Two years ago I got divorced. I did it with my head held high. After starting my marriage off with an affair I decided to change my life. I entered recovery and lived out the next 6 years sober & faithful, the best wife I could be. But we grew apart, and less than a year after our daughter was born, we split up. Then I fell in love again. I forgot what it felt like to be head over heels in love with someone, and quite honestly it knocked me off my feet. I really thought that God had finally answered all my prayers - I thought I had finally gotten what I wanted - the dream come true.
Just about eight months ago, my boyfriend came clean after months of relapsing that I did not know about. I felt broken like I really don’t think I have ever felt before, and the healing has been slow and painful. There is no doubt that we are both doing the work, but it is hard.
It occurred to me recently that much of the pain his relapse has brought up for me is old pain. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but my first love did exactly the same thing. He fulfilled all my fantasies and then broke my heart as a result of the simple fact that he too was human, and therefore imperfect.
My insistence that some human power provide me with unconditional love and security causes me so much pain. No one is capable of it. The only being I can count on for that is God. And it is only through a reliance on God’s unconditional love that I can love myself and others in the way I want to - “a love that makes no demands.” Of course this does not mean that I do not have boundaries or standards. For me it means that I do not have to betray myself for love. I do not have to demand that I or anyone else be anything but what we are. It means the ability to love myself and you for who we truly are, and it gives me the power to stay true to myself instead of betraying myself out of fear of the great unknown.
This might all sound very abstract, but for me it was this loneliness, this desperate aching and searching for worthiness and belonging that time after time led me back into situations that I didn't want to be in but had no tools to stay away from. It was the inability or unwillingness to open myself to something greater than me - to really surrender to that - that landed me in desperate situations, in strangers beds, drunk and high and wondering how I got there again.
And that is still the case for me today. The moment that my character defects - self-centred fear being chief among them - start to run the show I begin to lose all faith that I am held. I lose faith in myself and in a loving God that can restore ME to sanity and care for ME. I begin to hustle for love and belonging, for assurance from some human power that I am worthy, that I am whole, that I belong. And not only is that far too exhausting, but it will never work. The hustle does not work. It is only when I cease fighting that I begin to get a taste of those elusive things like peace & serenity. A feeling that I’m part of the flow, instead of clinging onto a branch in the rapids, holding on for dear life, or swimming upstream, insisting that the current of the river has got it all wrong.
So I have to constantly bring myself back. Back to a faith that works. Faith in a forgiving God that loves me unconditionally, so that I can find that sense of belonging and worthiness, and so that I can be human with all the pain and imperfection that includes and stay sober through it all.
“What if changing our perception of God has the potential to change everything?” - Richard Rohr