Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Don't let people decide if you're where God wants you to be...let God tell you that."
                                                                -Jesse Sierke

   This morning, I awoke with a crisis of purpose. My often challenged mind was becoming a bad neighborhood, and for my safety, I needed to get out of there. As usual, I allowed one circumstance to walk in and set its luggage down. Since sobriety, when this happens, I take extra precaution to ensure it doesn't open its latches and unpack.
   After reaching for my can of caffeine, I asked my husband some pretty intense questions for an early, weekend morning. (Well, early to me- it wasn't quite ten o'clock; I had just gotten out of bed and he was already in the final stages of baking a quiche.) When I realize that my mind is beginning to fly away, my grounded husband can usually talk me back down. He is really, really good at that. "Do you think we are where we need to be- in our church, in our spiritual life? Are we where we are needed, or, are we overfilling the quota?" 
   Months ago, my husband and I left the church where we were married in search of a more embracing environment of open-mindedness and intimacy. We found this in spades at an inner city Episcopal coffee shop/worship community. Since visiting once, we have never looked back. Instead of the typical sermon, we discuss topics about the readings of the day and how they relate to our lives and our mission. We absolutely love it. 
   Then, today, my mind was becoming run down; a by-product of treated mental illness and a really difficult week. This tends to happen quickly, but not as quickly as when I was self-medicating with booze years ago, thank God. Just yesterday, I was sure of where I am and where I am heading. Today, not so much.
   I asked my question. My husband immediately begins to talk of the Apostle Paul. He reminds me that Paul, then Saul, persecuted Christians, and was even in the crowd when St. Stephen was martyred. Yet, despite this despicable fact, Christ sought him out. My husband searched for today's lectionary readings. It just so happens that the first reading is from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:1-9:

   "Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from our God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind- just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."

You have GOT to be kidding me.

   There have been many, many, MANY times I have questioned whether I was even worthy of being used by God. Even after I got past that, I have wondered, many, many, MANY times if I have a purpose with Him at all. This morning was one of those times. Then my husband found and showed me the first reading of the day, and said to me this:

"Don't let people decide if you are where God wants you to be...let God decide that."

   Nadia Bolz-Weber says it best, in many ways, in her books Pastrix and Accidental Saints:

"Getting sober never felt like I had pulled myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps. It felt instead like I was one one path toward destruction and God pulled me off of it by the scruff of my collar, me hopelessly kicking and flailing and saying, 'Screw you. I'll take the destruction please.' God looked at tiny, little red-faced me and said, 'That's adorable.' and then plunked me down on an entirely different path."

"Sometimes the fact that there is nothing about you that makes you the right person to do something is exactly what God is looking for."

"Images of Mary remind us of God's favor. Mary is what it looks like to believe that we already are who God says we are."

"Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of holy living and send that person out to tell the others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting."

"Sometimes Jesus just hunts your ass down and there's nothing you can do about it."

and my personal favorite:

"The most qualified to speak the gospel are those who truly know how unqualified they are to speak the gospel."
   I have never doubted God's ability to do what he wants with us. I know there is a reason I am still here, and it's not because I should be. God has some kind of plan for my life, because my jar is spilling over with stuff I want to do, and my passions aren't of my own making. But, I question my own abilities in the furthering of God's kingdom all the time. ALL the time. What can a bipolar, ex-drunk, ditzy gal like me do for God when there are SO many more folks out there who are far better qualified than me?
   My husband told me. Well, technically,  Paul told me, THEN my husband told me. And, before them, Nadia told me, and before her, God told me, only I didn't listen to him...I listened to THEM. And that's the answer, isn't it? God knows we don't believe him, so he sends all these broken people who got patched up by God who look like us and sound like us and get tattoos like us and sober up like us and cry like us and scream like us and laugh like us, because these are people we will believe. God tried to tell the world for years, but no one listened until he sent Jesus. Now, God and his son Jesus try to tell us stuff, but nooooo...we don't listen to do they know how we feel? (Seriously?) But Nadia knows, and my sponsor knows, and my husband knows, and.....oh my God...I know, too.
   Often I praise my struggles because I know through them, God has prepared me to do his work. In my 12 step program, I learned that no one can help an alcoholic like another alcoholic. In my spiritual program, I have learned that no one can help the broken like the broken. I know this to be true, because the broken are who have helped me, and I have believed every, single word they have said.
   Sometimes, out of left field, when I don't see it coming, I open my mouth, and God falls right out. It's just minus the thous and thees and stuff. It might even be mixed with a cuss word or two. God knows what will reach and comfort and give hope to his children. 

I guess this means that God is hunting my ass down, too. XO