On Rehab and Rainbows

I recently got back from a sabbatical, a four week reprieve from my crazy life where all I did was take care of myself. No job demands, no dinners to make or chauffeuring to do. No emails, no Facebook, no internet. No responsibilities other than to think about what makes me sink and what makes me fly. It was a soul-searching, month long time-out. Okay, whatever. It was rehab.

I realized that I had some addictive behavior that was self-destructive, and I put myself in a program called Life Renewal at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. It was an incredible experience that I will forever be thankful for.

One of the things I experienced there has been at the forefront of my mind as my Facebook feed continues to explode with posts and profile pics with stances for and against the recent decision by the Supreme Court allowing homosexuals to get married.

While there I experienced God's love. Specifically His love for people whose behavior would not be welcomed in some churches. That's what I've been thinking about while scrolling through my Facebook feed lately.

Like I said, I was in rehab. While there I met some pretty wonderful women who had done some pretty sinful things. Heck, I was there because I did some pretty sinful things.

On the "outside" I would probably never have run into any of these women. I was not familiar with the drug culture and jailhouse slang that many of them spoke fluently. I don't frequent crack houses. I've never had my kids taken away because of my addiction. I've never sold my possessions to get money for my drug. Or sold my body for a chance to get high. I haven't spent a night in jail. I haven't had everything taken away from me.

I have three children by one baby-daddy who I've been married to for 21 years. We were in ministry together from 2000 until 2009, when I had to get a full time job. (He's still in ministry.) I graduated from Wheaton College, Billy Graham's alma mater. I can quote scripture when applicable. I don't swear (much). I am a missionary kid, pastor's kid, ministry wife.

What I am trying to say is that I have a good Christian pedigree. I look and -- for the most part -- act like a good Christian by churchy standards.

I don't usually talk about how churchy I am because I don't think it's really that big a deal. But I have to admit, I sure was aware of my churchyness when I got to rehab! Never really having hung out with meth addicts or felons before, I felt very different at first. But then I felt very the same. What struck me as I got to know them and love them was that I am no different than they are. Not really. Not where it matters.

Churchy people are no different than un-churchy people where it matters: at the foot of the cross.

Sure, our addictions and life choices are different. My drug of choice is legal. It's even acceptable -- served in some churches as a sacrament. My other addiction -- perhaps even a more destructive addiction for me -- is love. It's a real thing, love addiction. Wanting to feel loved, making bad choices because you want so badly to feel loved. But it's not love at all. And it only leaves you wanting more. Fake love is a bad drug. Real love, God's kind of love, satisfies. It never fails (1 Cor. 13).

I think if we are honest, we all have addictions. Some are legal and some aren't. Some are socially acceptable and some aren't. We all at some point turn to something or someone and let them take the place that God should have in our lives. I bet if a lot of Christians are honest with themselves, they could benefit from being in rehab too. Right next to the drug dealers, meth addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals -- and me.

So, there I am in rehab, sitting in the 2nd floor lounge, hanging out with some of the women between sessions. And we're talking about God and how He loves us and wants to help us overcome our addictions. How we need to give up trying to control our lives and understand that we need Him; we can't overcome our addictions on our own. Then I'm listening to them talk to each other about their cravings and what they did to satisfy them, and I'm getting an education of sorts that a churchy person like me would only get in rehab.

I'm also thinking that if this conversation were happening in any number of churches who excuse judgmentalism as "truth-telling" these women might be told that they shouldn't be talking like this, they shouldn't laugh about dancing at stripclubs, they shouldn't wear nose rings, they shouldn't get tattoos of skulls, they shouldn't be craving a hit, they shouldn't say "fuck" or "bullshit." And they would almost certainly be told that they shouldn't be married to a woman.

I think that's sad, really. Because I wonder if Jesus wouldn't rather hang out with the women in that 2nd floor lounge -- even the woman with a wife -- than in some Sunday School classrooms. I wonder this because it reminded me of the story of Jesus eating at a tax-collector's house with a bunch of sinners:
"When the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, 'Why does he eat with such scum?'
When Jesus heard this, he told them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor -- sick people do. I have not come to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.' (Mark 2:16-17)"
Those women and I were at rehab because we knew we were sick and we wanted to be healed. We knew we were sinners. The starting point for healing wasn't our behaviors, it was our relationship with God. And in that context -- where we were all equally needy before God, encouraging each other to go after the fullness of Him, loving on each other -- I felt God's presence.

I experienced God's love in rehab in a way I hadn't experienced it before.

Which is why, when I heard about the SCOTUS decision and saw some posts that weren't terribly loving, I chose to make this my profile picture on Facebook:

It's not a position statement on the SCOTUS decision. But it is a position statement:
Jesus died for everyone, including those who are celebrating the SCOTUS decision. 
This ruling doesn't change God's Truth. It's a ruling on whether gay marriage is constitutional in the United States of America, not whether it's a sin.

I'm not going to even get into whether it's a sin or not. Because, guess what? There are Christians on both sides of the matter with bible verses to support their opposing persuasions.

What I do know is that I am a sinner. And I am responsible for my sins. My own sins. No one else's.

We are all sinners responsible for our own sins. Churchy or unchurchy, "we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)."

I think it's interesting that the rainbow has become a symbol for for the LGBT community. Way back before they embraced the rainbow as their flag, God set a rainbow in the sky as a symbol of His covenant to never again flood the earth and destroy mankind because of our wickedness (Genesis 6-9).

What would happen if Christians -- no matter our position on the legalization of gay marriage, no matter our persuasion on whether homosexuality is a sin or not -- what if, whenever Christians see a rainbow in the sky or on a flag, we remember that God sent His Son to die because of our wickedness? And then thank Him for our forgiveness?

What if whenever we saw the rainbow flag, instead of asking 40 questions, we remembered that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:16-17)?

That's what I thought about when my Facebook feed exploded into rainbow colors after the Supreme Court's ruling.

There are many courts in this land, even a supreme one. But God is the Supreme Judge. There will come a day when we will stand before Him and answer for how we lived.

Regarding that, Jesus liked to tell stories that have a spiritual meaning. In Matthew 25 he told a story about sheep and goats. What he was telling those with ears to hear was this: there are some people who think they will be saved at judgement time, but actually won't be. Why? Because of how they lived -- and how they treated, or loved, those around them. What they did revealed what they believed.

To be sure, there will be political and social ramifications of the SCOTUS decision. But it's not going to impact what I believe or how I live or how I love people around me.

Jesus was once asked which command in God's law is the most important. He answered:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.’ All of the law and the writings of the prophets take their meaning from these two commands.”(Matthew 22:35-40)
Be loving, Church.


Dawn said...

xo, brave lady. praying for your recovery. and thankful for the reminder that nothing can change God's truth. and that Jesus loves sinners. yes, i thank God for that.

Lucy martin said...

Welcome back! Missed you. Thank you for your candor and honesty. Isn't it good that the ground at the foot of the cross is level?

Jennifer Larson said...

What a wonderful post, cousin. Thank you for your words! They are so inspiring and they feed my soul.

Johnnie Smith said...

I can totally relate to your post. I had the worst gambling addiction, and because it is not really frowned upon, I hit rock bottom and then took it 5 miles deeper because no one realized I was in a total tailspin. It wasn't until I was completely broke that I found the help I needed and started to rebuild my life.

Johnnie Smith @ Ranch Creek Recovery


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