash it all away, some of it will stick with me.
My husband wanted only to spend a few more hours sitting on the sofa watching shows that I don’t like. He only wanted a few more precious moments of HIM time, listening to the TV too loudly, letting food sit on the counter too long, doing nothing important or relevant or chore-ish too much. God bless the man. He never gets the chance to do those things when I’m home, ever.
I realized that he was probably looking forward to my time away as much as I was. But for different reasons. And when we came back together, me sailing down to earth with a thud, crashing his man party, we were both reminded of how much we need that. We need time apart to be better together. I need to have my Law & Order like he needs his Hobbit. I need to spend time writing in the same way he needs to Chive On. It is good for us. Good for us as individuals. It is good that I don’t like everything he does and he doesn’t like everything I do. It is good that we have our differences and are safe in the knowledge that we can go our own ways for an hour, a day or a weekend and trust, love and miss each other – a little or a lot.
It’s also good for me to know that as much as I need me time, I crave me time and demand everyone in my life respect that, I must also respect his me time even though it looks different than mine. Instead of reading, writing, girl time, yoga, coffee talk, naps, things that refresh and recharge, my husband’s me time involves binging on bad Netflix shows, twelve pillows, a dark room and underwear – shorts optional. But still, it is his. And it is not up to me to judge it. It’s up to me to love him because he loves me enough to let me have my time. He loves me enough to make the dinner that resulted in the dirty dishes. He loves me enough to spend time watching bad Netflix shows with our daughter.
And he loves me enough to let me figure out that I just walked through the portal and will eventually find the sandy places. He waits for those moments. He knows it might not be quickly. It might take all day and only occur when I slide my foot under the sheets to pull his leg hair with my toes. But the goodness will eventually fall out. The little pieces of glittery goodness will fall into our lives at unexpected moments, shiny and fresh. They will stop me in my tracks like the sand in the bottom of a tote bag. I will remember where they came from and what they mean.
The little pieces are filled with love, music, faith, gentleness, grace, forgiveness and sisterhood. They are magical little pieces of mightiness. They are laden with salty tears from fresh wounds and are heavy with decades of guilt and shame finally unburdened. They are miracles. And I will remember that even the smallest, stickiest little bit of goodness has the power to heal, restore and renew. So bring it on portal. I’m not afraid of you. Because you will never, ever be able to wash away all of God’s grains of sands. I’ve got too many crevasses.
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, there are a few things you should know. If you are thinking about suicide, please remember…
- You may want desperately to end your pain through suicide, but others only survive their pain because they watch you get through yours. They look at you, at your circumstances, at everything you’ve been through and think, “Wow, if they can do it, so can I.” Your very existence may have saved countless lives already.You may not love yourself, but someone else does. They may not be able to show you or tell you, but that is their issue, not yours.
- You may not think you’re worth anything, but the people whose lives you touch do. They base their own self-worth on the people around them, you included. They may be helpers, nurturers, parents, children or just people who feel your pain. They are the people who have openly worried about you and secretly prayed for you. To them, you are worth the effort, the time and life.
- You may think life is too unbearable, but you don’t realize your existence is the only thing that makes life bearable for others. You may be the bright spot in someone else’s day. That person who goes home to an abusive husband or parent may count you as their only blessing. The friend who watches you struggle may be so grateful that you are showing others how strong a person can be.
- You might believe there is no way out, but you just haven’t found the door. It is there, just waiting for you to open it. And behind that door are people just like you, people who have felt alone, abandoned, hurt, rejected and full of failure. Behind that door are other desperate people full of shame, guilt, regret and hopelessness. And they will rally around you, lift you up and tell you the one thing you need to hear… you are not alone. And, they will tell you that suicide is not the only option.
- You are probably tired, but please don’t close your eyes just yet. There is more to see. There is more to this life than the hurt and pain you are feeling right now. There is a rainbow, waiting to be found behind the clouds and clouds, behind the cutting and suicide attempts. Please stay to see the beauty.
