Steps 6 & 7: Light It Up

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You know in middle and high school when you begged God to make you less proud, less shallow, less fat, and less horny?  I’ve been asking God to make me better for as long as I’ve been applying mascara.

The sixth and seventh steps give us permission to accept the gift of our humanity.  And guys, God adores humans.

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

So the three hernias popped out, the lights flipped on, I confessed, and could breathe again.

Now what?

Only the raddest transformation ever.  When my darkest corners and inside bits detected Light, the little curled-up Claire decided to unfurl for the first time in decades.  Rubbing her sensitive eyes she stepped into the warmth, into the Love that only a Higher Power can provide.

Good lighting perks up even the dullest complexion, and I felt beautiful despite my mistakes and my mortality.  I began to trust the God of cancer, the God of death, the God of addiction and chronic pain, the God of weary mamas and politics, and even the Middle East.   Because who could reject the Love that takes you no matter what?  Who could resist such a persistent and wild holiness?

My eyes adjusted to the blaring brightness, and at last I stood—mouth gaping— before a God I pray I never define.  No more checking identification at the doors of Heaven, no more defending a God who never asks for my defense.  Just surrender, humble surrender.

Extending outrageous grace and love to people I thought I disagreed with became easy and necessary.  I could see their Light, too: LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, Evangelicals, felons, my husband and kids, ISIS, my mom.  It had wrapped me up and held me close, so that’s what I’ll do to everyone else.

My prayers shifted direction as abruptly as my car does when a kid demands a potty break.  Since there is no condemnation in Christ, asking for forgiveness and help was simple— I was free and careless just like the murderous David or the yucky debt collectors.

The hard part?  Recalling that, in Eden, God called the Clay that became Claire Good.  I’ve found that all my problems arise from memory loss.  A forgotten whisper from the Higher Power: you are a beloved child of mine.  Shhhh.  Remember.

I don’t think “sin” is our defect, because we are human, and God expects humans to fuck up.  The defects aren’t pride, rage, lust, or addiction–those are the humanity.

The shortcoming is believing we are anything other than Good.  When we forget that God so loved the World, we forget that God so loves us, and everyone else.

Instead of: Lord, give me more self control, forgive me for eating the entire apple pie and disrespecting my body temple.  Try: Lord, forgive me for my memory loss, help me remember I’m a divine child of a Good, Hard, Wild, and Loving God.  

Where are your dark corners?  What part of God and the Bible and yourself do you defend, even if sometimes it feels too hard and sort of untrue and makes you sweat a little?  How big (or little) is the box in which you keep the Highest Power?  What if I told you everyone has God’s Light and Love pulsing through them?  Right now.  Yes, even him/her/them.

What if I told you that perfection is your name and goodness is your game?

Your defect isn’t your skin color, your income, your religious affiliation or voter registration.  Your shortcoming isn’t that you love someone the same gender as you or that you’re divorced or had an abortion.

We fall short when we forget to turn on the Lights.  God, take my humanity and hold it close.  Help me remember.

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Steps 4 & 5: I Can Breathe

A photo by Andrej Chudy. unsplash.com/photos/uivWDK2Ifrg

 

Steps 4 & 5: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves & admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

***

My therapist wanted me to make a list of all my secrets.  Maybe I scribbled through the three that were sending me to hell, maybe not.

“I don’t need to see them,” she reminded me.  “Then we will say a little prayer and shred them.”

No biggie, my pretty parts thought.   I’m an open book.  Vulnerable?  Check!  Genuine?  Check!  I’m real—always have been.  The problem was that I had not always been.

It’s a nice thing to tell oneself, that people really, truly know you.  But pre-rehab Claire practiced a distracted type of genuine.  Like when you’re trying to write a blog post while Yo Gaba Gaba blares in the background; not quite all the way at the keyboard and not quite all the way with the kiddos.

I stood between the belief that full transparency alone would save me and the fear that God’s love, my friend’s love, David’s love would tire after the emotional terrain my secrets would drag them through.

That night, holding my breath, I wrote my pretty-enough secrets: I wasn’t a virgin when I got married.  I stole more than five pills from David.  The Wonderful World of Roses (which I cited for my sixth grade science fair) was not, in fact, a real book.

After confessing and shredding and praying I though, wow, what a great exercise, what a brilliant starting point to begin my journey toward healing and reconciliation.  It was, too. We saw themes and threads on my page that gave us real insight into where most of my shame was burrowed.

But three stains remained and I just couldn’t get them clean.  The fourth & fifth steps are the hardest for many addicts, for many humans.

No amount of charm or beauty, no amount of church-appropriate vulnerability, no amount of service work or prayer or bad religion or working out or starving or sparkly house-cleaning or good child-rearing or altering reality was working.

So one day, while journalling about the discord inside me and how confusing it felt, the three little hernias popped out of my pen onto the page.  I gasped.

How could I keep ignoring the deep wounds begging for some attention?  My humanity was ready to stop suffocating.  I texted David.

