My mom did her best trying to raise us kids in a Catholic Church, but I never knew an intimate relationship with God through the memorization of prayers in CCD class, nor did I ever understand a message the foreign Priest would share on Sundays through his battered and broken English (bless his heart, he sure did try). I did however walk away fearing a power greater than myself and making clear reference to the fact that He or She was watching my every move while most definitely keeping score.
It’s no wonder why then that when I was old enough to decide for myself, I departed the church and hung up my rosary.
Years later I found myself inside a large, local church with my most recent “boy toy,” as his buddy had invited us to check it out. I remember loving the music and relating to the middle aged man speaking “normal” talk on stage about modern topics rooted in a biblical foundation. I walked away feeling like maybe I was missing something.
It would take years for me to return to that church, (or any for that matter), but when I finally did I decided it was time to fully commit and attend their beach baptism. Only problem was I kept going out the night before and would wake too hungover to show up for Sunday sunrise and be dunked in the ocean for “cleansing” and “renewal.”
Later I began mentoring and volunteering at the church, and by the grace of God NEVER drank while serving others there. I felt so filled up after giving my time, but also so ashamed as I believed no one really saw or knew the authentic, hurting, drunken me. I felt like a fraud and literally waited for God to strike me down dead. It perpetuated the hurt inside- fooling others. It’s a deceptive tool addiction uses to continue the cycle of using. It’s a sad, scary, lonely place.
The church service I would most often attend was Saturday nights, where I could then go out and party after fully committed to getting lit. I’d feel extra good about myself (chest out and head held high) and strut my stuff inside announcing to everyone I had just left church (as I was a devout Christian and all). I remember vividly a girlfriend saying one night just how amazing she thought I was for mentoring and serving others. My husband (boyfriend at the time) responded abruptly with a sarcastic chuckle and said, “oh you just don’t know her that well.” He was right. No one did. But I sure thought I had the majority fooled, primarily myself.
More importantly, I could sleep in on Sunday’s and slowly recover with my church duties done the night before and not feel (as) guilty commencing in a Sunday Funday booze fest. Church box- ✔️CHECK.
If for some reason I HAD to go to a Sunday service, I’d usually bring those handy travel bottles of wine in my purse to sip on and listen from the overhead speakers while sitting inside of a bathroom stall and think, “man this church rocks!”
I’d like to tell you that those were the days just before I hit my rock bottom. But they weren’t. It would take years before I would come to my knees begging my God for forgiveness and a new start.
Today, my relationship with my Higher Power looks a lot different. I no longer fear Him, but adore Him. I no longer hide from Him, but seek Him. I do my best to get to church, and always find a few minutes before getting out of bed in the morning to thank Him. Nothing elaborate. Nothing formal. Usually a thank you for waking healthy. Thank you for my family. Thank you for another opportunity to show up in this life. I then end with asking Him to help keep me sober another day and to use me however He sees fit. And my feet hit the ground and I’m off and running.
I’m still in awe of His grace; amazing that with all He knew about me and saw me do, He never did strike me down dead. That’s one loving dude (or dudette).
I don’t care if you don’t call Him God. In fact, I don’t mind what you call Him/Her/It. I use to get offended when others called their Higher Power something different than me. Now I know that that was just my ego taking offense, and she can’t be trusted. In the same respect, I hope you aren’t offended that I refer to Him as God.
I believe that God speaks to people’s hearts in unique ways, ways that bring them to a better place, closer to where they need to be and further from where they use to be.
Everyone’s journey looks so different, and therefore everyone’s Higher Power may look or be called something different too. It’s not up to me to pass judgement or critique it.
All that matters in the end is that our hearts are growing and filling with more love, understanding, and compassion towards one another, but more importantly towards ourselves. It’s not our burden to carry, all those bags of shame and regret. Forgiving and learning to love myself, mess and all, is the only way I know how to open my heart, pass along grace and forgiveness, and fully love and accept someone else as is.
I don’t believe how we get there matters as much as that we simply do.
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