I’ve got a friend–but he really could be any of us, he could be me–who has been deeply wounded by years of addiction. Underneath that issue are a meriad of others, the loss of a father at an early age, the upbringing by that father that was alternately over permissive and brutally exacting, the genetic imprinting of a lineage of users and abusers all of whom put on religious faces preaching like angels and sinning like satan. Years of growing up in fundamentalist religion, suppression and repression and eventually depression, has buried itself in the lines on his face. He, like many of us, and perhaps because of some of us, rejected institutionalized Christianity. It made sense to do so. It was the villain forcing him towards substance abuse. He, and we, rationalized that the absence of religiosity would be the Presence of God–the changing, transforming Presence of God. One can say what they want, that he didn’t try hard enough, that he didn’t go to enough meetings, or pursue as others of us did, but he feels he gave it his best shot…and he did. Sadly, the god he was aquainted with was not enough to conquer the addiction he intimately knew.
And the truth was that those of us who showed him this god were no better. We were still locked in the system of hiding weakness, denying humanity (the worst and the best), and the deification of escapism. The formation we provided was hardly one of tackling problems and wrestling with them, Jacob vs. the Angel of the Lord style. No, ours was a transcendent deity fostering a transcendent focus on heaven and soul (or spirit). Our wisdom sounded like novice Gnosticism: reject the material realm, lose yourself, loathe yourself…come to the place of your own darkness. ”Arrive.” ”Get yourself to that spot.” ”Once you’re there.” In the end, it didn’t work. None of it did. He drank more and with greater secrecy. Again, religion had told him to hide it. That’s exactly what he did. He dropped out of our lives, though he lived in the same intentional community. He was gone.
I struggle with that reality, with what is now a memory. I wonder if I’d handled it differently how things might be changed for him. I really don’t know. Even recently, when he and I have talked, I get the impression from him that his expectation of religion is no less than what he received. And even as my spiritual realities have changed and can offer him distinct advantages over what he once heard, he tends to reject those claims. He, oddly enough, holds fiercely to the old religious view points of his father and lately of his friends–that didn’t work for any of us then and still don’t work for him. On one hand he rejects the fundamentalism of his past as a failed set of unrealities, on the other hand he refuses to allow it to expand or be expanded. There is no alternative Christianity for him, or even spirituality. There is only the dogmatic claims of a late 20th century Protestantism, caught up in it’s own post enlightenment PR. The funny thing is…it’s a straw man argument for him…as long as he can beat up what no one is actually saying, he doesn’t have to address what is truly be said in this moment.
What is being said? What is the quentisental difference (at least in me) from now to then?
The sacredness of humanity. That below our brokeness, the scar of a thousand millennia of falls and choosing from trees we know better than to eat from, lies the substance of God. The smile of God saying: it will be alright. Weakness is beautiful. Strength is profane. You’re ok. It’s going to be alright. Not because you belong to this little group or slightly larger grouping of those who believe in like manner. But because you are. Being is belonging. That God, not the devil, is in the details. That faith is simply living. I get it now, like I never have before, that my certitudes and platitudes, were not faith…they were science, and an artificial science at that. Faith (and true science) is found more often in the inky blackness of the universe, the absence and the Void, the unKnowing and the hidden stillness of parabola or the unSeen but intimately felt reality of a billion trillion minute strings pulling the chords of the universe through Word and anthemic Song.
And you…you with all of your imperfections…you are gorgeous, just as you are. You Truth, hidden beneath a murky milleau of Lie, is bursting to be seen; to tear out and kiss God as though embracing a mirror.
That’s what I wish I could communicate to him. That’s what I’m starting to know…deeply…and, for me at least, it’s making all the difference.
Filed under: beauty, confession | Tagged: 12 step, 12 step program, addiction, alanon, alcoholism, belonging, beloved, emerging church, frank viola, gene edwards, house church, jean vanier, longing, portland oregon, recovery, richard rohr, spirituality, substance abuse, the christian difference, thomas keating, vancouver washington | Leave a comment »