Friday, March 28, 2014

The Reason of Hope

Step Two

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

"[N]aming our slavery is intrinsically linked to remembering the God who saves us."

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
~ Jesus


Sanity

-The Gospel-

is for those of us who need it.

It is for those of us who need hope.

Some may consider Lent depressing and masochistic at worst, empty tradition at best.  Many consider Christianity the same way.  Christianity is NOT for those who 1. don't have any problems and/or 2. have the power to be the people they want to be without any help.

If you are one of those people, kudos!  And I have a great post on denial you might want to take a look at.

For the rest of us, hope is particularly important when we take the time to remember who we are and who we've been, facing and naming the things that are out of control in our lives, owning our powerlessness, and reality checking with the experience and expression of grief.  That is why hope is Step Two.

*     *     *

I remember clearly the first time I contemplated this step.  I was walking on a treadmill reading a 12 Step devotional (as was my wont at the time) and I just about tumbled off the back of the machine.

What the hell is sanity?  I wondered.  And how can I be restored to it if I've never known it in the first place?

I didn't have an answer at the time, but I didn't need to.  The step didn't say that I needed to figure out what sanity is and then come up a with a 5-year plan for implementation.  No, I looked again to the first words and really had to ask myself:

Do I believe there is a power greater than myself?

That was easy: I was a good little Christian girl.  So, Yes: God.

Do I really believe that God can restore me ... to something I don't even understand, have never experienced, and cannot even imagine?

Good Christian Girl: Of course.

Yes, but, do I believe God will?

...

...

Um.

You see, it's one thing to believe in a God, or in the God of the Christian scriptures.  It is one thing to concede that Jesus is God and that he died on the cross to reconcile humanity to himself.  It is even one thing to learn about concepts like God's omniscience and omnipotence and love and grace and whatnot.  But it is another thing entirely to believe that God can intervene in my own personal little bit of insanity ... and that God actually will.

It seems awfully arrogant, doesn't it, my presuming what God will or will not do?  I mean, I was going through a divorce at the time.  God didn't "save my marriage."  The truth is, God doesn't do a lot of things that we want God to do or need God to do or would expect God to do.

Do I trust God?

At that moment on the treadmill I could see what my life would look like if I did not settle this matter in my heart once and for all.  I could see anxiety, doubt, depression, second-guessing, worthlessness and hopelessness plaguing me like sharp turns on a roller coaster ride.  I could see myself being fine sometimes, even hoping sometimes, but mostly just not thinking about it and then *bam* not being able to ground myself at crucial moments of fear or hurt and spiraling into existential angst.  I could see myself having repeated episodes of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, honestly.  I had been irrevocably confronted with how out-of-control my life was and how truly powerless I was to do anything different than what I'd always done.  I had to have help. I needed a higher power I could turn to and trust.  Without that, my life would only ever be insanity.

So I confess I made a very practical decision in that moment.  I did not know what sanity looked like, but I did know what insanity was like, and I was desperate to be done with it.  Hope would be better than that.  Even blind, stupid faith would be better than that.

Trust would be better than that.  

A simple line from a C. S. Lewis novel echoed in my thoughts.


God is not tame.  But God is good.

I can't predict or control God.  God is a person who has the freedom to show up as [he] so desires.  But I do believe that God is good, and I decided to trust in that.  I decided that I was going to trust God's goodness in the midst of difficulty, suffering, confusion, and the incomprehensible circumstances of life, because God's goodness does not mean I will always understand, but it does mean I can always come back to God and count on [his] intentions and movement to be for my good and the good of others

So I decided to trust God to restore me ... somehow ... to something I had never known but desperately needed.  And I decided that this was my line in the sand: I would never, ever question this decision.  It was not open for revisiting or reexamination.  Because doing so would only produce insanity in my life.

That decision changed everything.  It turns out that I didn't just decide to believe in God in a different way than I ever had before, I had to believe in myself in a way I never had before.  I had to trust myself in a new way in order to trust my relationship with God. I also had to believe that there was such a thing as sanity and I had to -vulnerably- hope for it, long for it, search for it.  But as a result, I have been able to return to the firm foundation of this step over and over and over again.  When I do stupid things (or I just think that I am stupid), when others hurt me, when I feel afraid, defeated, trapped, or discouraged, when I don't understand, I think of sanity.

And I hope.


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