Recovery

“Whether our wounds are caused by others or by our own mistakes, Julian frames it all as grace, saying, “First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God.” Julian’s showings helped her to understand that it is in falling down that we learn almost everything that matters spiritually.”

I get a daily meditation email from Fr. Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation.  They are short and sweet and have become a great part of my routine in the morning.  Recently Rohr has been introducing readers to some of the great spiritual mystics of the past, both from Christianity and from other religions.   Last week there were a few emails about Julian of Norwich, a woman who one of my fellow book clubbers likes to call “the original heretical feminist.”  The OHF, if you will.

I have been trying to come up with a way to write about my job over the past year, and when I read this particular meditation email, it struck me as the perfect framework.  I wrote a post a while back about losing my job and being offered a new one, literally within a minute of each other.  I experienced this beautiful, simple grace, and the thankfulness that goes along with it.  Failure has always been one of my biggest fears, and losing a job when you haven’t been meeting expectations is pretty clear cut.  It was a painful life lesson.  To have (and take) the new offer didn’t take away the sting completely, even though it was a huge burden avoided not having to go out and pound the pavement for a different job.

So now, a year into my new position, I am writing from the other side of failure, or the recovery.  And like Julian of Norwich said, it’s all grace, all mercy.  When I lost my job (and really for many months leading up to that point) all of my confidence (in the professional setting) went with it.  I had so much anxiety, it had just become white noise in my life–I didn’t even realize it was there until it was gone.  This is a pretty big deal coming from someone who people would use the words “calm” and “chill” to describe.  A huge part of the anxiety was a fear of failure.  Of worrying about what people would think of me, how I would pay my mortgage if I got fired, what if I screwed up of something major that affects way more people than just me?

In the past year, I’ve recovered a good amount.  Recovery is such a beautiful thing.  It is never instant, seldom quick even.  It even has ups and down.  I’ve had a couple of minor panic attacks in my new job that felt like flashbacks.  I’m putting it a little dramatically, but hopefully you get my point.  Recover is like a trajectory, though it may not be a straight line.  Many people that have overcome addictions refer to themselves as “recovering.”  It’s so humble, and so powerful.  It’s like when Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  It’s a tough concept to grasp until you experience it.

Last week I was sitting in my boss’ office (asking questions, which I basically do all of the time, another personal victory for me since I used to be too intimidated and prideful to ask questions), and she said, “You’re doing a really good job.”  I think a sign that I am in recovery is that I felt grace more than pride.  Okay there’s a little bit of pride in there too.  But for the most part, I just felt OKAY.  There is another side to failure.  I feel lucky that I’ve felt that mercy of recover in only a year. For some things, it takes much longer to feel it, but it’s there.
For a lot of my life I have been afraid of failure.  Now, having experienced it in a pretty epic way, I have learned that recovery is possible.  There was mercy in the failure, there is mercy in the recovery.

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My Ever Expanding View of God and Love

If you pressed me, I’d tell you that my faith is small and my doubts are big.  Sometimes this freaks me out a little, but for the most part I have learned to live with it.  Not in a settling kind of way, but an acceptance of the tension between faith and doubt.

I read a great book a few years ago (that has worked its way back into my queue for a re-read) called “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller (I know, I know, “heretical feminist” material?).  One of my favorite quotes from this book is:

“It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.”

There isn’t too much else I specifically remember from this book (hence the desire to re-read), but I remember that statement, and I think about it all the time.  God’s love and grace are not defined by the strength of my faith (or lack of).  That’s a relief.

Over the past 6 or 7 years, as I came to accept doubt as a part of my faith, something else was happening.  My view of God was growing.  When I was in college, I joined a student ministry in which the people were very legalistic, and very conservative, not only theologically but on any number of social and cultural issues.  For example: Dating? Probably a sin unless you marry the person.  Women? Sorry, your role in the church is limited.  This being my first foray into evangelicalism, I took a whole lot for granted.  I thought, “Well, these are Christians, so I guess this is how Christians are supposed to think about [insert anything that Christians have an opinion on].”    There was always some tension, but unfortunately I ignored it a lot of the time.  And I take responsibility for that now, but the fallout (to be overly dramatic–I left fairly amicably after a premature attempt at a church plant at FSU) definitely caused some distress and serious questioning.  I realized that my paradigm put limits on God and on the Gospel.  And once I admitted that to myself, it was like my conception of God just busted out of a box and has continued to grow ever since!  Take that, religion.

When I claimed to a fellow HFBCer that I was “not a writer,” I was quickly shot down.  I do write a lot, just not in this format–I like to write songs.  I wrote a song a few years ago in the beginning of this faith/doubt acknowledgement that this post is about with a short refrain that goes:

“Nothing’s more important now than asking why,
And I could never fathom all that’s in your mind,
I can’t search your ways or judgments if I try,
Far enough to know how deep and wide your love is.”

I feel strongly that there is much more danger in putting limits on God versus throwing any and all limits out the window and seeking God earnestly.  So that’s where I’m going from here!