Friendship

When I was first recovering from alcoholism I was told that I should get on my knees and pray. Every morning and every evening.

And I did.

Before I did anything else, I got out of bed, got on my knees and prayed for the strength to remain sober for the rest of the day. I always asked Him to help me to do His will…my will had gotten me in a bit of a mess.

And every night, the last thing I did was get on my knees and thank Him for keeping me sober this day.

It was sink or swim. I believed my conversations with God kept me from drowning in that emotional ocean of drink. He was my lifesaver.

After that first year I was busy, I was sober, I was getting a divorce, I was working full time again.  I was secure in my sobriety, I knew I never wanted to drink again. So I slacked off on the prayers. Sometimes I would lay in bed because I needed an extra five minutes of pillow time.  I’d say a quick ‘please’ in the morning. Then at the end of the day, I’d drop, exhausted, back to my pillow and say a quick’ thank you’.

That first year I would use a traffic jam or a stoplight as time for a quick chat with God. I’d thank Him for many different things, the sun, my kids, my job, my house, Oreo cookies. We’d talk about everything. I’d thank Him for the strength He gave me to continue each day as a sober woman. God and I chatted on a regular basis. We were friends.

After that first year if I got caught in a traffic jam it was a little different. God’s name still came up but it was flung out as a curse. The stop light was not an opportunity to spend time with God, it was an evil entity sent by the devil to make me late for work…

Today, it’s rare that I pray. I shoot out quick little things for other people. Help so and so with her illness, give so and so strength. I do this when I think of them, when shopping, when driving, sometimes while making dinner.

That first year, I built a great relationship with God. He and I were tight.

After that first year, I neglected our friendship. And it showed. My life was not so bright and shiny, small things irritated me. My life was in such turmoil. My kids have even told me that during that time they were affected. I didn’t know.

If I treated a friend the way I treated God I most likely would not have that friend…I certainly would not be a friend to someone who only spoke a few quick words to me as we passed each other in the produce aisle. I would not be friends with someone who only waved to me as they flew by in their car. I would not be friends with someone who only called me when they were in dire straits and needed someone to cry to.

I can sit here and tell you that I miss my relationship with God. I do. I really do. I want that relationship back.

But tonight, when I go to bed, I will most likely fall asleep with a book. Or my phone. And if God calls, I’ll say, you know what, I’m really tired, good to hear from you, thanks for thinking of me, I miss you, but can I call you back tomorrow?

Advertisements

Just 95 cents a day

Oprah did a show a few years back about paying it forward. She wanted her audience to experience “the best gift”…giving back. Each audience member got $1000 to donate to the charitable cause of their choice.

I worked for a company where the owner did the same thing.

Each employee was given $1000 in cash and told to go pay it forward. We were also asked to document where we donated the money and how it affected us. I’ll admit that my first thought was charity begins at home…as in, my home could use $1000.

In all honesty, I wasn’t that excited to donate. I had too many charities I liked that could use $1000 and felt that  dividing the money  to be able to give a little to each, would make the amount too tiny to really be of help. In addition to that, I could not stop thinking about  Matthew 6.

1″Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

I wanted my good deeds to be done in secret. Not to be biblical but to allow me to be assured that I was donating to donate, not to get the pats on the back and the recognition. This made it harder for me, because as much as part of me preferred the secret, I wanted to get the accolades. I like it when people tell me how great I am. Who doesn’t?

Giving with no recognition was a lot harder for me, but affirmed in my mind that I was giving from the heart.

To alleviate my dilemma of who to give the money to I took half of the money and donated to a charity that affected my children directly.

The rest of the money I carried in my wallet in $100 increments to just hand out willy nilly.

One way I was able to give was at many local fast food restaurants. At the time I ate at fast food a lot. If I went through the drive through, I would often ask the guy at the window if I could pay for the car behind me. Sometimes the cashiers looked at me funny, like they didn’t understand my question, I guess it doesn’t happen very often.

This anonymous act worked for me. I had no idea who the people behind me were and there would be no way they could thank me because I was  long gone by the time they realized I had paid for them.

I know you may be thinking, there were probably lots of people more deserving of money than the random guy behind me at Culver’s, but the idea of just being nice to a complete stranger felt so sweet to me. Kind of like what the Grinch must have experienced as he felt the love of the people in Whoville. My heart grew three sizes too.

That was Oprah’s wish, to allow us to feel good simply by giving.

I’ll share one experience with you. I had the opportunity to drop a large amount of money in a donation basket. At the end of the evening I was still around when they were counting the money. I watched as the woman tallying the money stopped, recounted and then grabbed the woman next to her and exclaimed how large the amount was. They asked the group to fess up so they could be thanked. No one spoke up but the murmurs of how kind and generous the act was rolled throughout the room. I went home a happy girl that night.

My act made a whole room of people happy.

