Step 1: We admit that we are powerless to control our tendency to do the wrong thing and that our lives have become unmanageable.
I had been wondering: just how much do I reveal, up-close and personal? And then it happened—one of those affirming moments, perhaps a nod from heaven. I hurriedly gathered a few grocery items and dashed to the checkout. There, greeting me, was a smiling teenager. “Come over to my line,” she insisted emphatically.
I did and then the surprise question came: “What was your wedding like?”
With hesitation and some astonishment, I blurted out, “Which one? Are you getting married?”
“Why, no!” and with a huge smile, she exclaimed decisively, as if I should have realized this, “I’m just 17!”
How can I give a life-lesson to total stranger—especially a beaming adolescent in a fleeting encounter at a grocery store? Not going to happen, although I will say this: I was inspired, motivated and determined to bring into focus another time, another era, taking a prolonged view of my life experience with a renewed fervor to help others.
Presently in almost an out-of-body experience, I began to view myself as a 17-year-old. Soft, translucent, perfect pastel hues—shades of mint green, rose petal pink and pale turquoise reflected in the light streaming from my bedroom window. Winter had instinctively brought me inside. I was warm and safe. It was time to lay across my bed with dozens stuffed animals strewn about, listen to the radio and dream. Over the radio, my favorite song played impressions of a perfect teen romance in cascading harmonies: May be silly, but still he is just what I dream about / Yes, he’s the boy that I love / Popsicles, icicles . . . hmmm!
For a teenager in the 1960s, Murfreesboro was a special place to grow up. Imagine not locking your doors, evenings watching television with your parents, and where people really did trust each other. Your biggest concern as a teenager was if you were going to have a date Friday night, what you were going to wear, and who you were going to see at Shoney’s or the Frostop.
For most, the 1960s was supposed to be the dawn of a “golden age.” Yet by the end of the decade, the country was jolted by assassinations, the Vietnam War, riots and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. The golden age never materialized, and by the end of the decade, the nation was torn apart. Community and consensus lay in shambles, bringing tattered lives to an age of empowerment and polarization and leaving our culture with a mix of resentment and liberation. In 1969, a remnant of the hopeful gathered at Woodstock, representing the best and the worst of that decade and declaring peace and love across the land.
Just before The Beatles’ “British Invasion” of the USA in February of 1964, there was a popular song by one-hit wonder The Murmaids, “Popsicles and Icicles.” That song, with its beguiling harmonies, bewitched many a teenage girl. As for me, the image of finding and marrying the perfect boyfriend was always on my mind. So by 1971, I had followed the path of those mesmerizing lyrics and married, thinking that I was going to live happily ever after.
There are moments in life that can change our destiny. If recognized as a turning point, these times are often events in which decisions made are a life-or-death matter. When confronted, these moments can change us or destroy us or forever set the course of our lives in a better direction. So in 1980, it was my moment. I found myself single with a 5-month old baby and a 4-year-old after living 10 years in an abusive marriage. While everything was crashing down around me, I had to come to terms that life wasn’t as perfect as my teenage delusion.
Living with an addict had caused my life to be punctuated with extremes. I had adopted a pattern of escaping from the reality of my situation by denying the pain. Thus, unintentionally, my life had become unmanageable. My obsession and focus was myself and my situation. I was completely out of balance, trying to manipulate and control my circumstances with self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. I had become queen of the “blame game,” living in an illusion of power and self-control.
My unreliable and irrational feelings had caused me to wander far away from reality with a self-protective mask of isolation. Trying to escape the pain of my circumstances only suppressed my fears and allowed my resentments to fester. These self-defeating behaviors and compulsions controlled my emotional and intellectual well-being. Consequently, I wasted precious time and energy covering up, avoiding and denying. A quiet, compelling force outside me continued to persist, so I continued to seek answers. As I began to realize that the answers were outside me, life began to make sense. I discovered that I could not arrive at the purpose for my life from within myself.
Recognizing that there is very little I have real power over in my life allowed me great freedom to accept myself and gave me the willingness to trust, no matter what. Trusting and turning my life over to God, surrendering to God’s leadership, gave my life meaning, purpose and significance. As I recognized my powerlessness, God’s power became stronger, changing my life for the better.
Perhaps at last you have reached that place of powerlessness and want your life to change for the better. You confess that most of the time, you are tied up in knots with toxic, fearful attitudes. You truly want to be “at ease,” but are tormented by compulsions, false securities and insecurities. How can you trust in the unseen? Could it be that trusting is a choice that tethers you to heaven’s treasures and a peace that is beyond human reason or understanding? No longer will you be “stuck” just wishing for a better day, trying a little harder, being a little kinder, thinking a little differently and dreaming a little more. Life has to be more than self-improvement, career changes, geographic cures, wealth and self-empowerment.
Bombarded with multiple resolutions, somehow on a cold winter’s night by a flickering amber glow, you desire transformation. There is a longing to live differently defying the “insanity cycle.” Warmed and renewed by a sense of urgency and resolve, you declare and proclaim, “I will not do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results. I want to recover! Indeed, I want to recover from life!”
Buried within all of us is a desire for the meaning of life. In the process of navigating through life’s maze, it is easy to lose our way. The pressure of being human and living life, including all the demands that are placed on us, keeps us from a truth which transcends time and space: the meaning of life, submission and surrender to God are one and the same.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. If you would like to know more about recovery and its principles in a safe environment of love within a Christ-centered support group, come to Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is that safe place where people can remove the mask of denial and be open and honest. If you are interested in finally dealing with the pain of your past, there are people who will stand with you as the truth becomes a way of life. In Celebrate Recovery, where anonymity and confidentiality are basic requirements, one can address life’s hurts, habits and hang-ups utilizing biblical truths. There are now two Celebrate Recovery meetings in Rutherford County: one meeting every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Belle Aire Baptist Church, 1307 North Rutherford Blvd., and another Thursday nights at 7 p.m. at New Vision Baptist Church, 1750 Thompson Lane. For more information about the ministry visit celebraterecovery.com or call Thom Christy at (615) 896-6288.