I Saw You. You Are Beautiful.

Compassion squeezed me until the tears spilled out. The room was a small space filled with big pain. Palpable pain. I was eye to eye with you, my target audience. You – who quietly read my blog while your loved one sleeps “it” off in the other room. You – who nod in understanding when a chord of truth resonates with your story. You – who carry on with your calling, despite the ache in your souls as you long for your loved ones to be free. I saw YOU last weekend. You simultaneously broke my heart and made me proud.

Heather Kopp, in her memoir Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With A Christian Drunk, boldly claims, “…people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.Cross As we rubbed shoulders together, I understood what she meant. Your “game faces” melted under fluorescent lights as I shared my story. A silent, silken thread of shared brokenness wove its way through the room, making us soul sisters, regardless of our differences.

I’m thankful for you, for you represent every woman I write and speak to: every woman whose heart is heavy with the burden of someone else’s addiction. I knew you were out there, holding your heads up while your hearts break, serving others, as your own lives seem to unravel at the seams.

I’m proud of you… for being brave enough to attend a breakout session with an elephant in the room. You didn’t ignore it. You didn’t deny its presence. You swallowed your pride and spit out the seeds of denial so they could no longer take root in your lives. You embraced the pain and allowed your facades to crack as I held the mirror for Jesus as He turned your eyes toward the truth that you are not alone in your suffering. He is right there with you in every ounce of disappointment as you pour yourselves out for someone who cannot love you as they love themselves (because self-love is something addicted people have very little of). You wept as you allowed my story to penetrate your private hells and give you some survival tools and some hope.

Thank you for allowing me into your suffering. Thank you for the hugs at the door and the encouraging words of affirmation. Thank you for putting flesh on the souls of the women I’ve written my memoir for. I loved being able to share my heart with you. I loved connecting with you. I love you. As Kathryn Stockett wrote in, The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” And you is beautiful!Hibiscus

I read Ann Voskamp’s blog post today. It’s entitled, “When You Feel Wounded By Your Own.” She says, “It is the wounded ones who make us heal.” I agree with her. When we share our wounds, our sorrows, our suffering, something healing happens. Healing takes place in community. Seeds of hope are sown in community. Sorrow is divided in safe, healing communities like Celebrate Recovery or Al-Anon. Please find one. Or, create one. Allow God the space in your busy life to finish the good work He has begun in you.

“He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 25:8, NLT)

(Find Ann’s entire post here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/03/when-you-feel-wounded-by-your-own/ )

Hands Up Don’t Shoot

“The measure of your compassion lies not in your service of those on the margins, but in your willingness to see yourself in kinship with them.” Gregory Boyle

1 John 318Us and them. It happens in every stage of life.

First grade girls giggle behind tiny hands as the new girl enters the playground. How do they instinctively know that she’s somehow different? Is it her clothing? Her way of speaking? Her downcast eyes? Whatever it is, the new girl instantly becomes one of “them” while the “us” group sticks together like Legos.

Us and them. High school’s unwritten rules keep cliques from crossing over. Decade after decade, teens separate themselves into social groups – jocks and cheerleaders, punks and nerds, this gang and that one – whatever the new trends or groups. No one wants to be a “them” so every Freshman hustles to find an “us” to identify with.

Adult versions of “us” and “them” perpetuate through generations, eating the heart out of a tiny but powerful thing called unity.

I grew up in the South in the 1970’s, where train tracks separated “us” from “them” in almost every town. I cringe to recall the wall-building words that flowed so freely from the otherwise loving lips of church-going relatives. Words used to alienate “them” from “us.” Words so ingrained in our Southern culture that they came out of mouths that simultaneously proclaimed the love and grace of God.

How can God accept worship from hearts segregated by the railroad tracks of skin color, language, income or education levels? Does He really sit quietly on His throne while His children derail one another with hatred? Or does He passionately love us – one and all the same, commanding us to do likewise?

Can we truly love one another while something ugly boils beneath our churchy facades? Ferguson is just one tragedy among millions that take place daily upon our planet. The heart of God is pierced by Every. Single. One. Were we more like Him, our hearts would be pierced as well.

I wept through a deeply touching film last week. It’s the story of a Jesuit priest who moves into Latino gang territory and becomes a conduit of God’s love to effect lasting change in the lives of those who are touched by that love. Father Gregory Boyle not only says, “The measure of your compassion lies not in your service of those on the margins, but in your willingness to see yourself in kinship with them” – he lives it.

In my former life, as the wife of a crack-addicted spouse, I came face to face with my own issues with the “us” and “them” mentality. I was part of the “us” who choose not to snort, shoot up or smoke illegal substances. He rode the fence. Sometimes he was like us – clean-shaven, church going, hard working, and tax paying. When he fell off that fence, he instantly (in my mind) became a “them.”

I could not identify with the lifestyle that accompanied his binges. Nor could I accept his almost pleading statement that his druggie girlfriend was “just like us.” In my mind, she wasn’t like me at all. She was (insert any number of ungodly words that a wounded wife might use), but definitely not like me.

In the drafting of my personal memoir on addiction and redemption, I struggled with some of these thoughts as I processed the truth of God’s healing mercy and redemption of all things lost. Although at the time, the fence-rider’s words caused a scream-and-throw-things reaction, hindsight proves him right. She is just like me – a broken sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. I am no more deserving of that than she.

I can no longer sit in my high and mighty seat looking down on her, or “them.” Whether they are different from me because of genetic makeup or lifestyle choices, we are still kin. The blood of Jesus turns us all the same color. His sacrifice makes no distinction between drug addiction or food addiction. All can be forgiven and restored.

May I invite you to join me in laying down our arms (pointing fingers, judgmental thoughts, words and actions) and holding up our palms in “don’t shoot” solidarity with humanity’s masses? Will we serve the marginalized from a place of compassion because each human being is part of the human clique called “us.”

Jesus shed His blood for each one. Can we be like Him and love without condition? Can we be like our brother, Father Boyle, and see ourselves in kinship with those who differ for whatever reason?

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (KJV)

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Thank you, Father Boyle (a.k.a. G-Dog), for your example:

If you’d like to see the movie trailer, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mYEAwtdsYo

You can find his book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion here: http://www.amazon.com/Tattoos-Heart-Power-Boundless-Compassion/dp/1439153159