Please don’t commit suicide right now. Please stay alive for just one more day. Stay alive for those who can’t live without you. Stay alive for me.
If you are thinking about suicide, there is help. I know because I found my way out of the pain. I found my way to do the door. I kept my eyes open for just one more day. And I’m here to tell you that you can do it too.
Read my personal experience with suicide here.
And if no one has told you this today, let me…
YOU ARE LOVED
1 (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
There’s a television commercial running that shows people contemplating whether or not they should go to their high school reunion. If I had to guess from looking at the balding, slightly puffy actors, I would say they are about 20 years removed from their Alma maters. One woman is shown peering into her closet and scrunching up her nose at her wardrobe choices while another man slides his hair piece up and down.
It made me think of my Breakfast Club high school experience. I related so much to all of the Brat Pack movies. They had drugs, alcohol, sex, insecurity, popularity, neediness, confusion and want in slightly different proportions than I had. But nonetheless, there were clear parallels. If I had to pick a character to identify with, I’d like to say it was Demi Moore or Molly Ringwald in most of the movies. But in reality, I was more like Ally Sheedy – the dark, brooding girl who talked little and smoked much. I was the one who hid behind her hair and scared people just a little. I didn’t wear black. Instead I disappeared behind a collage of tie-dye, ripped jeans and wool Baja jackets – sometimes concealing an homage to Ziggy Stardust or Michael Jackson. Shhhh – I was all Grateful Dead on the outside.
But despite the visual differences between me and Ally Sheedy, there were several not-so-subtle similarities. I walked with my head down for the second half of my high school sentence. This was after I had finally clawed my way into the preppy crowd and then was matter of factly dismissed for becoming friends with an unpopular girl. Who, by the way, after having had indulged in my friendship for a summer, later became the center of the popular crowd. It was then that the carefree and quirky spirit of my childhood bunched up into a tangled web of insecurities and not good-enoughs. My hair was never big enough and my thighs never small enough. I was either too smart for the intellects or not quite flexible enough for the cheerleaders. I was a turd on the buffet table. Nobody wanted me.
There were other turds, although they were more like caviar or tartare. They were wholly unappealing on their own but when placed at the center of a rather vanilla menu, they stood out like tasty delicacies. These were the super smart ones – that wore horn-rimmed glasses decades after and before they were cool. These were the ones that brooded in a more stylish way – that attracted rather than repelled. These were the kids who appeared just as screwed up and lost as me – but were totally okay with it. They honestly didn’t care one way or another whether they were part of the in crowd. They were the secure, self-assured nuts that held the whole popular machine together.
When high school ended, we scattered like colored leaves, each in our own unique directions. Some of us went flying through the air across states and countries. Others drifted around for a while and finally landed securely on a soft bed of lush grass. And some of us just dropped, wet and soggy, sticking firmly to the dull ground below. But something happened to those soggy leaves, this soggy leaf, in the years after the commencement. My insecurities and not-good-enoughs grew with each passing year. Instead of emerging from my straight-jacket cocoon and discovering my butterfly beautiful self, I wriggled around like a bug trying to get out of a jar. I kept taking flight only to hit the ceiling and fall to the bottom more bruised each time. I would scurry from edge to edge and peer against the glass prison of my life and wonder how to get to the other side, to the world of living, breathing things that had what I wanted and were where I wanted to be.
I spent years with my bug face pressed up against the glass. I tried to change my outside, trading my Bajas and yarn bracelets for toned biceps and toe rings. I cut my hair – oh did I cut my hair, time and time again only to be disappointed that the girl underneath was still the same. I gathered other bugs and some ruffage to make the world inside the glass hell look like the vibrant world outside. It didn’t work. Instead it got very crowded and humid inside and things died and smelled. So I lost my mind in a haze of alcohol, depression and self-deprecation. I smoked, drank, and did anything I could to stay barely alive, not necessarily in that order. The sides of my glass got heavy with condensation and I couldn’t breathe. I tried valiantly a few more times to break through the tin lid, mustering up all of my Ally Sheedy defiance and hoping to look like Molly Ringwald as I sailed through the top. The lid came off. But instead of Molly Ringwald, I looked like the drunk girl in Sixteen Candles.
