This is Easter week. Around the globe, the Christian world is celebrating the holiest day and most miraculous event to ever occur in the history of the Earth. Easter morning represents hope and healing that defies logic: even breaking the bands of death and overcoming the physical limitations of this mortal world.
It’s no coincidence that Easter week arrives in the heart of spring. This week, as I drive down my road, I am met with popcorn-covered trees and persistent tulips reaching their long necks up through the gloomy downpour to stubbornly burst forth into cheerful color. It seems fitting that this sudden appearance of green and growing things is brought about by days and even weeks of incessant heaviness: clouds, browns, grays, and damp chill. After such a long season of soul-sapping haze, it makes the brilliancy of spring colors all the more astounding when the blue sky clears, even if just for a moment.
When I first came to recovery, I was under heavy cloud cover for months, well over a year. I felt that everything in my life was lost. My marriage felt like a sham, fourteen years of treasured memories suddenly shattered on the floor. My sureness about my faith began to unravel, slowly at first, then picking up speed as I peeled off the layers that had brought me to such an all-encompassing point of despair. Most of all, everything about who I thought I was had been ripped from my comfortable grip. Suddenly the roles I had easily filled of mother, wife, teacher, leader, church member, sister, and friend felt overwhelming, confusing, unfamiliar, and even dangerous.
All that I wanted, desperately, feverishly, was to be put back together again.
“Will I ever be the bright and shiny person I once was?”
I wanted to be restored to my old self, but Jesus Christ, the Higher Power I honor this Easter week, had a different plan in store.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” -Ezekial 36:26
When I came to recovery, I was not much looking for a new heart. I would have been thrilled just to have my old heart back, thank you very much. But the counterintuitive process that led to healing brought about a different transformation entirely.
This process did not include overcoming, distracting, numbing, justifying, ignoring, blaming, escaping, comparing, or protecting.
This process began with powerlessness. It was all about feeling.
“I will take away your stony heart…I will give you an heart of flesh.”
A stony heart was a vivid description for the walls of fear that encased me, threatening to make me hard, callous, invulnerable to anymore pain. So unexpectedly, the path that moved me toward healing was the path of feeling.
How many times did I curse my overwhelming emotions? How many times did I wonder if I could stand one more day in so much pain? How many times did I hide my face in shame for the tears that wouldn’t stop? How many times did I shock myself at the ferocity of my rage? How many times did I fight against these overwhelming and powerful emotions, labeling them as weakness?
The truth is that I couldn’t become something new without fully comprehending, grieving, accepting, and releasing the old. There was no way around it, under it, or over it. I had to go through it.
Over and over again, I experienced the surprising fact that my biggest recovery breakthroughs came through intense emotional experiences. My Higher Power didn’t work with me in neat and tidy ways. Every time I took a big leap forward, it initially and emotionally looked like a mess.
It turned out that this capacity to feel, to allow my emotions to awaken me to a deeper truth that was hidden inside, was actually an empowering, enabling capacity. My emotionality could be used to catapult me to a deeper awareness. My emotions were not necessarily a weakness, they could be a strength.
Over time, as I have experienced the beautiful buds that come from this kind of downpour, I have come to fear my emotions less and honor them more. For me, pain has truly been the pathway to progress. Without allowing it, I would shrink into a stony heart.
Although I always knew my Higher Power promised to make all things new, I had no idea how messy that would look. I thought I wanted the old back, but what I got was much closer to this quote from C.S. Lewis.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
As I reflect on the palace-in-process that my Higher Power has been tinkering around in for the past five years, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, hope, and trust.
Today, I can see colors in more vibrant hues than ever before. I feel things more deeply, especially things like gratitude and compassion.
I judge less quickly. I am more likely to see the humanity and struggle in the people around me rather than the flaws or annoyances.
I feel less fear than ever before. I am more patient to wait on the Lord’s time and the Lord’s way.
I have fewer expectations from life. I know that my deepest peace, my truest fulfillment, and my greatest wholeness comes not from any circumstance around me, but from the connection with the Higher Power who resides within me.
Wherever you are in your road to healing, and however you see the Higher Power of your understanding, know that He can make all things new.
As you look at the glorious green leaping off the mountains, remember that this vibrant manifestation of life is only made possible from the darkness that brought the rain. And that someday, inevitably, the clouds will break.
Trust your gut, trust your heart, and allow yourself to feel everything you feel. You have to feel it to heal it.
Commit yourself to your own recovery. Work the steps. Hold your boundaries. Educate yourself. Nurture your heart and body and spirit.
One day at a time, whether you can see it yet or not, you are becoming new.
Please share the ways in which you are becoming new, one day at a time, in the comments. You never know who needs to hear your story to find hope today.