Tarnished Halos

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?

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12 thoughts on “Tarnished Halos

  1. 1548 days ago i walked thru those AA doors.Praise God and thank you Jesus for leading your friend there.Even a court mandated path was His way of getting her there.You hit the nail on the head about the people there.Here where i live i sat thru meetings with homeless people all the way to well known people in our area.But for your friend this will only be the beginning of many other doors that will open for her.But what she is enduring right now will probably be the most brutal battle she has ever been thru in her life.She needs prayer and lots of it and support and lots of it.When i was inside those doors of AA for the first year or so,i felt safe and secure with people who had the same disease as I did.But walking out those doors and facing the world sober was the hard part.Jesus took my hand and lead me to the Church i now belong to.Again a very scarey set of doors to walk thru but i cant explain the peace that came over me when I did.I could write the rest of the day about this.We ALL have some kind of addiction,demon or problem but we cant defeat them ourselves.Only by allowing Jesus to take us by the hand and guide us down the right paths and lead us thru the right doors can we defeat them.And just one more thing about my history,somewhere around the age 12 i started drinking and quit Dec 14 2005,about 29 yrs of heavy drinking.So NEVER give up on someone because you think they are to far gone with WHATEVER problem they have.

  2. “the Gospels show a Jesus that was more likely to walk into an AA meeting than a church”…

    Statements like this is why I know you will succeed in your writing adventures and part of why I love you so much! Everything you wrote is so true! I have friends with tarnished halos, and I know for sure that mine is, but I am afraid to talk of the things that have tarnished mine to be honest. It is hard to share what is behind the smile. You feel afraid to be judged or looked down upon, you really got it perfect with this post.

    People who have these “tarnished” halos are who my heart aches for because I want to love on them so badly! To let them know that I am no different than them, to share “war stories” with, and encourage. I wish religion would go away so badly. I wish that instead of primping for others and showing how great your life is, people would get down to the hurts and failures and frustrations of life. I wish people would get real! I am guilty of not being real too, I mean when is the last time that someone asked me how I was and I did not say great or awesome? I wish we as believers would encourage others to wear their tarnished halos proudly and I wish I was more open in sharing mine.

    • Well said Beth! We are all beaten soldiers, trudging through the trenches of life. We all have war stories. Sharing war stories is healing. I love the saying “Everyone is facing some kind of battle” <— it's so true. If it's not addictions, it's self hatred, or something else. We've all got banged up halos – if only we all got over ourselves and accepted each other, we could be so much more healed and encouraged to fight our battles.

  3. Oh Sherry! Thank you for this post! We need more like you who aren’t afraid to show this hurting world that we all struggle with tarnished halos.
    First in response to AA. Alcoholics Anonymous has been and always will be near and dear to my heart. Not because of my attending, but because of what the AA philosophy and what the AA group meant to my Dad. He had 23 years of sobriety prior to his death and I know it was because of his faith in God, his higher power and the relationships he had with the other “drunks.” (His words not mine.)
    My Dad went to be with Jesus in 2005 and almost monthly I have someone mention to me that they wish Larry was still here to talk to them or their loved one because of the “drinking.” That is because Dad just loved people. And when they talked with him, they realized just like your friend….that they were not alone in struggling with this addiction. I suspect this acceptance, accountability and community is found universal in AA.
    As for the “church,” right on sister! Unfortunately, my experience shows when we are transparent and show our tarnished halo’s, many in the church are very uncomfortable. The lies of the enemy has people believing
    we have to have it all together when we come through the church doors, which is quite opposite to the teachings of Jesus.
    Like Beth said “You will succeed (you already are) in your writing adventures!
    Thank you again my friend! Love you!
    ~b

  4. Pingback: Is Being “Open and Transparent” Worth the Cost? « Side By Side

  5. I was trying to remember how I found your site and this article brought it back to me..I was watching “Better Than a Halleluia” by Amy Grant..that’s exactly what this piece reminded me of…I thank God for my tarnished halo..it keeps me close to Him..someday it will be a crown that I’ll be able to lay at HIS feet…blessings back to you!

    • Thanks for finding my site Cheryl! Sadly they made me take down my Better than a Hallelujah video 😦 copyright infringments and such. (grrr)
      Anyways, I’m glad some of these stories hit your heart right, and thrilled to hear about someone else who embraces their tarnished halo (and those around them).

  6. I am happy to share there is a group like this in some churches-Celebrate Recovery. I have issues, but not with alcohol. This group is based on the 12 steps etc. but it is “Christ-Centered” and is for people with “hurts, habits, and hangups”. Anyone with any kind of addictions, any at all, are welcome. I love going on fri. nights, and miss it when I can’t. They are all struggling with the same things, and you can be loved and not judged, just helped and cared for. I highly recommend finding one in one’s area. It has been the greatest help and blessing to me as I am on my road to recovery. God bless.

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