The Brokenhearted

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The cross in the middle of nowhere.

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds, (Psalm 147:3).

Do not allow complacency to interfere with the spiritual work being done in your life.  I will bring conviction regarding issues where you must change your mind in order to get on the right track.  Stubborn refusal to give up fleshly attitudes and motivations will result in your getting stuck spiritually.  You cannot progress until you deal with these issues, says the Lord.  Quiet your soul and allow Me to lead you forward.

Psalm 81:12 – So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels[1].

A Few Years Ago

Sadie and her husband, Smitty, are missionaries that I had met at a conference in the Balkans.  When I had told Sadie that I was also from Texas, and most recently from the Hill Country of Central Texas, we spent the day together after the conference, getting to know each other and her ministry.  I usually try to add a day or two onto the end of a conference to rest up or meet with missionaries, so this had been perfect.  I had spent the whole day with Sadie visiting cafes and shops where she has friends.  Sadie and Smitty had been very busy in their two years on the mission field.  They had made friends all over town, sharing Jesus over a cup of coffee here and during slow time at the bakery there.  Then we had gone to their home for a time of prayer together.

It was there that Sadie had told me: “Remember the young girl we saw in the park?”  I nodded.  “She was high.  That’s why she wanted to rush off.”  And Sadie poured out her own story of alcohol and drug addiction—in fact she and Smitty both had been addicts when they met Jesus.  She told me that the girl in the park was someone she has been mentoring through recovery.  So we also took time to pray for the girl.

Sometime later I had heard that Sadie and Smitty had to return to Texas to see to some personal business here, and to raise funds and collect materials for a return to the Balkans.

Yesterday

Of course while I’m in Texas, I had to see Sadie.  I met Sadie for breakfast in her little town on the other side of Austin yesterday.  After catching up on each other’s lives, Sadie asked what my plans were for the rest of the day, and I told her: “I have the whole day free.”  She said: “Even for Celebrate Recovery this evening?”  Yes, I told her.  Celebrate Recovery is like Alcoholics Anonymous, only it’s not limited to alcoholism and drug abuse.  There are people in CR that are struggling with all kinds of other problems, like codependency and other compulsive behaviors.  These things are really just symptoms of deep wounds.  These are a human response to unbearable pain.

In order for a program like CR or AA to be effective, you’ve got to open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable.  So I told Sadie what I had been struggling with on the way to meet her: food obsession[1].  Now, this is not an easy thing to admit, especially when you’re overweight.  Most people want to “fix” you by encouraging you to go on a diet.  But Sadie understood very well that the weight is just a symptom of the problem.  And food obsessed people are not always overweight.  Every single one of the anorexics I’ve ever known were just as badly food obsessed as any fat person—and more than most.  Besides, part of the reason why diets fail is because diets treat the symptom while the root cause remains.

So Sadie and I spent the day together.  First, she had a missionary she wanted me to meet.  This young woman had two active little boys, so our meeting was very intelligent and probing questions about missions punctuated by momspeak like “don’t put that in your mouth!” and “let him have his toy back!” etc.  Honestly, I wasn’t able to help her very much, but I put her in touch with someone who can.  And I was able to do what I do: encourage her.

[1] And I am opening up and being vulnerable to you by publishing this.

Next, Sadie took me to her work.  In truth, Sadie has a few part time jobs, mostly doing little things for friends from church.  She is helping a friend with his website promoting a local event.  Also at his workplace there is space where she’s helping another friend make jewelry for her online shop.

We went for a walk on top of a dam.  Sadie showed me where the spillway had flooded a few years before, creating a canyon in a matter of a day.  With a flood as big as Noah’s you can see how the Grand Canyon didn’t need millennia to form.

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The spillway as seen from the dam.

Then we had lunch at the house where Sadie and Smitty are housesitting and dogsitting for friends.  It’s way, way out in the country.  We played with the dogs and then prepared ourselves a good meal.  Sadie also made a nice fruit salad to take to CR.  Afterward we took the dogs out for a walk, and Sadie showed me a cross near the house, but not on their property.  It was just out in the middle of nowhere, up on a hill with a bench nearby.  We climbed the hill and sat for a bit.  The scrubby, rocky Texas countryside is not what most people would call pretty, but it has a rough beauty that we Texans can appreciate.

