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Through the Red Door Blog

In the early days of the Church, when the front door of the parish was painted red it was said to signify sanctuary – that the ground beyond these doors was holy, and anyone who entered through them was safe from harm.

In the lives of many recovering people, it is through these same red doors that sanctuary is found on a daily basis. Initially that sanctuary may not have started in the rooms with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, but in the basements and back rooms of churches where 12-step meetings are held.

This blog was created for recovering people to share the experiences they found walking through those doors of safety, refuge and peace.

To submit a entry to the blog, please click here for the details or contact us at info@episcopalrecovery.org.

  • 09/26/2018 9:11 PM | Anonymous

    You may remember a few weeks ago we left me standing on the top step of a ladder, chain saw in hand roaring its little heart out as only a chain saw can do, when, out of the fog of my brain, a voice broke through, and, well, I don’t want to say it had a sharp edge, but let’s just leave it as a voice intended to communicate a certain disapproval for my standing on that ladder’s top step, a roaring chain saw in hand.

    The voice clearly conveying the harsh judgement that whatever I was about to do was about the dumbest, stupidest, most unsafe action a person could undertake.

    Yet, it made all the sense in the world to me. For, you see, my friends, while the chain saw was powered by gasoline, I was fueled and powered by several cans of my own special fuel.

    I mention this absolutely stupid action on my part because it was near the end of my days of regularly refueling with my intake of alcohol-powered soft-drinks during yard-work chores.  It was just before I realized I was an alcoholic … one prone to stupid life-threatening actions but which I and many of us survived only by the Grace of God. I guess I like to think this episode prompted me to, well, at least consider dealing with my problem drinking.

    Actually, that’s not the timing of the issue I remember. I knew I was an alcoholic much before this awakening moment. I just didn’t have the courage to surrender and do something about my addiction, and besides, I admit now I hadn’t had enough as yet of my drug of choice. This little episode caused me to rethink what I was doing with my life and my addiction - to begin taking measure of my conduct, life style, and alcoholic pattern drinking.

    What I’m trying to say is that sometimes it takes a life-threatening action to bring us to that point of the real surrender-- that moment when we admit we have lost control and have tried everything except giving up our addiction.  I had no more available options.

    Oh, sure, I did. I could continue my erratic out-of-control conduct and take the chance my family and employer wouldn’t abandon me.

    I knew about the Program. I had a close friend who’d been involved for several years. I called him and we soon talked.  He didn’t ask me to sign anything or promise I wouldn’t drink forever. All he said was that he had also felt helpless about the nature of his use of alcohol to manage his life and its ups-and-downs. He told me about the Program of Alcoholic Anonymous and how it had provided a way for him to get ahold of his life and to seek and find a better way of living.  He kept saying that AA wants all of us to come to believe that use of the Program will provide us “happiness, joy and freedom” from our addiction.

    It seemed to me that he was on to something and I decided to do something about my addiction and go with him to a meeting and check it out.                               

    Jim A., Covington, KY

  • 09/20/2018 12:27 PM | Anonymous

    John 15:14-16
    14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

    Throughout my 12-step journey, God has had to use strange moments to “wake me up to His presence.”  I entered drug rehab while I was in seminary.  And with that, I was thoroughly convinced that I knew all there was to know about God and that this “rehab experience” was not going to enlighten me in any way.  So, I entered with a huge egoso large it had its own zip code.  I remember my counselors and fellow residence talking endlessly about this “God of our own understanding.”  It fell on deaf ears.

    One day, when I was feeling quite self-assured, I decided to take a walk on the hospital grounds.  Seems innocent enough … right?  Well, it was November, the ground was thick with ice and snow and the rule wasno venturing out without permission.  Being unique and beyond “the rules,”  I took a walk.  Got to the lake and it was frozen, so I decided I was going to do the “Jesus thing” and walk on water.  Got about 10 feet out when ice began to break and went I straight down into freezing water.  I made my way back to the hospital and was, to say the least, busted.   Because of this, I was given the privilege of cleaning bathrooms for three days. 

