gratitude

Dissonance

I remember attending my first Twelve Step recovery meeting ever. It was an open meeting, and I attended with a friend. I listened. I learned a lot and felt that even though what people were sharing didn’t totally apply to me, there was something warm and familiar about it all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

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With my friend Nicole in 2009, not long after I began working the Steps

A few months later, I understood that warm and familiar feeling to be home. I related to the feelings shared, even though the details were different, because I had been affected by similar problems and situations.

I never stopped the Twelve Step movement in my life after that. This summer, I celebrate my eleventh year in recovery. When I attended my first meeting, I was dating an alcoholic (I later married him, and subsequently divorced him). He insisted I find my own program of recovery because I was driving him crazy. Truthfully, I was probably driving him completely nuts, regardless of his behavior and his contributions to the chaos in our relationship.

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How I spend my time today

Fast forward 11 years. A lot has happened in the gap, but one thing has remained steady and constant in my life–my relationship with God and my growth in recovery. Divorce, financial ruin, relocation, grad school, pregnancy, major health concerns, marriage, legal stress, parenthood, entrepreneurship … you name it. Life happens to us, right? That doesn’t change just because we choose to align ourselves with healthier people, attend Twelve Step meetings, and pursue a better path for ourselves. Life keeps happening. Will we avoid as many potential pitfalls if we’re making better choices? Probably. But life rolls on, and we cannot prevent that.

I’ve observed something interesting over the past decade which sometimes seems strange. A dissonance, a distinct difference, even tension between the way I view (and choose) to view the world, and the way others view and choose to view it.

Why the dissonance? Why the difference? Why the vast chasm?

Yes, I follow Christ, and that certainly sets me apart from a large group of people who do not. But it’s not those people I’m referencing here. There are many of my friends and family members, most of whom follow Christ, who truly seem to be unable to relate to my perspective and worldview. What’s changed? Me or them? If it’s me, what is it about me that’s changed so much?

I’ll never get inside others’ heads to figure this out entirely–and honestly, I don’t want to–but I do find it interesting. Here’s one thing God brought to my attention a few weeks ago: When two people have experienced reality entirely differently, it is nearly impossible for them to perceive the world similarly. 

I chatted with a friend of mine who works in Christian ministry a few weeks ago, and that’s when this really hit me. He shared with me a situation that occurred years ago when many folks in ministry conflicted over changing a denominational policy. Some of the people stood by their beliefs without becoming petty or criticizing individuals (maintaining a polite, cordial attitude toward others involved). But a few people lashed out at the group, posted hateful messages online, and demonstrated the exact behavior that makes Christians cringe in embarrassment. We lamented about the situation together.

“I don’t know why, but that’s just one of those hot button topics that always gets people going,” he mused.

“Yeah, I guess so. I can’t relate to that anymore. I think there was a time when I had an opinion about that stuff… not now. I can’t even muster an ounce of concern about that if I try.”

I wasn’t being sarcastic. I was serious. My entire perception of what really matters has completely changed. I really did join in on splitting doctrinal hairs in the past, and I enjoyed those conversations and would defend my soapbox to the bitter end. And not just that–I used to pride myself on serving as vigilante of almost everyone or anything. I loved that stuff. I LOVED THAT STUFF. If you’d asked me the question, How important is that, really? I would have responded, It’s VERY important!

Then I lived in alcoholism for a decade. And I faced PTSD during that time from multiple incidents of sexual assault and other situations. I finally sought counseling and help through the Twelve Steps, but not until my life began to crumble into bits at my feet. It was not the best time of my life.

When your reality has been lived in mire, in fighting dark spiritual battles for quite some time, your perception changes. First world problems aren’t problems at all. You don’t have room on your plate for things like bickering, gossip, and scandal.

Yet even when you move from darkness to light–and thank God, that has happened for me–you may still feel permanent dissonance between the way you see the world and the way others see it. Does that mean those who don’t see it the way you see it are wrong, or that something is inherently wrong with you?

