Back when I was thinking about starting a blog, I attempted to thoroughly examine my motives and the usual suspects of character flaws, looking for the escape hatches. Do you know what I mean? Those little hidden doors we use to get out of doing something we previously committed to do? One of my favorite escape hatches involves a trap door with “pizza” stenciled on it. I should be eating healthy but I have an escape hatch called Friday Night Pizza. I am consistent that way. Or habitual. It’s a matter of semantics, really.
I knew such escape hatches were going to be a problem for me if I actually committed to write a blog because I was determined not to be fake or phony or pretentious. Even if it hurt. And sometimes it hurts. So… I got that going for me. I decided to batten down the escape hatches, so to speak.
I haven’t shied away from the truth about being a recovered alcoholic and addict. Or a former criminal. Or a former rebel without a clue. (I promise you: I have not understated my rebellion. It is, in a word, legendary.) And I don’t think I’ve been timid in describing my encounters with a gentle and generous God. I try to keep it real, and sometimes I hit the target.
(Since I had to edit out a lot of what I initially wrote for this post, I realized I was throwing a lot of words around to delay getting to the point. So here’s the point…)
When I share my life story, or parts of my story, rarely does anyone ever ask me why I lived like I did. Kinda telling, dontcha think? There’s a finite number of reasons why no one would want to know the “why“. The why of what we do reveals the motives of the heart. And we don’t want to let people get that close. Keep ’em guessing. That’s my motto.
So what reason would keep people from inquiring about the motives of my heart in those dark days?
If I don’t tell you why I rebel, maybe you won’t feel obligated to tell me why you do.
Fear not, dear friends. I’m not going to ask you why. However, I would like us to consider this for ourselves (if we can work up enough courage): why won’t we share these dark things with a trusted other or Other?
The #1 reason I share my story, or parts of my story is this: self-preservation. I came to realize my secrets had the power to kill me. I don’t mean the ethereal “death of the soul” or “conscience-killing” or “numbed to death” kind of death. I mean the literal, physical death, no life force, not alive.
Sharing my story has become a form of self-preservation. It keeps the wanna-be-secrets from being secrets. Sometimes I share the entire ugly mess. Most of the time I share the it in “a general way”, as the A.A. big book calls it; a more genteel, sanitized version, suitable for your average church crowd. In any form, it is self-preserving; even if it is intended to be selfless. Because my secrets have the power to kill me. In recovery, they say “you are only as sick as your secrets“. They say that ’cause its true.
Some people think the alcoholics and addicts are weak, weak-willed, mentally unstable, selfish, mean, evil, possessed, etc. In other words, that the engine behind the (self-)destruction is either a lack of, or a distortion of, integrity of a person. With the possible exception of “selfish”, some of these descriptors may be true for a subset of any collective but is not universally true of all members. If you dig down far enough, there in the rocky sub-terrain you will find the gears of the engine of destruction:
shame guilt self-condemnation
For now let’s say there is sufficient data to draw some conclusions which support my theory of self-preservation through blabbing one’s life story. (And, for goodness sake, can we admit these flaws are not limited to the alcoholics and addicts?)
Generally speaking, the topics of shame, guilt and self-condemnation are not what we discuss with other people. They are our dirty little secrets. But the heart no likey the dirty little secrets. It screams at the top of its little heart-shaped mouth. It can be very loud.
My heart-screams seemed to confirm that my shame, guilt and self-condemnation were well-earned and rightly placed. It’s enough to drive a man to drink, or worse. And it did.
But my heart was not screaming confirmation of shame, guilt and self-condemnation. It was screaming “YOU ARE NOT WORTHLESS! YOU ARE SO LOVED YOU CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO IMAGINE IT!” See? Loud.
Based on what I know today, I can say I probably misunderstood my heart back in the day. More truthful, poignant and painful: I misunderstood that it was God speaking to my heart.
I think we choose to believe the secrets are not dangerous because we are/were incapable of hearing God shout His love for us. And we cannot hear that, what else could we do but turn to something, anything, to drown out the sound of the screaming?
If you are reading this and it rings a little bell for you, you should know that God is trying to reach you. He is trying to help you realize:
“YOU ARE NOT WORTHLESS! YOU ARE SO LOVED YOU CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE IT!”
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17