    It was on the third day and I was “elbow deep” in toilets and was frustrated with the stupidity of this whole “rehab thing.”  I had decided to pack my bags and leave and then three fellow residence walked into the bathroom and began cleaning.  Couldn’t understand what was going on … so I asked, “why are you doing this and what’s in it for you?”  They said, “nothing, we just wanted to work a good program today and help those in need isn’t that what God would have us do?”  I was unable to respond (which was unusual for me).  And then it dawned on me that they were right.  This is what God would have us do.  These three guys were the God model for me.  I don’t remember their names and I’ve forgotten what they look like; but I will never forget the lesson they taught me.  I will forever remember the day I found God as I cleaned toilets with three fellow 12-steppers.

  • 09/12/2018 8:38 PM | Anonymous

    I was talking with my partner, who is also in recovery, about what we love about Alcoholics Anonymous. We agree that the three things are the Program, the Fellowship and Service. That is our Three-Legged Stool of Recovery.

    The Program gives structure to our lives. One of my favorite AA slogans is “No matter how far into the woods you find yourself, it is only Twelve Steps out!” At one of the first meetings I ever went to, a brilliant guy named Joe said, “My dishwasher came with an instruction manual, but I didn’t…and then I found the Big Book and the 12 & 12.”

    When I call my sponsor in distress about anything (from an unexpected illness…to worrying about a child…to running out of money...to relationship troubles) she will say to me, “Which Step do you have to work on now?”

    At first telling me to look to the steps drove me nuts and I wanted to scream, “I’m not like everyone else. There is no simple cookie-cutter solution to MY problem! Nowhere in the steps does it say anything about…(fill in the blank.)”  But then I started to do what she said and review the steps. They seem to work in any and every situation.

    What am I powerless over that I am trying to control? Who has more knowledge or expertise than I in this situation? Should I ask for help? What have I done to make the situation what it is? What habit or behavior of mine is playing into this? Can I let it go? Do I owe someone an apology or do I have to amend a counterproductive habit of my own? Am I taking time to stop, breathe, and ask HP for help? Am I practicing an attitude of gratitude and service?

    Then I go to a meeting and discover in The Fellowship that I am not alone. Others have faced and handled situations just like the one I find myself in. I listen to their stories in speaker meetings and comments in discussion or literature meetings. I learn from those who know what works and what doesn’t. I do not have to solve problems that others have already solved if I am open and willing enough to listen. I can choose to be happy rather than right. I can relax and enjoy myself, not taking myself so seriously but instead enjoying this walk along the path of happy destiny.

    And then we come to the best part: Service. By staying sober through the Program and staying centered through the Fellowship, I can be present for others. I can be a gift instead of a problem in the lives of others. John and I were practically shedding tears of gratitude when we were talking about this a couple of nights ago: Is there anything more wonderful than being there for someone else? For having relationships that are filled with trust and respect instead of rancor and tumult? Isn’t it an honor to be approached by a newcomer who, nervously and in fear of rejection, asks you to be their sponsor? Isn’t it fun to share your hobby with someone else, realizing that you do have expertise?

    Not drinking or using is the foundation. And upon that, thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous, we build lives of meaning, fellowship and service.

  • 09/06/2018 12:41 PM | Anonymous

    We are at Camp Allen in Texas for the first time at a Community of Hope International with Mary Earle as the keynote speaker. As I look over her books I find this newly published 20th anniversary edition of An Altar in Your Heart, Meditations on the Jesus Prayer by Bishop Robert Hibbs with a Foreword by Mary Earle. The Jesus Prayer has been my mantra in the early morning and at evening as I go to sleep and during any time of anxiety or fear or temptation during the day or night especially during medical tests for me and my family. It is my feeble attempt at praying without ceasing.  

