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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God Sees Butterflies

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My two oldest daughters are terrified of moths.  Last summer David and I regularly awoke in the middle of the night to shrieks and screams of terror coming from the top of the stairway.  SURELY ONE OF THEM LOST AN EYE.  Surely it was hanging out of the socket, swinging around, whapping and tapping their little ankles. Nope, just moths resting on their windows and walls.  It lasted all season.

Just the other day our first moth arrived.  I noticed him banging around a few days ago in the kitchen, and yesterday the girls finally took note.  Truth be told David and I don’t enjoy moths either.  They dive-bomb!?  So unpredictable!  What kind of animal just flails themselves around hoping to land on something that matters, something helpful?  Moths do.  And they’re dusty—at least ninety-five percent dust.  Because whenever I catch one in a Kleenex and mash it up, only a dusty blob remains.  So I get it, the fear is real.

This year instead of verbally and emotionally abusing them, I tried a different approach.

“You know what girls?”

“Whaaaaat?” They pitifully mumbled through big tears.

“I think the moths are sad.”

“Why are they sad, Mama?”

“Because they don’t feel as pretty as the butterflies.”  Terror dissolved into tenderness.  “Yeah, they know they don’t fly as gracefully and pretty as the butterflies.  Wouldn’t you feel sad without those big, beautiful, bright wings?  They don’t even get to fly from flower to flower outside, do they?  No, they’re stuck inside, stuck to our walls and windows.”  We all made sad faces but now it was because we empathized with the moth, not because it dive-bombed us.

Now moths aren’t so scary.  They even touched one!  We will see what happens later in the season, when one sneaks into their room at midnight.  Please, Jesus.  Please please please please.

The girls don’t know how closely I relate to the moths and all their moth-y characteristics.  You see, not long ago dear ones, your mama felt a lot like a moth.  I’ve been sober for twenty-two months now, but I remember feeling ugly, small, and stuck.  I wondered why I couldn’t leave the house anymore.  Would if they’d miss my dusty remnants?

They’re better off without me.

I remember constantly wrestling with the pain meds, stimulants, and sleeping pills doctors prescribed after the bone marrow transplant.

 Why do I still feel all of this?  

I probably looked a lot like a moth to those watching, achy and tired from all the hours and activity spent trying to find the Light.

When I drive through downtown Denver, or I climb up the steps of my church, I just see a lot of dirty and dusty (blessed) people.  I see beautiful brokenness and I feel an achy hope for each and every soul still scrambling toward the Light of Love.  Truthfully, we’re all wounded.  We all dive-bomb again and again in hopes of landing on something Real, don’t we?  What if we aren’t unattractive, lost, or scary?  Maybe it doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong or gay or blonde or educated?  There’s no condemnation in Christ, remember?  God doesn’t condemn your weight, your marital status, or how much you tithe.  We’re all just holy clay, holy dust, breathing the Breath of a Creator who was courageous enough to reach out and touch us.  You guys, God just sees butterflies.

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Swoop

swoopingFor as long as I can remember I’ve used the term swooping to describe those “in the knick of time” moments that always seemed to plague, and bless, me.  My best friend and I use it when things like this happen: her not getting kicked out of pre-med for what they thought was cheating (it wasn’t). Or when the mass in my chest just turns out to be scar tissue, not a recurrence of Lymphoma.  When I first started using the phrase, which was probably in middle school, I imagined a mama eagle swooping down and saving her baby from a splattered death on the rocks below.  Maybe the baby accidentally fell out of the nest in a fit of rage.  Or maybe the baby was using reality-altering substances and stumbled out in a daze? Or maybe I, err—the baby— intentionally stepped over the edge of the branched enclosure just to see what happened.  Would I die?  Would Mama Eagle really go that out of her way to save a little shit like me?  

It turns out yes, God always always swoops.  I think swooping is like Grace.  I don’t know why She, the Eagle, cares so deeply about my well-being, but She does.  Well maybe I do know why, because I am of her.  Because She created me, and because I am worthy of Love.  So I take it back, I do know why She swoops.  It’s because She Loves me.  Even when anger and rage settled in to stay because I got cancer, again—while pregnant.  Even when I nodded off while my kids play upstairs because I took too much Oxy.  Even when I tested Her with threats of abandoning the faith, abandoning the crappy eagle life She gave me, I’ll cut my wings off!— SHE SWOOPS.

