It's National Recovery Month, and in celebration, I've invited Laura Beth Martin, my favorite drug dealer (a pharmacist to be exact), to bring an offering to the table. I met Laura at a writer's conference a couple of years ago, found out she was an Arkansas girl who had a penchant for pie and drawling i-s. Enjoy her piece, then head over to her site for more of her writing. Welcome Laura Beth Martin to the Recovery Room.
Her voice falters and slips as I ask her how she’s doing. I notice her tired eyes and the purple half-circles underneath them. Her arms are thinner than I’ve ever seen, and I worry what that means. There’s no baby in her belly now either.
I notice that too.
My hand quickly finds her name among the sea of white prescription bags, and I place hers on the counter. I smile and ask her gently how she’s doing. She tells me now about her flat belly.
The baby came last week. Thin and long like her momma. She gives me all the standard details and shares the name she chose. As she speaks she chokes up, tears filling her brown eyes, as the words tumble out.
“They took them. They took both my children.”
And the realization of what her world looks like slams me hard in the face and I lean forward my hand gripping that counter, knuckles turning white.
“I’m sorry.” I tell her. “I’m so sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, she says. It’s my fault. I did this.”
“Does CPS have them in foster care now?” I ask.
She nods, taking the sack from my hand. “But the baby is still in the hospital. They didn’t even let me tell my little boy good-bye.”
“That’s hard. Do you know what you need to do to get them back?”
“Yes,” she says, “and I’m doing it. I’m keeping my visitation and I’m following my steps.”
She is crying now.
“I can’t breathe without them,” she whispers.
And there, in that moment, I can see her the way Jesus sees her, scared, alone, vulnerable, hurting and confused. And I’m ashamed of my heart when I compare it to his. So many times, as a pharmacist I stand on one side of that counter and see people for who they appear to be, or who I want them to be.
The addict. The dealer. The user. The manipulator. The liar. The sinner. I get so frustrated, so tired of being on the receiving end of attempts to use the medical system for drugs.
I’m hard hearted. A cynic.
And this is an easy thing to do when my own sin isn’t an addiction that everyone can see. When it doesn’t publicly cost me my children, or my job, or my church membership. When I can tuck that sin away and ask God for forgiveness and no one is the wiser. It allows me to create levels of separation for sin, a caste system of religious hierarchy where I can justify my own while judging everyone else for theirs. And the mask of the perfect Christian can remain firmly cemented in place.
But what if my sin were apparent? What if everyone knew I had an anger problem? Or had adulterous thoughts? Or cursed like a sailor? What if the worst thing I’ve ever thought or done was displayed for everyone to see? My shame would undo me.
As Christians, we often want to believe that those with addictions have the power to stop whenever they want, as if there’s a light switch you turn on or off to quit craving your drug of choice. We want to believe that they have complete power over their sin.
No one has that.
Even the ones who keep the front row pews warm three times a week cannot claim to have themselves under control. We cannot white-knuckle our way through the depths of our humanness. It simply isn’t possible.
There is no one righteous, not even one.
And Jesus knows this.
He knows we are forever recovering from ourselves, thus he continually offers his grace cupped and overflowing from palms scarred. He whispers to the addict in us all,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)
[Enjoy Laura Beth Martin's writing? Visit her website.]
Want to read a recovery narrative that's about so much more than recovery? Grab a copy (or 10) of Coming Clean: A Story of Faith. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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