From the outside, it would appear that I had accomplished everything I had ever wanted. I had the clothes, the figure, the home, the family, the cracked smile. But on the inside, I made no sense and my hair was stuck in the door. And I didn’t care anymore. I wonder how that girl in Sixteen Candles turned out by her 20th, 30th high school reunion. Did she care what others thought of her? Did she get drunker and turn into a complete disaster? Or did she turn out like me? Did she wear the mask and put on a good show for a few decades only to find herself drunk on the floor again?
That’s where I ended up. I found myself stuck in the door but this time with no laughing friends willing to help me get out. I had to grab the scissors myself and cut my hair free. I had to pull myself up to a crawling position and make my own way to the front door and break through the glass. I had to do the walk of shame into the rooms, slide into the chair in the back and reveal my Ally Sheedy-ness in all it’s glory. It took time to brush the hair from my face so that others could see I had a broken smile. It took work and effort for my tense knot of lack to unravel and become more slinky-like. It took years of drowning in myself to learn how to swim out of my head and into the light of my loving God and the arms of other misfits. It took decades out of the classroom to finally learn that I can live outside of the glass once I’m willing to set myself free from myself.
I don’t go to high school reunions anymore. I never found my place within that group of people 30 years ago and I doubt I would now. My mom and dad still go to their high school reunions, 50, 55, and 60 years later. They told me that as the years went by, the reunions got better and better. People dropped their pretentiousness, their expectations of themselves and others, their facades. They were more real, more human as time went by. Maybe it’s because they experienced more life with all its hurts, pain and disappointments. Maybe they stopped taking themselves so damned seriously. I know that I did.
I wonder how many of my classmates changed. I doubt too many were privileged enough to experience the metamorphosis I did. I bet many of them are still stuck in their flat, airless, self destructive glass prisons. I hear that I am one of the lucky few. I got to suffer, struggle and squirm so that I could emerge renewed. It took me all those years to grow from a turd into a smelly fish egg. And today, I wouldn’t trade my place on the buffet table for anything in this world.
We all come to recovery in our own unique ways. Some of us spend our last hours going out with a bang – using heavily and sucking up every last second of our drug of choice. And others of us look at our habit with tears in our eyes, exhaustion in our soul and utter defeat in our heart, ready to surrender.
How did you come into recovery?
LION – heavy in your addiction and resistant to change
LAMB – quietly surrendering and ready for help
Leave your answer in the comments!
I was instructed by my sponsor to “take exquisite care” of myself because I was feeling rather crappy. I was whining, moaning and pretty much minimizing the incredibly frightening claws of depression that were pulling and tugging at my consciousness. If she could see the scratch marks, she didn’t let on.
“Yoga, eat well, pray, gratitude, nap…” were some of her instructions. Napping was not a problem. I’ve always been a napper. I can nap at the drop of a hat – as long as I can get horizontal. I have never been able to sleep upright, in a car or airplane. Nope. I need a flat surface, of any kind. Give me a bed, a floor, a desk, a long countertop and I’m good to go.
So, I checked the NAP box and looked at the rest of the list. YOGA – maybe. I could commit to stretching in bed while slowly waking up from a nap. That will have to do for now; check. EAT WELL – hmmm. I wondered if mint chocolate chip ice cream counted as eating well. I DID eat it after I ate cottage cheese and almonds. So I ate well – check. PRAY. Okay, I can do that. I pray every morning, at the beginning and end of each meeting and sometimes sporadically throughout the day when things aren’t going according to my plan.