Not at all. It’s just a reminder that the world is varying shades, that not every human experiences trauma, and that God works through each of us differently. It’s a reminder that we cannot go to the bakery expecting to purchase hardware. That we can’t expect people who’ve never been in a pit to feel comfortable sitting next to us in the bottom of one while we work our way out, one Step at a time. It’s a reminder that God goes before us, plans in love, and converts what was meant for Evil into our Ultimate Good.

 

 

gratitude

Silly prayers

Last week, our pastor shared a sermon about praying silly prayers.

My friend Mary’s sons, Carson and Jack, piped up every time the preacher said “silly prayers.” I could hear them giggling and repeating the phrase, “SILLY prayers!”

Basically, silly prayers are the prayers we pray reluctantly, hesitant to ask God for something that seems trivial, selfish, or minute in the grand scheme of things. Our pastor shared examples of silly prayers others had prayed–and how God had answered each of those silly prayers. He reminded us that God really does care enough to listen to and answer our prayers, no matter how silly they seem to us.

As he shared this sermon, I realized that many of my prayers could be categorized as silly prayers. I have come to believe in a Power Greater Than Myself and in His ability to do anything He wants to do, however He wants to do it. I trust Him enough to simply ask for His will be to be done. But I also know that He takes delight in fulfilling the God-given desires of my heart. So sometimes I ask Him for things that other people might scoff at or believe to be unimportant. God doesn’t scoff, though. He answers me. He doesn’t always say yes, but He always answers.

A few years ago, my husband (boyfriend at the time) took me hunting for the first time. I don’t know why it mattered to me, but I was determined to have a successful hunting trip–I wanted to kill a deer. And not just a deer–a deer with horns (technically referred to as a buck, but in  girly terms, “deer with horns” worked just fine). So I asked God for this, and He understood my lingo just fine. The next day, I killed a buck with one shot on my very first hunting trip. Trust me, this is nothing short of a miracle for me.

Recently, I asked God to give me an idea to pass on to a friend who was struggling with her daughter’s behavior. She’d asked for tips or suggestions, and my mind drew a blank. I’d had six years of experience as a stepmom, and I was very familiar with her daughter’s age-range and issues children have at that age, but I couldn’t think of a single thing at first. The next day, as I prayed for my friend and her daughter, God flooded my brain with questions and ideas and memories about my own childhood and children I’d helped care for who had similar problems. I shared all this information with my friend and told her I had no idea if it would be helpful or relevant. Turns out, the suggestions she implemented are working.

The past few months, I’ve been praying that God would grow our little local recovery program. I asked Him to bless and double our efforts. The next week, we literally had twice as many in attendance. That trend has continued week after week. People have begun asking questions, unprovoked and without any effort on my part. The local newspaper offered to run a full feature article on our program, and all I’d asked for was a free temporary classified ad. Last night, a new participant at the meeting (who was obviously in considerable emotional pain) asked if she could borrow a book which contains daily readings relevant to recovery and the 12 steps. I eagerly loaned her the book. When I explained that most people read one page each day, she asked, “Is it okay if I read more than one a day?” Well, of course! On my way home last night, I thanked God for answering my prayer in a bigger and more comprehensive way than I’d prayed it.

God didn’t have to let me kill a deer. We certainly harvested and utilized all of the meat, but it wasn’t necessarily a nutritional need being met. He must have just known that I would benefit tremendously from His response to my prayer. And I did.

God didn’t have to give me ideas to share with my friend. After all, it wasn’t even my child I was praying for. But He did. And I know my friend well enough to know that she understands the Source of the successful ideas.

He didn’t have to bring more people to our recovery program. He could help them all in other ways and through other means. But for some reason, He continues to grow our program, and in turn, strengthen my belief in the power of prayer.

Right now, I’m praying a few silly prayers daily. I won’t share them yet–some things must remain between me and Him. One of my silly prayers (which I’ve been praying for about a month now) seems to have been partially answered today, through the help of a friend who had no idea that I’d been praying about the very thing.

I’m so grateful that I repeatedly took the action of praying and asking God for things I felt were silly, and that His responses to my prayers have changed my feelings and strengthened my faith. I’m grateful that I don’t consider anything too silly to pray about now.

As my friend Kathy says, “Nothing ‘just happens’ in God’s world.”