These days I use it to jot down blog ideas, verses I want to research, and bible study ideas. The margins are filled with notes to myself and doodles from when I was processing what exactly I wanted to say. This morning I opened it up to pick a topic to write about from my hurricane of ideas. It fell open to a page I hadn’t looked at in a while.
It was about a year into my recovery that I began to get very real with my therapist. The shakes were finally gone and I could at least hear the word beer without wanting to run to the nearest liquor store. A new struggle began to present itself in the form of facing the junk that drove me to that place. It was a scary place to be for me, I mean, the whole point in drinking was so that I didn’t have to deal with the junk. For a whole year she made no mention of church or even God for that matter unless I brought it up, which let’s be honest, was pretty much never since I was pretty pissed off at Him.
She was patient, and calm, and let me be real. Every day, she would just listen, sometimes asking questions that I didn’t have an answer to and would send me home determined to have an answer for her the next day; and every day, from day one, when I walked out the door she would put her hand on my shoulder, look in my eyes, and say “I love you, Jess.” Every day for a year my response was the same, “Umm… you don’t even know me!”
Then that day came, a year into being sober, I plopped down into my favorite chair in her office and popped the top on my diet coke. I barely had time to get my first sip down when she just came out with, “Why do you hate God, Jess?” I’m pretty positive I almost spewed my coke all over her. “I don’t hate God… I just… I’m never going to be enough for Him… I’m pretty sure He hates me.” She shook her head the way she did when I would curse at the stupidity of boys and declare my decision to become a nun. “Is that why you act so tough all the time? Because you think if God hates you everyone must?” I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know. I guess so.”
I tried to change the subject but she was just a stubborn as me and she pushed deeper. “I know you don’t like church, why is that?” That one I was more than happy to answer (I am going to censor this one for the conservatives in the audience). “Church. Ha! Because all church is a bunch of hypocritical jerks who care more about how long your skirt is than if you actually want to know about God. It’s so freaking stupid all they do is just tell you over and over again how worthless God thinks you are while pretending to be perfect at the same time as their own families are falling apart. How can someone want that? I don’t meet the requirements of being a “good” Christian and I’m glad because I don’t want to be anything like those people. I mean I’m saved but I don’t know if that’s enough anymore.”
Wow so I remember this like it was yesterday, every word, and I remember looking up at her when I finished my spew of anger to see sadness in her eyes. I felt bad about what I said for the first time in a long time. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings… I know you’re not like that.” She smiled but her eyebrows still furoughed in sadness. “Jess, I am truly sorry for those people who hurt you, who told you that you weren’t enough and made you think that God hates you. Jesus, is enough. You are enough. God loves you for all that you are, in your brokenness and anger and hurt. Embrace that and you will find peace like you’ve never known.”
That’s when I realized the sadness in her eyes was for me. Well of course I then balled like a toddler as she pulled out her Bible for the first time in a year, and showed me what is now my favorite Bible verse, “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” I’d seen it before but this time it meant something different.
I desperately wanted freedom, I craved peace, I was tired of having to be hard and tough constantly. I left there that day with puffy eyes and plenty to think about, I didn’t know then but that would be my first step on a long road that led me to the power of grace. As I walked out, just like every other day and with exact same look as the 364 preceding it, she looked in my eyes and said, “I love you, Jess.” This time I found myself wrapping her up in a hug and whispering, “I love you too.”
I didn’t sleep at all that night but the next day I walked into her office more invigorated than I ever had been. We talked for the rest of the week about finding peace in my life not just with God but with my family, my friendships, and my job. I started to see that the more I found peace with God the better I was at bringing peace to the other relationships in my life. Which makes sense to me now looking back because you can’t give something out that you haven’t received. That weekend I wrote this in my journal:
Peace finding presence in passiveness
So long hidden by aggressive fists
Suffocated by bitterness
Built up and driven by a hit list
Never has been felt such relief
Like a fire extinguished to save what’s underneath
Once clenched tight now released
Allowing reality to finally be seen
She didn’t know what she was starting when you asked me that first question that day, on second thought, maybe she did. Grace and peace they have the power to transform a person. Church, religion, and duty all fall short in that area. Restraint cannot change actions any more than a strait jacket can heal a sick mind. Pursue peace, my friends, but be ready for it to change your life. Be ready to become a revolutionary.