And that’s Grace.  NO MATTER WHAT, God wants us.  Always.  You want proof?  I have some proof.

1. When I met David I was dating another man, as far away from Jesus as I could get.  Unable to stop wounding myself by staying with unloving men I begged for an intervention, “I’d rather be a robot who gets in to heaven than a human who goes to hell,” I journaled.  So much shame.  A swooping was in order, and even when I broke at least seven of the ten commandment, I got David.  I still got all the good stuff.  Very quickly after meeting David I knew he was the one, and I never returned another call from the other guy, and that was a good, loving choice.

2. I put my son in the NICU.  My substance abuse put my son in the NICU.  That’s at least five years of a guilt and shame-ridden existence.  But you know what it got me?  Swooping, in the form of rehab.  That Mama Eagle loved me too much, and wouldn’t let me meet a splattered end on the rocks below.  Grace.  Even after Atticus was born, I continued taking the meds for several weeks before I entered an inpatient facility.  Imagine a little eagle tumbling through the air, popping Oxy and Adderall the whole time, completely unable to help herself.  Does that little thing deserve the fullness of the Kingdom of God and Grace?  Does that little being deserve a sacrificial Love?  Yes!  It’s just outrageous, isn’t it?

3.  Cancer?  Yes.  It was Ellen’s eleven-year decline and eventual death-by-brain-cancer that solidified my belief in Swooping.  How many times had my family braced for the smashing of the century?  Too many.  How many times did we actually meet a splattered demise?  Zero.  Grace.  In the midst of unspeakable horrors, God came and whispered the only thing that needed to be spoken:

I’ve got you.

It is DEATH before new life.  Not, I AM DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT before new life.  It is showing up even when you feel like there’s no way God could love a whore, an addict, or a cancer patient.  You don’t get help, love, and favor for doing good things, for being good.  Maybe you do, I don’t know, I could make an argument supporting it I suppose.  But that has not been my experience.  My experience has been that I get help, love, favor, and a good ‘ol fashion swooping simply because I asked for help.  And sometimes, even when I didn’t.

If you’re doing everything right, then you don’t need a Helper.  If your kids don’t make you want to punt them across the kitchen because they won’t stop scratching at your leg like a tiny, hungry dog, then…well then I want your kids.  I love that in moments like that, or when they ALL peed through their night-time pull-ups, that I can text a friend and ask for help, prayer, encouragement, etc.  That means I don’t have it figured out.  That means I am broken, still.  That means I have a reason to approach Jesus, and my tribe, honestly and openly begging for better.

I struggle with degrees of brokenness.  Was I more in need of swooping in the week before rehab and in my first few impossible weeks of sobriety?  Or do the cries of a tired, weary mama register at the same decibels to the Mama Eagle?  Does it matter?  I need helpAnd, Thank You for helping.

In David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell discusses the impact that surviving Nazi air strikes had on Londoners during WWII.  Officials planned for a huge influx of mentally unstable citizens as the bombings began, even converting buildings outside the city into mental institutions to accommodate the projected masses of PTSD’ed patients.  Then something really rad happened.  Those who survived bombings became stronger each time a bomb missed (Gladwell refers to these survivors as “remote misses”), more determined in their resolve to survive & thrive.  They felt more powerful because they evaded death and cheated the Nazi’s.  I think we’re all remote misses.

No matter how close the bombs get, no matter how quickly we hurl downward to our death, we never actually die.  We’ve been spared.  How does that feel?!  Love and Grace shield us.  Is that freeing? Does that make you tingle?  Now go!  Know that you are indestructible and bullet proof.  Know that the vest we all wear is Love.  Know that it’s effing indestructible.  You are Love & you are indestructible.  What would you go out and do if you knew you were a beloved Hulk?  Inhale.  Exhale.  Now go, She’s got you.

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