But lately, as I dance with the devil of darkness and try to outsmart my depression, I have found it very difficult to pray for anything. So I came up with my own version of the serenity prayer. It goes like this:
Sometimes I’ll even throw in an Amen for good measure. I say it robotically, with complete and utter lack of emotion or feeling of any kind. Why spice it up when I don’t have to? If God can’t figure out that I’m in a pretty crappy place by the words alone, then I’m screwed. So I throw the words together in a mish mash of eye rolling and guttural gagging, not really sure if I want to have any of those prayers come true.
I know I don’t really, truly want to accept my limitations. Who would? Would anyone want to be told that they cannot multi-task? That they can’t successfully complete all the projects in front of them? I don’t really want to tell my clients that I’m having a bad head day and can’t focus on anything more than repeats of Law & Order and counting the spots on my dog. But accept my limitations I must. If I don’t, I will sink like the Titanic – literally – with people screaming, splashing and all. I can hear that when I start to go under. I can actually hear the voices screaming and flailing. It is quite disturbing.
I used to be able to ignore those pathetic people as they jumped ship and splashed into the icy cold water. I was focused on the lights flickering in the upright part of the ship. I did not have the peripheral wherewithal to see the portion of the ship under the sea, to notice the gaping rip in the deck or the broken china on the floor. Damn those annoying quitters. I will push through – without a life vest – while listening to the quartet play me out – until I absolutely cannot think another sane thought.
Then, and only then, will I look walk casually to the top of the ship and look over the edge. I will consider the jump, consider the possibility of sliding slowly down the deck or taking the leap into the frozen arctic below. And I will hold on to the railing as the winds rip around me. And because I hate making decisions – I have never been very good at them – I will stall.
Instead, I will look down at my white feet and marvel at the purple pedicure I just got. Sponsor’s orders were to take exquisite care of myself. So, after I awoke from my nap and before I went to my recovery meeting, I decided to indulge in a little spiritual reading and a pedicure. I arrived with plenty of time to spare. But because I hadn’t made an appointment, I had to wait for the nice Korean people to finish with several other sets of fingers and toes before they took on the challenge of mine.
I finally sat in the massage chair with 30 minutes to spare. Plenty of time, I thought as I cracked open my book of spiritual nuggets. I read casually as I soaked my feet in the hot bubbly smooth water. After five minutes, I began looking around at the other guests, wondering when I would be taken care of. I tried my best to look focused on my reading while making sure the employees knew darned well that I was getting impatient. After all, I had arrived with plenty of time and now – holy crap! I only had 20 minutes until I had to leave.
Finally, after another five minutes of me visually chastising the workers, a nice middle aged Korean man came over and began tickling my feet with a pumice stone. I told him, between laughs, to please just get to the polish as I had to be out in 15 minutes. He obliged. He slipped my shoes on, threw the yellow spongy toe separators on and slathered my nails in the sparkly purple polish I had selected. I was out 5 minutes and $28 dollars later and was careful not to smudge my nails. But I was grateful. I checked another box.
When I got to Celebrate Recovery, I slipped the shoes off and let my nails finish drying while the band rehearsed. It wasn’t until we were wrapping up that my friend pointed out I had trashed the polish on both big toes. Great, I thought. So much for exquisite care. The darned pedicure had cost more than I wanted to spend, made me walk uncomfortably for an hour and now looked worse than before. The result was more stress than I had to begin with.
So now I stand at the railing, feeling the cold sea air whip around me as I look down at my purple polish. The two big toes stand out, marred, fumbled and imperfect. They are surrounded by eight perfectly polished pals. That’s just how it is. Sometimes I will be the big toe. Sometimes I will be the perfectly polished pal. And, I think as I let go of the railing and slide down the slippery deck – that will have to be okay.
