I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t afraid. I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid I’d fail. I was afraid I couldn’t do it perfectly. I was afraid there was something fundamentally wrong with me that wasn’t wrong with other people and I would never be able to live comfortably in the world.
Then I learned that fundamental thing was a God sized hole in my soul. There was treatment for that, and treatment for the other thing, the alcoholism, the insidious unscrupulous disease that thrived on fear and self-loathing.
My alcoholism is arrested and abstinence has been possible only through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Admitting powerlessness over alcohol and all mind altering substances, giving my life to God daily, taking a thorough inventory and giving it away, praying for removal of my defects of character that stand in the way of my usefulness to my brothers and sisters in the world, trying not to engage in behavior that impedes my spiritual growth or is hurtful to me or those around me, checking in with myself every day that I’m on the right path, maintaining that relationship with God and helping others, that’s my treatment.
I used to think the fear would go away, or the self-loathing. I’d get rid of that stuff for good and skip down the road of happy destiny. After years of experience, the truth is the fear doesn’t go away and often times the self-loathing and feelings of unworthiness continue to percolate just beneath the surface. Only now I see the fear as a little child, and sometimes my terrified adolescent self that only wants to keep me safe. If she can keep me from taking too many risks, stepping out into the unknown with no circus net to cradle our fall because she thinks, inevitably we will fall, then she can keep us safe and sound, and we will never experience grief or loss or pain or rejection. Sometimes, she’s really loud and persistent, and before too long I look at my life and realize I’m holding myself back from experiencing the fullness of life because I got too comfortable in a job I didn’t like, or stayed too long in a relationship that was destructive. All tangled up in that mess is fear, feelings of unworthiness, and not being capable. But I have these tools, this fellowship, and these people-mostly women-that I can come to with my desire for change and my fear of change, and tell them what’s going on. I talk about it, out loud, in a group full of women, who share their fears and feelings of unworthiness. These women have walked the path ahead of me and moved the big boulders out of the way. They stand in the light and wave me on saying, “This way. It’s ok. It’s safe. It’s super scary but it’s safe, too. Cause we’re here.” And the fundamental truth, underneath all of it, is that we are God’s beloved. That is the fundamental truth of who we are. We are not our fear, or unworthiness, or our character defects, or our limitations. We are God’s beloved.