Care for the Soul
I don’t know what brought Mom to seemingly suddenly need to introduce Jerry and me to church when we were nine and seven respectively, but I do know that I liked the services at the Episcopal Church we attended. I found comfort in the liturgy, knowing the order of things – no surprises! nothing unexpected – and although I had no real conception of where the praise was landing, I liked singing hymns. Later, I joined the children’s choir, and felt very close to God (and yes, Jesus) through singing. At Easter, the kids in the congregation would select a potted hyacinth to bring home, and I often brought mine to our elderly next-door neighbor, Mr. Camelio (he of the lovely garden). Meantime, I struggled with the Sunday School teachings. There seemed little room for argument or metaphor or childish wonder. I felt discounted and confused—and disillusioned. After my confirmation, Mom let me decide whether or not to attend church. I chose to stay at home. I felt a weird mix of being abandoned by God and turning away from God like a spiteful, surly teenager. In retrospect, I’m sure my rejection of church had as much to do with my struggles in a dysfunctional and often abusive home as it did with my disillusionment with “organized religion.” I felt far, far away and couldn’t find my way back. So I stopped trying.
I began a new search for connection, and found it in a crowd of kids who I thought were intensely cool in their disregard for authority and their contempt of conformity. They were using drugs and alcohol, so I did, too. Thus began the long journey into the dark night of my soul, which would last for eighteen years. By the time I was thirteen I was smoking cigarettes daily and regularly getting high in the woods before school. Weekends inevitably found me in a field, in the woods, or at a house party thrown by kids whose parents were out of town. In general, I was in places I shouldn’t have been, with people I shouldn’t have been with, doing illegal and dangerous things. Alcohol was always part of the mix. I had fun, until it wasn’t fun anymore.
My journey back to myself, and to God (who was always with me, always with me – waiting, waiting patiently) began in 2000, when I poured all the booze down the drain and surrendered to something I totally didn’t understand, and quite frankly, still don’t. I’m trying to learn a spiritual discipline: trust God, clean house, help others. I pay and repay the priceless gift which was given to me by helping other women out of the darkness of their despair and into the sunshine of the spirit. I find that benefits are innumerable.
The Prophet Micah spoke true: “What is required of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In the end, the work I do manifests my relationship with God in how I treat others—acting with intention and integrity, showing up for life in ways which are often uncomfortable, difficult, and messy. I pray with my feet. Through discipline, I find freedom. Of course, I forget and remember, forget and remember. But that’s what a practice is all about. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get it right, but I’m surely on the right path. For that, for this, and for you, I am tremendously grateful. May you find your peace, your happiness, your soul’s purpose.
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