While I was walking his high dogness this morning, I realized a few things. First, it is sunny. Really sunny. I am THRILLED at how sunny it is. I’m certain that Huntington Beach (today is the marathon I was going to run) is lovely as well, but I am delighted with the sunlight that was served up today.
Second, this is the first Sunday in years–over a decade–that I have not been affiliated with a church. I left the Episcopal church unofficially eons ago, but I was a MINO (member in name only) at the church of my youth until I moved my membership to the church I had been attending here. And, having withdrawn my membership this past week–well, it’s a bit of an odd feeling. A bit lost, a bit relieved.
Pondering this second point, alongside the final one (below, not the one you are currently wading through), led me back to my ever faithful theme of sanctuary. I have asked in these pages and elsewhere why it was easier to confess my stories of addiction than my stories of faith, and, moreover, why telling stories in AA was easier than in church. And much of the difference lies in the absolute commitment to honesty and anonymity in the first. One can tell one’s story in AA because every person in the room agrees to keep the story private–a respect and regard for each others humanity, in my mind, because we don’t always want our stories shared, and more significantly, I think we all want a modicum of control over where and how our stories are told.
I believe that congregations likewise have an internal responsibility to protect one another. Now, this regard for one another cannot extend, of course, to protecting abusers and the like, of course, but members must weigh carefully how and why we divulge the story of another member. It strikes me as a matter of hospitality and sanctuary to hold the stories of others as something close to sacred. Perhaps stage one of creating sanctuary is something like what AA demands–an insistence on respect for each others stories–listen, no crosstalk, the story stays in this room and in each others hearts–yours is the only story that you can share.
Much can be learned in AA meetings that cannot be later credited to the speaker. I’ve spoken often of the person who described sobriety as moving from a B&W TV on mute to full-color, HI-Def, volume all the way up. A fantastic metaphor–but I cannot and will not ever divulge the identity of the person who articulated early sobriety so well. The same is true in churches, where faith stories can be every bit as personal and deserve every bit as much regard for privacy. Maybe this commitment to one another is step one in forming a community of sanctuary, inclusion, and hospitality.
Finally, today is 365. A year ago (I had already stopped drinking, but it was 2/7/2009 when I renewed my commitment to my own radical transformation) I came to the conclusion that I am an alcohol failure–there is no “learning to drink right” for me and there never will be. In a ploy to keep myself distracted from alcohol for a while, I also started training for a marathon–which was the best therapy I could possibly have found, quite frankly. I’m nervous; after all, I’ve walked this hall before (I was just shy of 16 months when I jumped off the wagon in 2008), but I’m also, even for all the messes that exist in my life right now–I am in a much better place than I was in 2008, the last time I hit 365.
So, here begins Chapter 2, redux, wherein plans will not be made (as I cannot control. Cannot. Should not try so hard to control), but dreams will be hatched. Today, I am moving at one day at a time. And for all the sadness and confusion right now, I’m mostly content.
And that is good enough.