Love myself unconditionally? I don’t know that I ever could. I think about how my daughter looks at me, with love only a child can have for her blotchy, jagged mother. I see the love in her eyes and hear her words when she says, “You’ll never know how much I love you.” They stab at my heart like little arrows from cupid. And I realize, she is probably right. So unconditional love for myself? That will take time – maybe an eternity.
And wisdom to know facts from feelings. Well, I actually already do. It’s having the discernment to recognize when I’m choosing to accept feelings as facts – that’s where I need the wisdom.
So exquisite care is what I’m focusing on today. That might be all I am able to do. That and swat away the negative gremlins that grow with every ounce of attention I give them. Okay, maybe not even that. But I will stop feeding them so much. And if I can get through today without picking up a drink or drug, and without putting down those I love and myself – that will be a very, very good – dare I say – exquisite day.
I recently heard a woman talk about how she thought she was always last on God’s to-do list. She believed God was taking care of everyone else but her. He was doling his blessings onto everyone around her while she sat lacking. She thought for certain everyone else in her life was getting all the lucky, fortunate breaks while she remained stuck in an unsatisfying life. She was absolutely positive that God answered other people’s prayers and that hers ended up in His spam folder.
Until she got into recovery and met the God of her understanding. This God was not the same God she knew before. This God wasn’t selective and biased. He didn’t hold a grudge. He wasn’t easily flattered. This God was kind, loving and equal in His benevolence. He blessed everyone, forgave everyone and loved everyone, regardless of how they felt about Him.
I used to think that my God also tossed my prayers into the recycling bin. I was pretty sure that all those foxhole rants that I called prayers were rising up into the atmosphere and either evaporating into the ozone or falling on God’s deaf ears. I knew with absolute certainty that everyone else had a better God-connection than me because they were living better lives.
Until I got into recovery. Then I discovered that it wasn’t that God hadn’t gotten around to me at all. It was that I hadn’t gotten around to God. Wow! My mind exploded just a little when I had that realization. Me? Not getting around to God? But I had prayed. I had gone to church. I had even dropped a few bucks in the Salvation Army bucket. I had gone out of my way, inconvenienced myself ever so slightly to make sure everyone noticed that I was getting around to God. Sound familiar?
But that’s not what it’s about. At least, I don’t think so. I don’t think my God wants me to show off. I don’t think He wants me to be inconvenienced in an attention getting way. He doesn’t want me to take inventory on my good deeds and wait for public recognition. He doesn’t want me to do any of these things in the same way that He doesn’t want to throw a pile of money in my lap so that He can be lauded.
My God is humble. He works with me, not for me. He works through me, not above me. He gives freely, when I am ready to receive responsibly. He pushes gently, when I am stuck in fear. He guides my heart to generosity when the need is unclear to me. He mutes my bitter tongue and patiently places loving words in my mouth. He lets me see myself the way my husband sees me, love myself the way my children love me, and treat myself the way my best friend treats me.
All because I was willing to get around to God. You see, these things were always available to me, I just didn’t know it. These little gifts were lingering around the outside of my consciousness, always escaping my diseased, sick thinking. I couldn’t see them through my greed and pride. I couldn’t savor the sweet satisfaction that comes from being compassionate while choking on my need for recognition. I couldn’t feel the overwhelming peace of being alone with Him when communion was an event not an experience. There was no way I could have ever known the sense of gratification that comes from doing His work when I kept slapping my label on it.
Today I know that I can have as much God as I’m willing to get. I can go all in and and get all of Him in every area of my life. Or, I can dance around the pool of His glorious riches, dip a toe in and get a small dose of ease back. I won’t lie. I’ve done both. Some days I dance around the edge, unable to find the willingness to go any further than ankle deep. Other days – even if I’m scared and the water is frigid – I dive in knowing that the reward will be worth it. And so far, God hasn’t disappointed.
So, have you actively gotten around to God or are you still waiting for Him to get around to you? If you’re still a toe dipper, I encourage you… come on in – the water’s fine!