I could regale you with great stories about what others who participated in the $1000 give-a-way did. So many were amazing, generous and honorable but…I don’t want to influence your ideas in anyway, because I am going to challenge you here. Or should I say I am going to offer you a way to feel good for just .95 a day.

I’m suggesting that you all stash .95 a day every day from now until my birthday.

Then, on my birthday, take that ninety some odd dollars you’ve collected and go out and anonymously donate. Pay it forward. Drop small amounts, drop the whole amount. Do whatever, but do it.

Because truly, the best gift is giving back.

 

 

Self Frighteous

I read something this morning that was berating self righteous Christians.

I think we all have a visual, perhaps a specific person even, of what a self righteous Christian looks and sounds like.

The gist of the article I read was concerning the way Christians treated other Christians who were not making the right decision. Specifically divorce.

For me the definition of a Christian is one who believes in Christ. One who follows His lead.  And as a Christ follower our main job is to help others find their way to Christ. It is our duty to keep our friends and loved ones on track. It is to consistently love another human enough to want what is best for them. It is not to KNOW what is best for them.When you claim to know what is best for another human being you have crossed the line into self-righteous Christanville.

The first argument given from a Christian standpoint is God hates divorce. And is that really what a newly divorcing person needs to hear?  Do you think they don’t know that? It’s the very thing they are struggling with. But what the well intentioned friend forgets is that He hates divorce, not the people who get divorced. Of course God hates divorce. What is there to like about the division of families, the loss of a love that was supposed to last forever?  In a divorce there is pain, hate, sorrow, loss, disappointment, anger, fear, self loathing, blame, insecurity. Our God does not want that for his children.

I know that these friends are coming from a good place. Their intentions are to help, to make it better. And maybe there is a smidge of hope that what they say will be the kick in the butt needed to steer the divorcing back on the path of staying married. (Who doesn’t want to save a marriage?)

But, when a person is going through divorce they pretty much feel bad a lot of the time. They are watching their children go through pain.  They are watching their spouse go through pain. They are watching their family go through pain. They are watching their home being divided. They are filled with fear concerning the changes they are facing. Where will they live, how will they support themselves, will anyone else love them, will they ever love again, will their children be okay?

I am divorced. I asked for the divorce. Most of my friends would call themselves Christians. But none of them called me. My phone number never changed. My ex told them HIS side of the story. Not a single one called me to find out my side. Not a single one realized that it takes two to make a marriage work and it takes two for a marriage to fail. My fear of judgement wouldn’t allow me to call them. I felt bad enough, I didn’t want to risk listening to friends tell me how wrong I was. They certainly must have believed I was wrong or they would have called right?

Absolutely NONE of the friends I had while married are my friends today. They are all still friends with my ex. I feel the loss of my marriage.  And it is compounded with the loss of friendships. Friendships built over years, over coffee, over playdates, over vacations together, over confidences shared, over laughter, over tears.

There is a saying regarding walking a mile in someones shoes is the only way to know what goes on in their lives. And no one lived in my house. No one walked in my shoes. No one knew. At the time it felt like no one cared. But as I look back now I realize they were scared too. Divorce is a scary word. I get it. I see how hard it is for friends to adjust to this change too. They are feeling fear, pain and loss as well.

I think it should not ever be a matter of choosing sides. It should never be a matter of what happened.

And don’t misunderstand here. I am not saying my friends chose incorrectly. He did wrong, I did wrong. Our marriage failed because of TWO people.

What I am saying is my friends chose. It’s not that they didn’t give me the chance to voice my side. It’s that they didn’t offer comfort. It still hurts. It’s not a blame I still carry, it’s sorrow for friends lost.

Unfortunately we live in a world where divorce is all too common. I do wish it weren’t true. I envy the people who have marriages that are thirty, forty and fifty years strong. I wish I could have given that gift to my children. I say that so you don’t think I am pro divorce. I am not pro divorce, I am just divorced. I encourage struggling couples to work it out. Divorce is not easy. It sucks. Even when it is for the best.

So why am I telling you all this?

I hope the next time  a friend is divorcing we won’t call to get the juicy gossip. We won’t call to jump on the band wagon against the ‘guilty party’.  I hope we don’t call to tell them to work it out. I hope we don’t ask if they are  sure they did all they could to save the marriage. I hope we can still think of them as our friends. I hope we will remember that we have not walked in their shoes. I hope we will remember that two people are hurting and I hope we will just call to offer support. I hope that as friends we know about this pain well before it gets to the divorce point.

God loves us all. He makes it sound so easy. Reality is, loving all people is the hardest challenge that I, as a Christian, face.

The decision to divorce is not made in a day. Or a week or a month. Generally, the decision has been building and by the time it is made public there’s not much chance of fixing it. So don’t try and fix it.

Just be there. Just love us.