“Can we talk?  I have three secrets, and I am flipping out…”

I wrote this poem right after that exchange.

           ***

Three secrets.

I had three.

But after

decades

of applying layer

after layer after layer of cement on top of them

 

I ran out of cement

and I couldn’t keep up with the labor costs

and I’m pretty sure others could smell

the corpses

too.

 

And I Love myself.

 

“I need to tell you three secrets” I said.

“Give ‘em to me” he said.

1

2

3

 

Now, instead of  avoiding the deep chasms in the pavement

instead of fearing what the uneven surface would do to my wobbly ankles

I get to dance

with freedom

with him

with them

 

And I am fully known

 

“I love you still!”

 

Then I exhaled for the first time in my life.

***

Some of us, like David, might not hold secrets like mine —- felony secrets.  His were smaller, daily shames about small daily comparisons and failures.  They still defined his worth, just like mine did; and to him they weren’t small.

Or maybe you’re like me, and you feel like there’s just no way someone would still love you or choose you if they knew.

Your ugly part, your stains that won’t wash out, your shame? Jesus has been dying (and actually died) for you to let Him run it through that holy washing machine.  I never understood why the song “Amazing Grace” captivated the ages until that poem poured out of me.

Grace, Love, they are the deepest needs we have.  Freedom is ours, there is no condemnation in Christ, you guys.  Perfect Love makes you perfect.

Perfect Love delights in loving us, paying no mind to the caliber of fuckitude we cause.  Until you finally complete steps four and five you can’t fully access the boundless Love that creates New Life.

And our secrets?  God loves those, too.  If God loves all of us then surely others can, too.  Surely we can learn to love ourselves.  Surely, this would change the world.

 

 

PS- Here is a link to the AA Inventory prompt; this tool has changed my life and created a deep, lasting peace.  If you’re a human, and you want freedom, DO THIS.

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Step 2: I’m Cold

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There was a moment, the day before they harvested my eggs five years ago, when I decided God wasn’t going to help this time.  The choice was clear as those IV fluids: either God is Good and it was all a dream; I don’t really need a bone marrow transplant; I won’t be infertile; I won’t lose my eyelashes, again.

Or, God, whatever God is, is a dick.  And my infant won’t recognize her bald and bloated mama.

God chose the later— so did I.  Nobody knew about my decision, I didn’t know about my decision.  What I did know on that harvesting table, numb from the waste down, was that God wasn’t going to get one more tear.  If God said yes to cancer again, then God couldn’t be trusted.

In pain doctors I trust.  I pledge allegiance to my prescriptions.  
God’s clearly a little confused about how to keep a human happy, so I’ll take it from here.  
No, we need to increase my doses because I still feel like a human.

Though David asked repeatedly if I felt ready for church again, I didn’t feel welcome in the home a God who claims to be Love incarnate, not with three IV lines installed in my heart and hanging out of my chest.  Not with the poisonous burning cement radiating from inside my femurs and pelvis, and urine that smells like a mummified rat soaking in its own urine.  This isn’t Love.  This is hell.

Who would choose God over opiates?

When we step away from the protective, warm wing of the Mama Hen, cold, bitterness, and fear start to pursue.  Addicts love hiding, I found a cozy hiding spot in the corner of the big gray sofa.  The Crate & Barrel blankets could keep my body warm enough, but an almost-corpse lay inside, hypothermia setting in.

Step 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This was the easiest step for me.

All through my adolescence I watched my Higher Power restore and redeem my sister’s life, cancer, and death.  I had living and dying proof that God was real, that Love was real.  The weight of God’s glory pressed down on our dysfunctional family.  Every time I tried to escape God’s loving, kind Goodness my sister would go and get healed, or something like that.

But on that table, as those kind, punk-ass doctors took the last of my fertility, everything changed, it had to.  My sister’s faith & story couldn’t carry me anymore, I needed one of my own.

At rock bottom, bewildered and alone in the NICU, I finally understood what my best attempts to control my own life got me: a drugged, shaky newborn.  A drugged, shaky Claire.  His sweet warm baby body was all I needed to warm up the frozen insides that the Crate & Barrel blankets never could.

Last weekend I sat in a jacuzzi with David under yellowing aspens high up in the Rockies.  Their quaking and quivering mirrored the soul and body shaking I used to endure.  “It looks like an invisible toddler is shaking the branch back and forth,” I commented. The wind rattled the leaves dramatically, as if someone had given the wild thing a latte.

Then they calmed, and quickly ceased moving completely.  The invisible mother must have called the invisible, caffeinated toddler in for bedtime.  Peace at last for those crisping blades.

Little inside Claire tired from all the rustling and rattling around.  I can’t do this alone.

Finally, there on the pillow on the floor in rehab, the convulsing stopped.  Yes, Suboxone helped, but I think it was more like God calling away the wild addictions and toddler fears that shook me for too long.

Come inside now, leave the poor thing alone.

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