I know someone who is an alcoholic. I have known for over three years, but only recently has she said the word and labeled herself. It was a moment of vulnerability, and yet she said it with such ease. I cherish her for this (and so many other reasons).
She goes to a weekly court mandated AA meeting; and she is coming up on the anniversary of her DUI. At first she really hated these meetings, especially the fact that when you are “court mandated” you pay for this “unwanted” support. In fact after a DUI, I guess you pay for a lot of things; she has taught me much about the aftermath of a DUI in the last year.
But in the last couple months her angst towards AA has changed. She has started looking forward to her AA meetings because she has found trust and community. She has found that she is not alone. She sees that other people are as messed up as her. Some more, some less, but they are all struggling with addictions and they are a family. She has found a place to safely release emotions like anger, frustration and fear. And when she speaks, she is meet with kinship. She isn’t judged, and there appears to be NOTHING that can’t be said in the group. They can support each other, they are open to hug without fear of being “weird”, they can even call someone’s actions to the table when they see that person slipping and not owning up.
She has remained “mostly” sober for 9 months; but recently after a holiday she had a night that went wrong… She slipped, and sipped and sipped and sipped. She became knock down, drag out drunk; all the things she “used to be” came back full force. The next day she was stunned. She thought when you fall off the bandwagon, it was bit-by-bit. She thought if she ever started drinking again, it would be a slow course back to her old ways and behavior. But instead she realized she’s got a demon of sorts that is waiting and ready to be unleashed full force. For her it’s not a slide down a slippery slop, it’s a jump off a cliff. That’s when she realized and said “I’m an alcoholic.” Her AA group, hugged her, accepted her, supported her, shared of times others experienced what she experienced. So open, so honest, so loved. She is now on a 90-day challenge with an accountability partner who is weaker than her. The blind leading the blind. …and it’s working.
Listening to her makes me wonder – how can AA get it so right and yet many walking into today’s churches just can’t grasp this concept? How can this AA group seem to have more love, transparency and acceptance of each other’s faults than many of the religious groups we read about and encounter? It’s hard to find an answer that justifies this diverse difference, especially because the Gospels show a Jesus that was more likely to walk into an AA meeting than a church. The books of the Gospel detail that Jesus invited the attendees of AA meetings (and worse) to his table; he dined and entertained those wearing tarnished halos. So why on Earth are Believers constantly thinking that when we enter God’s presence, place, and community that we need to present ourselves with spiritual cosmetics and show our tarnished halos freshly polished and pinned, or better yet, duct-taped into place? And why would we look onto others, donning tarnished and broken halos, with pity, or worse disgust? I do not think that was, nor is, God’s idea. That is the idea of religion, not Jesus.
Jesus sought out, touched, dined and spoke to those who needed him and were empty handed, ready to accept and receive Jesus’ assistance. We should be willing to walk along side the hurting and unclean, unfazed by the look of their halo (since in all honestly, our halos really are all the same). God is loving and encourages mercy toward people, not harsh standards.
“The kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves. They are not plotting how they can call attention to themselves, worrying about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get gold stars for the behavior.” ~Brennen Manning
God’s compassionate overwhelming love reaches everyone, you, me…even them. (from a Sermon-N-Ten)
“Often hobbling through our church doors on Sunday morning comes grace on crutches – sinners still unable to throw away their false supports and stand upright in the freedom of the children of God. Yet, their mere presence in the church on Sunday morning is a flickering candle representing a desire to maintain contact with God. To douse the flame is to plunge them into a world of spiritual darkness.” ~Brennen Manning
We all have Tarnished Halos…are you open to showing yours to others? Do you have any friends with tarnished halos? How does your heart respond to the tarnished halos in your life?