It probably sounded crazy when I told her “You are worthy of love now, just as you are,” because she had just been unfolding a long story of her shame and sense of worthlessness over her drug addiction and broken relationships. The Truth probably sounded absurd to her, and in her mind I imagined a response like: “Haven’t you been listening to what I have just said about how terrible I am?”
Shame has a special skill of reducing us to our mistakes and nullifying our innate worth, at least in our own minds. At times shame is more powerful than Truth, even God’s Truth. She is totally worthy of love right now, but she cannot hear that yet. So maybe she will have to see the message painted on a concrete wall at just the right time, like in the picture above, and in a moment of grace perhaps the Truth will find her, break through to her, crumble her ego into a brand new reality.
It also probably sounded crazy when I told the couple it was time to “give up.” People don’t expect a pastor or a therapist to ever say that. Our usual role is to create suggestions or techniques for making things better. But I had heard enough of the complex series of addictive and dysfunctional behaviors and broken places in their relationship to know things were way past the time to try to fix it all. I finally told them, with a smile, that giving up is the prelude to finding the help of a Power Greater than ourselves. Their long string of complicated messes with money, parents, living situations, jobs, losses, and children were unresolvable by any human efforts. I meant it when I said, “This is impossible.”
So it probably sounded crazy when I said, “Giving up is sometimes the best step we can take and embracing the truth of being powerless over our lives can open a door to letting a Power Greater than ourselves restore our sanity.” The man said, “That sounds like surrender.” I said, “Exactly.” I think a glimmer of awareness might have been slipping into his consciousness.
But her compulsion toward the insanity was too strong at that moment. She challenged him with a question about exactly what he was going to do next. She was still caught in that old belief that we can “do something” to make things better. By some miracle, he didn’t bite. He calmly said they should take a break in the discussion and “give it time.”
The session ended right there with everything unsettled. But I felt a quiet assurance. I too am powerless over people’s addictions and messed up relationships. I surrendered. In my mind and heart I practiced the third step of AA’s 12 Steps. I “made a decision to turn my life and my will, (and their lives), over to the care of God as I understand God.” It probably sounds crazy to you too if you are unfamiliar with the ways of recovering our sanity when dealing with addictions. But those moments are critical. If we keep trying to fix things they always get worse. The only way is surrender.
There is great hope in my heart for this couple. Given the long series of disasters that have catapulted them into their current impossible situation, that too probably seems crazy. But I think they might be near the bottom. And in God’s wonderful paradox for addicted people, a gate of heaven can open at the bottom, and a Power Greater than ourselves can lead people back into sanity, one day at a time.
It probably sounds crazy to read those words, but for millions of people around the world this is their salvation. When they finally hit bottom, then a gate of heaven opens. When they finally give up, and surrender to a Higher Power of their choosing, that open gate becomes their life-line to save them from drowning in a sea of misery. It turns out that the One who scribbles the Truth, “You are worthy of love now, just as you are,” across our minds and hearts doesn’t care what word we use for the Higher Power. Love is not about that. Love is about God’s relentless pursuit, showing up at our worst moments, and spilling over with compassion for us just as we are.
Human brokenness does not prevent divine compassion. It invites it. Our open wounds are calling forth the balm of divine mercy. And in that crazy-sounding paradox, giving up our futile efforts to make it all better, and calling out for help, opens the door for the One who loves us so to blow through our lives with new sanity and a new way of living.
What is that way? It is all about the crazy act of giving up, over and over, day after day. We open our minds and hearts and lives to a Power Greater than us to show us the way through our misery and suffering. We don’t have to have anything at all figured out. I know I don’t. But I know Who does. So I too will surrender again this morning, and quiet my busy mind right now, to listen for the Voice who will say, “You are worthy of love.” Perhaps you will be crazy with me.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, and share it with a friend.