    I have known Bishop Hibbs for years through work with the Episcopal Recovery Community, but never knew about his work on the Jesus Prayer.  As I share with Mary my connections with Bishop Hibbs, I find out he died a year ago in April, and Mary preached the homily at his service. I want to thank and honor him for the support he gave me and so many others in recovery by sharing this book with you. Also included is an audio CD of his lectures at a retreat producing the book, which the Cajuns would call a lagniappe, a little something extra. For years Bob Hibbs was the major voice for recovery in the Episcopal House of Bishops.

    Saying the Jesus Prayer is like using a prayer rope or beads in our heads. Bishop Hibbs relates the story of Cardinal Mindzenty and Father Eschmann, who survived torture and solitary imprisonment by staying connected to God with the Jesus Prayer.

    The first words of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” remind us of both Jesus’ divinity and his humanity which Hibbs believes is an important constant message in keeping us in relationship with Jesus. These first words of the prayer with Jesus’ name express Easter, the Alleluia part of the prayer. The last phrase about mercy expresses Good Friday. Sister Carol Perry at this same conference reminds us that in this request for mercy, we are making the choice to ask for God’s mercy in our lives rather than God’s justice for how we have lived our lives.  Hibbs believes we always live in the tension between being in Easter and always connected to Good Friday.

    Bishop Hibbs reminds us that this is an oral prayer to be said out loud as much as possible especially as we begin to make the Jesus Prayer a part of our being. He cautions us not to be discouraged as we become distracted while we say it. We are gently to return to the prayer without judgment on ourselves. We might consider treating distractions similar to those we encounter them in centering prayer. We might see them as barges moving down the Mississippi or any favorite river. We are to let them pass on down without interacting with them.

    Eventually the prayer develops a rhythm in our lives and becomes a gift from God closely related to the beating of our heart, a constant, habitual recollection or awareness of God’s presence. Hibbs also reminds us that when we pray the Jesus prayer, we are attempting to connect to Jesus, God, the Trinity above and beyond us but also to the Christ, the God of our understanding, in our neighbor and in ourselves.

    For people in 12 step recovery this is where the steps intersect with the Jesus Prayer as we “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God.” (Step 11, Chapter 5, “How it Works,” Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2016, p. 85)

    Sometimes I modify the prayer to be similar to what is called Agnus Dei, the fraction anthem said or sung after breaking the bread in the Eucharist. “Lord God, Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.”

    While we meet with people in 12 step recovery, especially when we tell our story or listen to theirs, or when we talk to our sponsor or those we sponsor, we give them our utmost attention, but having the Jesus Prayer running through our mind and body is a way for us to stay connected to the Spirit speaking to the God of our understanding in both of us.

    Joanna  joannaseibert.com

  • 08/27/2018 7:50 PM | Anonymous

    I wrote recently about the early days of sobriety—the feelings of comfort we were beginning to feel from our working the Steps, attending meetings, and so forth. For many of us, these were feelings that we were blessed to have found through the Program and embraced them before we really sank to the lower depths of the disease.

    Gradually, you became aware of the need to strengthen your spiritual life. You concluded that you needed to undertake some Eleven Step work: “…to improve [your] conscious contact with God as (you) understood him…”

    One of the best teachings of the Program is its call to action—now. “Into action,” we say.

    That happened to me one Fall. I was wrestling with a problem. I saw it as one carrying possible uncomfortable outcomes. I struggled to find a solution, but couldn’t pull it off. That old demeaning feeling of anxiety moved into my mind and was starting to become an obsession.

    I realized I needed to turn my will over to God, again. I’d done that in the early Steps, but I now realized the Eleventh Step reminds me to keep working on that—to sharpen my conscious contact with God and make him more of a part of my everyday life. The Step says pretty clearly, “Sought through prayer and meditation…” to do so.

    So, the first thing I did was to re-read and study all the Big Book’s references to prayer and to put these into practice.. Of course, I felt that since this was a complex matter, I foolishly felt that God may not be able to put the pieces together to point me in the right direction. So, in my prayers, I needed to direct God as I was asking for his help.

