Sometimes I drink too much. I’m an Enneagram 7. Sometimes I do everything too much. But today, as I lay here in the wake of a killer hangover, I’m thinking about drinking too much.
7’s are the Enthusiasts and our vice is gluttony. We want more. We don’t want the party to end. Our virtue is sobriety. When we can step into sobriety we can be content in the present moment without always planning for more, more, more. Sometimes I do that well, other times, not so much. It’s particularly hard to do this in stressful times and the last month has been pretty stressful.
Some of my favorite people, my beloved people, are sober people. They are alcoholics who do the hard and transforming work of the 12 Steps. I’ve seen the biggest spiritual transformations in people who have gotten sober. And I don’t just mean the stopping drinking. That’s the first step. I mean living a sober life.
What does that even mean “living a sober life”?
To me that means knowing yourself well enough to know when you’re living out of your healthy self and when you’re reacting out of your brokenness. The Enneagram has been a great tool for me in this regard. I know what my fixation, which is planning, looks like and when I fall into those behaviors it means I’m not standing in the center of my boat. Sometimes it looks like obsessing on Zillow searches, buying midcentury pottery I can’t afford, starting projects I don’t have time for, getting way too over involved in the lives of my adult children, and sometimes it looks like not wanting the party to end at happy hour.
The Zillow searches and pottery buying usually don’t cause the shame spiral that a hangover does though. A couple years ago I was in one of those shame spirals after a pretty terrible Mardi Gras. We were invited by friends we didn’t know all that well and out of maybe nervousness and .. well it being Mardi Gras, I got blitzed. “It’s Mardi Gras, chill out!” you might say. It wasn’t that, the shame came from what I did. When I get over served, I talk about Jesus.
Yup. Go ahead. Judge me.
So at the King’s Tent at Mardi Gras as I talked to strangers I told them that I was on my way to seminary to become a spiritual director. (Insert facepalm emoji)
And then again, last night as I sat around with colleagues after bringing the happy hour to my front porch, one friend suggested we play “tell us something about yourself that we might not know.” I said “I’m a Jesus person.” I might have said, “I love Jesus.”
First of all, if you’ve been reading this blog you obviously know I’m a Jesus person. And while Jesus did not turn water into Hi-C, this was still not the best moment to share a complex and deeply personal faith story. Not much nuance there to explain how I struggle with doubt, how I’ve deconstructed so much of what I was taught and worked incredibly hard to build a spiritual life that reflects the mystery that the Jesus story encompasses. How, like Rilke encourages, I try to live into the questions and not simply have the answers.
I had too many Tank 7’s to articulate any of that. Cue shame spiral. #😶🌪
After that fateful Mardi Gras my emotional hangover lasted far longer than the physical one. How was I about to start seminary? How could I do this kind of work and feel like a screw up? I was reading Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People during lent and I stumbled on this passage:
“God doesn’t make sense and you don’t need to either because this God will use you, this God will use ALL of you. Not just your strengths but your failures and your failings. Your weakness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful. So don’t ever think that all you have to offer are your gifts. Sometimes the fact that there is nothing about you that makes you the right person to do something is exactly what God is looking for.” - Nadia Bolz-Weber
I took a breath and read it again. Relief. Yup, I mess up. I don’t have to be perfect, and even in my brokenness there is space for compassion. My hope became that in my own struggles I could walk with those struggling.
But let’s go back. Here’s a question: Why do I talk about Jesus when I drink? Perhaps my intention to be open about my faith when I’ve had a few is more telling about what I don’t say under normal circumstances.
There’s a stigma in being a Christian around like-minded progressive people. I always wanted to be Jewish. That seemed much cooler. Cultural. There’s assumptions made when you say you’re a Christian. Perhaps a naïveté that’s immediately ascribed. People assume you’re homophobic or at least maybe “love the sinner, hate the sin” kind of homophobic. People might think they understand your political leanings or your feelings on social issues. They might even have questions about your intelligence or think you don’t believe in scientific theory. Maybe to them you just sound disingenuous and saccharine.
Or perhaps these are just baseless fears swirling in my head. Maybe a proclamation of faith is too big to be said out loud. It deserves something with more weight than a mere voiced pronouncement.
Here’s another question: Why Jesus? This was a question the late Rachel Held Evans asked when she invited a group of amazing women pastors and lay women to speak at the Why Christian? Conference. (I encourage you to read her blog about it.)
This fleshy, tangible, complex, multi-faceted, doubt-riddled, question-drenched, hard-won yet resoundingly-clear answer to the great riddle that brought us all there:
Why—with all the atrocities past and present committed in God’s name, amidst all the hostile divisions ripping apart Christ’s Church, in spite of all our own doubts and frustrations and fears about faith—are we still Christian? Why do we still have skin in the game? - RHE
The answers were varied and beautiful but Rachel’s answer is the one that speaks to me most fully as a story person myself. She said, “I am a Christian, I concluded, because the story of Jesus is the story I’m willing to risk being wrong about.” That’s it for me. A story of God enfleshed and radically standing for the least of these, for the weakest parts of us, for transformation and forgiveness. A willingness to love in spite of everything. To love anyway. That’s a story worth the risk.
I hear people, including myself, equivocating when the subject of faith comes up:
I go to church but I’m really just there for community.
I’m spiritual but not religious.
I like the tradition but don’t really buy into it.
I don’t think you have to go to church or pray a certain prayer or even use any specific kind of God language to be a Jesus person. I know lots of Jesus people walking around who wouldn’t describe themselves that way. That’s ok. That’s great, actually. But as a culture, we’ve kinda thrown the baby Jesus out with the bath water. Maybe that’s why my simple, “I love Jesus” takes the liquid courage it does to say without equivocation and seemingly without shame. It’s too scary and charged any other way… Or maybe it’s just my version of a slurry “I love you man.”
I don’t know, but as I finish this post on Mother’s Day, no longer hung over and attempting to move back into the center of my boat, I’m grateful for the too muchness of me, for the grace and compassion that trumps shame, and even for the cringe worthy and awkward stumbling of my professions of faith. Perhaps one day I can say it sober as a judge. Maybe even write about it in a blog.