When we returned to the house the question we had to ask ourselves was: “coffee or a nap?”  I pointed out that if I have a coffee, I will most likely not nap.  Sadie agreed.  One of the little errands that we had run earlier had been to go by their place and pick up their coffee maker and several pods of coffee.  Knowing that we had the ability to make great coffee, we each opted for a cup.

Before too long it was time to go to church for Celebrate Recovery.  On the way Sadie asked me if I knew the protocols for a Twelve Step Program.  I had to admit that I didn’t.  So she went over them with me:

  1. Keep your sharing focused on your own thoughts and feelings. Limit your sharing to three to five minutes.
  2. There is NO crosstalk. Crosstalk is when two individuals engage in conversation excluding all others.  Each person is free to express his or her own feelings without interruptions.
  3. We are here to support, not “fix” one another.
  4. Anonymity and confidentiality are basic requirements. What is shared in the group stays in the group.  The only exception is when someone threatens to injure themselves or others.
  5. Offensive language has no place in a Christ-centered recovery group.

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Texas sunset.

When we arrived at the church the sun was setting, turning the sky golden before staining it purple.  The group was larger than I had imagined (about 30), and there were about twice as many men as women.  The men occupied a few tables, and the women a couple of different tables.  One-by-one each member of the group came to introduce themselves to me—first name only—and welcome me to the group.  We helped ourselves to the potluck offerings: shredded BBQ meat and buns, BBQ beans, Sadie’s fruit salad, and various cookies and cakes.

The program opened with prayer and worship, then watched this video in which a girl named Hosanna performed spoken word poetry about her new names as a child of God.  In the beginning she says all the bad names that the world has called her (ugly, unloved, unworthy, etc.), then finishes by proclaiming all her new names[3].  All was done with lots of energy and enthusiasm.

Then we went through a Bible-based lesson and before breaking into groups.  Since there were many more men than women, we went into another, smaller room, and this is where it got real.  We went around the circle introducing ourselves by first name and our struggle: “Hi, my name is Alisa and I struggle with food obsession.”  That part was easier than I had thought.

Then the facilitator asked us to respond to the lesson: “What resonated with you?”  For me it was the word escape.  All my life I have sought escape as a way to deal with problems, either by physically running away or running away into my mind.  I happen to be an expert escape artist.  I’ve always had an excuse ready just in case I feel rejected (“Oh!  Look at the time!  I’ve got to go!”) or uncomfortable (pretend the phone is ringing on vibrate: “I need to take this call!” and excusing myself to hurry off on some emergency).  I have hosted countless dozens of missionaries, but I’m very reluctant to risk asking someone for hospitality.

Then I said that what had really gotten to me was all the names in the video.  I have been called all of those names, but the one that hurt the worst was the one that was not in the video: mess.  My grandmother used to shake her head, smile and say, “Alisa, you’re a mess.”  I can’t explain how badly it hurt for her to say that, even though she said it with affection in her voice.  If you asked her, my grandmother would have said that she loved me.  But deep down I have never believed it.  I would have an easier time believing that a snake would make a good pet.

If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from Me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you (Isaiah 54:15, ESV).

I didn’t say all of that, mostly because I was crying.  I thought that I had already dealt with all this.  But the video that should have left me soaring in victory had instead found me in a pit, unable to hide all my brokenness.  And it had all snuck up on me.  If we hadn’t had to talk about it in the group, I would have gone home dry-eyed and craving nachos.

Why nachos?  Because the creaminess of the cheese comforts as I crunch the anger and frustration back down.  And in the process my brain and its complicated emotions shuts down.  That’s how I escape: in the glorious oblivion of food.  It’s messed up.  I know.  No one is more aware of my mess than I am.  I guess that’s the reason why it had caught me off-guard: because I’ve gone through all this before.

We ended the evening by holding hands and reciting the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it;

Trusting that You will make all things right

If I surrender to Your will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

This morning during my prayer time I went to God and confessed the sin of food idolatry because that’s what it really is.  I confessed it as sin.  I have run to food to comfort me instead of running to God.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed, (Isaiah 61:1, emphasis mine).

Sadie told me that there are meetings all over the country, and really, all over the world.  She suggested that I find a group near me.  I will.  I understand now that I can’t run away from this.  But with God’s help I will beat it.  God is good!

[1] From prophecy newsletter, Small Straws in a Soft Wind by Marsha Burns, http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1101176124184&ca=2509a4f0-6264-4d41-8035-f489b20be828.

[2] And I am opening up and being vulnerable to you by publishing this.

[3] Along with the Biblical citations.

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