    But, fortunately, I realized that by doing so, I was falling back into my same old desires to control life and all of its twists and turns—actually the same fault which got me in so much trouble in the first place with my disease.

    I’d forgotten one of those sayings—let go and let god—which by the way is frequently posted on the wall of perhaps every Alcoholics Anonymous clubhouse. How to find this comfortable relationship and be guided by it was all set out in the Big Book. It was all there all along.

    I started praying with a difference: “your will, not mine” but give me the grace and courage to follow that will. I didn’t need to explain the problem to him—how naïve of me to even suggest that. I had to learn to “be quiet,” to be silent through meditations. Let him speak. You sure can’t hear him when you’re talking. I started attending a church prayer group which was seeking ways to ask for and follow the will of god for them. I started to study books which spoke of ways to do this. I’m not certain that our surrender of First, Second and Third Steps is one event. I now believe that it is a process, over time, through contemplative quiet meditation on our part … “Be silent and know that I am God.”

    Jim A.
    Covington, Kentucky

  • 08/21/2018 5:29 PM | Anonymous

    By my purely personal estimation, the seven verses of John Bell’s modern classic, “Take, O Take Me As I Am”1, lack the intimacy, the hope, the power of the refrain:

    “Take, O take me as I am, summon out what I shall be, set your seal upon my heart, and live in me.” 

    The hymn conveys Christian faith in a conventional, arguably flaccid recitation of sacramental devotion that marks the redemption of a flawed and failed people by a loving God.  It is lovely and, quibbles aside, a devotional favorite.

    Yet, my friend died of brain cancer two days shy of his 31st sobriety anniversary. For him, the vaunted AA promises fell short and his quest for a robust faith, an animating, energizing “Higher Power” was unrewarded. His attempts at prayer brought him only to a place of “spiritual aridity”, as my mother would say.  Take, O take me as I am… summon out what I shall be… was your seal upon my heart?... could you have lived in me?

    My Alanon sponsee just called to say his spouse is in detox again, six months after the six-week rehab last winter, the stint that followed the six-week rehab last summer. He is frustrated and angry; she is sick and resentful. Take, O take me as I am… summon out what I shall be… is your seal upon my heart?... will you live in me?

    This morning, lingering in bed, unable to doze and unready to fully waken, I longed for my children, who were born in the flush of my early sobriety, and from whom I am long estranged, even as I advance in my fourth decade of recovery, praying for release from selfish resentments, theirs and mine.  Take, O take me as I am… summon out what I shall be… set your seal upon my heart… please, dwell in me, O Lord, I beg of you. 

    As we grudgingly, imperfectly, even futilely “work” the steps and “practice” our faith, Christ’s promise that eclipses all others is that he already takes us as we are. It’s why he came. However, even he can only summon what we shall be when we, like Magdalen, like Peter, and unlike that “certain young ruler” surrender our stuff, our status, our selves. Only then, do we have the desire and the capacity to receive all that redeeming Love, to meet I Am, to be in communion with the Source of Unconditional Love.

    O Lord, awaken me, anoint me, animate me, abide in me… for

    We, the broken and ashamed,

    we in chaos live untamed,

    we can hardly speak your name,

    But, you, O Lord:

                   Take, O take us as we are

                   By your grace we come alive

                   Mark us as your saints to thrive

                   Within your love.

    -Martin McE.

    1 John L. Bell, Copyright, 1995 Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community GIA Publications, Inc. agent.

  • 08/15/2018 7:00 PM | Anonymous

    At an A.A. meeting awhile back, Andy, a young man with a handsome handle-bar moustache, was speaking.  The general topic for the evening was how we can stay clean and sober, avoiding relapse.

