I grew up in a family that wasn’t religious. Actually they were opposed to religion. The closest words I ever heard that related to religion were “god-dammit” or “jesus christ”. At 4H camp I was exposed to religion, but unfortunately it seemed that because I wasn’t a believer I wasn’t on the boat. This furthered my sense that there was something wrong with me. I was a have not. God loved others, but not me.
As life progressed and people left, relationships ended and I continued to suffer loss, this further ingrained in me the sense that I was not a “chosen one”. I became very, very angry with God, and really, blamed my whole life on Him. I didn’t take responsibility for anything, but instead just saw that others were getting things I wanted, happy relationships, white picket fence lives and I wasn’t. My bitterness grew. I wasn’t necessarily a bad person, but I lacked direction and no matter what I tried to fill the hole in my life with – alcohol, sex, whatever I could – it didn’t work. I had no peace. I had suicidal thoughts often and was drinking every day. I hit rock bottom.
I was led to AA and I believe this was by God, even though I didn’t realize it then. I kept asking questions regarding this Higher Power. In spite of myself I started to see that perhaps God had not abandoned me, but that maybe I had abandoned Him. I discovered a Higher Power through AA that evolved into a God of MY understanding. It started somewhat like Santa – big, benevolent and loving. I was given a Recovery Bible for my 1st year birthday in AA. I didn’t read the “bible stuff” but I did read the daily meditations. This was the start of my relationship with a loving God. Over the next while I read the Sermon on the Mount, The Shack and other biblical things. I was searching. Without my knowing it, God was leading me to Him.
I started to feel like my relationship with God needed to grow, or deepen on some level but didn’t know how to facilitate that. Then I went with my partner at that time on a road trip to Calgary, which was about 10 hours from where I lived. I felt a strong connection to the city, it was unexplainable. So we decided to pull up stakes and move there. We left family and support behind to start a new life. Although I had never done anything like that in my life, felt a strong sense my future was there.
After moving I had become discouraged by life in Calgary. I hated AA here, had given up on meetings and was ready to call it quits. Then one night we decided to go to a Saturday night meeting across town. A nice lady with a big warm smile made all the difference. It was like a breath of fresh air. We started to meet her at other meetings and started to feel connected to the city. She seemed soooo normal. And then she brought up Jesus. Uh oh, crazy bible lady!
She invited me to a church meeting at her house. I thought, no way. Sounds like a cult, I’ll pass on the kool-aid thanks! Still she persisted and every so often an invite would come. Always with that big smile and Jenn charm, never offended at the numerous “no’s” I gave her.
Jenn, myself & a few others from AA had some meetings in the park over the summer. I loved her take on the 12 Steps and spirituality and also how she really tried to live the “rigorously honest” part of the program and encouraged others to live that path as well. I had so many secrets and was rarely honest, let alone rigorously honest. I also remember her talking about how Jesus hung out with the outcasts of society… lepers, prostitutes etc. and that intrigued me. Could he REALLY love the ‘have-nots’???
I finally took Jenn up on an invite and went to a Q gathering. I felt totally out of place, talk of the Bible, scripture, people’s relationships with Jesus. It was just plain weird but they were a really nice group. I went again with my partner who knew a lot about the Bible and was able to contribute to the meeting, but I still felt really out of place. My insecurities kicked in. I didn’t feel like I belonged. I now see this as The Lie.
Then one time they talked about tithing. I didn’t see it as a way to give back or to trust, I thought it was a total money grab! I was turned off by the whole thing, but still kept going.
Jenn asked what I felt I needed most from Q. I told her it was hard to talk about things in the Bible when I had no knowledge of it. She suggested I might want to join an LTG, a life transformation group, where people read scripture throughout the week and share in small groups about what they are learning, etc. I just wanted her to leave me alone. I wanted to quit Q. I could feel a real war going on within me.
I went for awhile, but struggled with not feeling “a part of” and I decided to quit because I couldn’t stand the feeling. The Lie had taken over again. I didn’t go for 1 or 2 months. Then Jenn came by to see my partner and I. She was called to go to California and had been accepted by immigration. She was passionate that Q not disappear in her absence and was asking if he or I would be willing to make a 6 month commitment to attending, to help keep it open. I was moved by guilt, but also by her heartfelt request. So I started attending again. This time with an open heart and mind.
In December I found myself buying Bibles for my partner and I. I started attending LTG with two other Q members and everything started to change. I started to read about a kind and loving God who forgives us our sins, accepts us as we are and saw that we did not have to EARN his favor. He just wanted us to love Him, and with this realization my heart started to melt. I started to feel very much a part of the community, I developed close relationships and I came to love my spiritual family. I went on my first retreat even though I was very reluctant. Again this was the Lie trying to keep me away from my spiritual community.
I started tithing which was a big step of faith & trust. And saw our community do great things for people in our community, both with money and giving their time. I had the powerful experience of finally feeling truly connected with God. My heart sang!
Then I was asked to join the leadership team. I questioned their motives, and wanted to know who else they asked that had turned them down before me. It was the same old insecurities. The Lie once again creeping in and taking over. But I agreed to join and experienced the incredible gift of service. What a gift to help out the community! I could feel God’s love everywhere. I struggled to get honest during check-in but I was awed by their complete openness with one another. I got to lead the Experiencing God study and I felt my connection deepening. I live for those moments when I feel the Holy Spirit.
I started volunteering at King’s Fold, the center where I went on my first retreat. I love the peace I find when I’m there. I went on a second retreat myself and it was a different experience, not as powerful as the first, but still meaningful in connecting deeper again with my spiritual community. Then, I got baptized. What the???!! Whose life is this???!!!
So, what is my life like now with Q? Well, I would love to say I walk around all day on a God cloud but that would be a bit of a lie. I still have days where my faith is nowhere near as strong as I think it could be, yet I know today that I am NOT a “have-not” any longer. I truly believe I am one of God’s most beloved children (as we all are) and that He loves me unconditionally, and that He always did. I pray many times throughout the day most days, I am always trying to improve my conscious contact with Him. And my prayers are becoming less selfish, a lot less of a laundry list about what I want or think I “need” and more and more about praising Him, giving thanks for what I have, asking for things like wisdom, grace, forgiveness, compassion and love, and praying more for others. Now that’s a real change. I’m becoming “me” because that’s exactly who he created me to be. And if its good enough for him it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I have become much more dependable and responsible (less of a bailer!) and I also like to believe I’m learning to become a good friend. I try to live my life as much like Jesus would and though that’s a really tall order and most days I fall short, at least I’m headed in the right direction. It’s about growth, and heeding God’s voice and where He’s leading me (sometimes very grudgingly). My heart has never felt so full of love and I feel like I am at last a vital part of this universe.
I would like to close with a prayer by Thomas Merton.
Oh God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is routed in Your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.