When I went to seminary, I found myself listening to new voices. I then came back to Texas and went through a deconstruction of my faith system. As this happened, I woke to more voices. Voices that told stories of hope and truth and framed my faith in new ways. In early recovery, I once again began a path of faith rediscovery.
All through my struggles with God, I could not walk away from the Church. I knew deep in the depth of my know-er that there was a place in the Church for the broken, redeemed, and still struggling band of believers that I now proudly embraced.
Because I didn’t always have safe spiritual places, I often looked back to trusted voices. One of those was a seminary professor named Helen. When I began my search for a seminary, her leadership in the program was one of the reasons that I chose to attend Asbury. She was a nationally recognized guru in student ministry. She was a mother of 3. She was voice of truth. She was approachable and warm and hope filled. She invited us into her home. I admired so much about her. What I didn’t know at the time was that she was in the midst of her own struggle.
I had been sober for a matter of weeks when I contacted this former seminary professor of mine. On a dark and lonely afternoon, I Googled her name and found that she had recently joined the teaching team of a recovery community. A what? Helen? How could that be? With a little basic math, it was clear that she had been in the midst of her addiction and early sobriety when I was in her home.
I wish I still had that email. I would give anything to read those words again. Here are the nuggets of truth that I still carry today. She wasted no time in telling me to take time to heal. She cautioned me about jumping immediately back into ministry and not taking the time to die to my addiction, to bury it well, and to let God really work on me. She implored me to feel the icky, awkward, and very emotionally uncomfortable process of developing a scar. For it was only from a scar, and not a gaping open infected wound, that God would use this story as redemption.
I thank God for this wisdom every day. I didn’t do this anywhere close to perfectly. But somehow in that brief exchange, I was given the clarity and experience to slow down. I was given the courage to do the hard work of wound care. I even held a small hope that one day, maybe one day, this place of darkness would be used for good. I didn’t see it then, but she gave me a small flame of promise that carried me in the days ahead.