    Trying to keep his hands quiet, Andy said, “I wake up every morning and I am excited.  I am clean and sober and excited.  Next week my son will celebrate his seventh birthday.   For the first time I will be sober and remember the gift I got for him and won’t be afraid of what I might do to make Timmy ashamed of me.  That gets me excited.  I can’t wait.”  Andy’s voice was smiling.

    I sat back in my chair and thought, he’s right.  I need a little of that.  I need to get the wonder back: that same childlike wonder to look at something—a puppy, a bubble, rainbows, clouds— and laugh aloud, “Wow!”

    Too many of us can’t say that.  I’m sober, but I don’t appreciate the winning.  I am not alone.  I am one in eight American adults who is an alcoholic.  One study shows that roughly 90% of people with alcoholic disease relapse within four years of completing treatment.  I was one of the 90%.

    Now, sometimes when I wash dishes I remember my drinking days when I took whatever plate was on top of the heap, maybe rinse it off, eat, and put it back on top.  And laundry.  If the shirt or pants in the dirty clothes basket didn’t smell too bad, I put them on.  One autumn I didn’t rake the leaves, and in the spring wondered why the grass was dead.

    Today, as ridiculous as it is, sometimes I take a moment and pat myself on the back and say what a big boy I am with clean dishes and clean clothes and green grass and a sober day ahead of me. 

    It’s time for us to stand in front of a mirror, tall and proud and grinning, shouting, “Damn, I’m good!  And Happy Birthday, Timmy.  People like you help me stay sober.”

  • 08/08/2018 5:59 PM | Anonymous
    Frederick Buechner reminds us that “the biblical view of the history of humankind and of each individual man or woman is contained in the first three chapters of Genesis. We are created to serve God by loving God and each other in freedom and joy, but we invariably choose bondage and woe instead as prices not too high/ to pay for independence. To say that God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden is apparently a euphemism for saying that Adam and Eve, like the rest of us, made a break for it as soon as God happened to look the other way.”

    We seem to be hardwired to try to take over control, to be God. This is the direction of most of my sins. As I think of all my offences, the evil I have done, the harm I have done consciously or unconsciously, the friends, the family members I have hurt. I make amends when I can for the harm I have done, but mostly I try to make living amends. I want to let others know how I have been loved even when I felt unlovable or did unlovable things. I want to hold closely the Christ in others and let them know what a treasure they are. I want to be able to see the Christ in others. This is what spiritual friends and those in 12 step recovery are called to do for each other. We affirm, stand by each other.

    More often now I am paying it forward. For many reasons I cannot make amends to the person I have harmed but instead I try to show the love I wish I could now give to them to someone else. Paying forward is showing love to someone else that has done nothing for me, especially someone we do not know and often someone who feels loveless.

    I try, I judge, I make mistakes, I mess up, I hurt others, I make amends, I try to show love that has been so often unconditionally given to me, and the cycle invariably seems to start all over again. It is a circular path. I try, I mess up, I make amends. It is the human condition. I try to stay connected to this circular pathway of others who know more than I know how to love so that I can learn from them. I try to stick with the winners, /those whom I can so easily see Christ in them, and occasionally they can see the Christ in me which guides me back onto the path of love. Today I now learn most about how to love from my six grandchildren. What a circular life, for I first learned about love from my four grandparents many years ago.

    I return to Buechner who so beautifully reminds us that “if God really wanted to get rid of us, (to kick us out of Eden), the chances are/ God wouldn't keep hounding us every step of the way ever since.”

    (Frederick, Buechner, Humankind, Frederick Buchner Quote of the Day, May 28, 2018. Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words)

  • 08/01/2018 8:16 PM | Anonymous

    Matthew 23: Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and his disciples, “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra-wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. They love to sit in places of honor at banquets and in the synagogues. They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’

    “But you shouldn’t be called Rabbi, because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. Don’t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher. But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up. Common English Bible

    I am honored to have the opportunity to say a few words this morning as we gather to remember the life of Bob D. Sermons at Funerals are peculiar things in the Episcopal Church. They are not intended as eulogies but instead are meant to show us how God’s grace shown through the life of Bob with the hope that this will lead us to see God’s grace in our own lives.

    I chose this morning’s Gospel because I think it captures a side of Bob that I saw frequently. While Bob was an authority on many subjects and unafraid to assert that authority, at the same time he was suspicious of authority when exercised on him by others. Bob is Irish Catholic and had a thoroughly traditional Irish Catholic upbringing. He challenged that upbringing his entire life. It gave him some gifts but he had the clarity of vision that much of the certainty in the church he grew up in was based on the old preacher’s maxim of Weak Point, Shout Louder. Bob had unerring instincts in finding weak points and they offended his sense of integrity.

    If you look in the Bulletin you will see that I’m identified at the Homily as Father P. For those of you who know me well you know that I am known as Pete and almost never as Father P. I put it there today to make the point of today’s Gospel. I put it there to take it away and have you notice that I’m taking it away. The text we just heard in the Gospel read in v. 9: 9 Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. So call me Pete.

    Many of us who are clergy in the church are challenged frequently by our insistence upon titles of respect. This gospel reminds all of us that none of us are worthy of that respect, that deference, or that authority. Instead we are called to be servants first. Our only hope is in being generous. Furthermore, service that expects reward is not servanthood. We are called to be servants to find ourselves not so that someone else can reward us for being such a good one. The church and organized religion have too frequently lost that and have settled for accumulating power, authority, position, and respect.

    I know that many of us in this church today have been damaged by the power and authority claimed by some in the service of Religion. This morning’s Gospel, and this may be the only Burial Office at which it has ever been read, rebukes any confusion of faith and power. Quite the opposite is true. We are faithful in our willingness to do service. No expectation of reward; no payment sought; no accolades given.

    When I met with Bob’s family on Wednesday the thing I came away with was the sense that they remember Bob as a generous person. I remember him that way, too. What does it mean to be generous in this context? It means giving of yourself without expectation of return. It means giving the service I’ve just described. Generous people give because they find themselves in giving, in serving, in being humble, and in being a servant. I know Bob through his participation in AA. I’ve known him since he got sober and I’ve talked with many people whose sobriety was enhanced by knowing, being with, and talking with Bob. He was generous.

    I also know Bob because he and I used to meet regularly to talk about his spiritual life and his growth in sobriety as a humble, content, spiritual being. We began in the late summer of 2016 and met, usually in Mackenzie, just the 2 of us, regularly through the spring of 2017. Ultimately he decided that we were too intellectual -- that’s Bob -- but it worked for a while.

    The crucial thing about Bob in my experience -- and he and I talked about this when we went to Golds for coffee a few weeks ago and again a couple of weeks ago when I visited him in the hospital -- the crucial thing was the happiness and contentment he felt as a sober man. He knew that he was present to his family and to the world in a way that had not been true.

    Now, to be borderline heretical. 41 years ago when I was ordained a priest I was much more certain about what happens to us when we die than I am today. I was much more certain about the necessity of baptism than I am today. I was much more certain about how God was present in our lives than I am today. I told Bob on Monday that I have no certainty about where we go when we die. He had just expressed his doubts. I no longer believe in a God who has room in heaven only for Christians. I’m not at all certain what heaven is, but whatever it is, the primary characteristic of it is love for all. As the men in the rooms are probably tired of hearing me say, I think of C.S. Lewis’s Great Divorce. The primary requisite for making it into heaven is giving up Resentments. Bob and I learned this in the rooms of AA.

    I didn’t learn about Resentments in seminary. I didn’t learn Resentments in grad school after seminary. I only learned the importance of giving up Resentments by getting sober and sitting in meetings for many years now and getting to know people like Bob, and getting to know them well.

    Of course no one gets sober to go to AA meetings. I have been assured that the spiritual growth Bob experienced, however defined, was apparent to those who were close to him

    My hope is that everyone here this morning will acknowledge the spiritual growth in Bob’s life. He was always a force of nature. He always wanted an A in life. His intellectual honesty was important to him. He seemed not to suffer fools gladly. He enjoyed many blessings and he died surrounded by his family. What more can any of us hope for?

    I have no idea why some of us get sober while others do not. For some of us the community just makes sense and we fall into it. If you met any of us the day or week before we got sober it is unlikely that you would predict that we would ever enjoy sobriety. Yet here we are. For those here who are having trouble staying sober know that it wasn’t easy for anyone. Years of debate are a feature in all of our lives. However the community is here for all. That’s the spiritual gift of sobriety. In this church this morning are Christians, Unitarians, Jews, maybe a Muslim or 2, atheists, agnostics, doubters, the angry, the hopeless, the weary and much else. The message is that you won’t find meaning in authority, call no one Rabbi, Father or Teacher, you will find meaning and spirituality in service. Give of yourselves. In this way you will find yourself. Bob found himself.

  • 07/25/2018 8:13 PM | Anonymous

    The weeks leading up to my sober anniversary are full of particular kinds of reflection. I can more easily recall the awful days that led toward that crunch of clarity. And, as time rolls forward, my sense of gratitude grows deeper and richer. Retracing the line from then to now, I can begin to catch glimpses of how it happened.

    Mine is a story I now hear from countless others; only the details vary. I grew up as a fearful child; I developed into a fearful adult. At the same time, I was blessed with enough gifts to construct large barriers of acceptable accomplishments, protecting myself from a world I experienced as unwelcoming.

    When those fortifications of self-will failed, drugs became the duct tape that held me together. Until it didn’t. On that last day, through the din of shame and fear, I heard the gentle voice of a state trooper saying, please get some help, you don’t have to live this way. Could it really be true? There was a way out?

    Here’s a question: How do we move from fear to faith? Fear and faith each seem to arise when we face the unknown, the challenging, the difficult, the threatening. On the surface, faith and fear seem like polar opposites, like fight or flight.

    But, I wonder if fear and faith aren’t more closely related. Maybe it isn’t such an either/or proposition. Maybe faith doesn’t so much banish fear as make it possible to cope with it. Maybe the question isn’t about replacing one with the other. Maybe it’s not about never being afraid, but learning what to do when you are.

    Several weeks ago, the lectionary featured an iconic story of fear and faith: Jesus calming the stormy sea. This is a story important enough to the early followers of Jesus to have been included in all four gospels.

    Mark starts this passage with, “When evening had come,” he said to them, “let’s go across to the other side.” For this recovering addict, I can’t help but remember that gentle voice inviting me into recovery. And I climbed aboard.

    Sometimes the trip has seemed slow and long. There have been life storms along the way: health, finances, employment, relationships. But I stayed in the boat. And each time I was able to ride a storm out, I grew. I had a bit more faith; I was less afraid. Until the next storm.

    Today, I am occasionally plagued by doubts and fears, but I am no longer fully fearful. Life in recovery has taught me that moving from fear to faith to growth leads to new fears and new faith and new growth. After all, grace is gradual.

    Life in recovery, the life of faith, is not a “one and done” sort of thing. It is, however, a “stretch and grow” sort of thing. Leaving detox doesn’t make you sober. Taking steps to live a changed life, a day at a time, does.

    For this addict, what moves me from fear to faith is not a what, but a who: Jesus. That same Jesus that Mark describes as determined to free folks from all the things that keep us from God, even addiction. Jesus reveals a God who cares passionately for our wellbeing, and whose goodness is always at work beneath the surface of every storm.

    When we accept the invitation to cross over from fear to faith, when we allow ourselves to experience these unhurried changes, we will discover that source of hope, that next supply of serenity, that gradual grace that enables us to take the next step. And the next, and the next; daily trudging forward with more faith and less fear.

    Grace is gradual. And it’s glorious!

    Paul J.
    July 24, 2018

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