|WISTERIA, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL|
I am back from leading a retreat for recovering women in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and I am reeling. From the strength and stories and laughs from these incredible women, the suffering they have endured, their flowering hearts. The atom bomb had nothing on the power of love that was palpable in that circle of women all weekend.
We had the working poor and socialites, the young and the old, women who'd been sober 30-plus years and women who hadn't quite, just yet, put down the drink. We had women whose children had died of ODs, women with siblings born with fetal alcohol syndrome, women whose kids had been taken away from them because of their drinking and drugging and because they were sober, had gotten the kids back, and raised them, and gone back to college and graduated magna cum laude and the kids are in college now, too. We had mothers whose children were bipolar, or with abusive partners, or having panic attack, mothers with eating disorders, women, like me, who had never been and are never going to be mothers.We had women who had just lost their mothers, women who had just lost their husbands, women who were caring for their aging parents, alone. We had two sets of blood sisters, women who came with posses of their sober sisters, a pair of ex-college roommates, women who had come to the retreat, in fear and trembling, alone, because they wanted to get better.
If you have never gotten that close to the beating heart of the world, you are missing out. If you have never looked into the eyes of a human being who has suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a child that would have felled a lesser person--and who is telling you, "I have to get better. Because I'm worth something"--you have not entirely lived.
Early Sunday morning, I sat for awhile by the coffee machine with a woman who had come all the way from Washington, D.C., by train and chauffered car. I'd been there when she walked through the door Friday night, eyes downcast, shaking with anxiety. "I'm so afraid," she'd whispered.
All weekend, we women had shared our brokenness, and out of that collective wound had arisen a strange, rejuvenating hope and strength and sense of purpose, as if we'd been infused with new blood. Now by the coffee machine Sunday morning, this gal said, "I have a great favor to ask of you--would you pray for me?" I said, "Of course I will. You've touched my heart and the heart of everyone here."
And then she said, "I'd like to do one more thing. May I pray for you? Is there something you'd like me to pray, for you?"
I gazed into that dear human face for a second, and then I put my head down on the table and wept. I had given everything I had. It was the first retreat I'd ever led and I'd given literally everything I had: my heart, my body, my sleep. But that this woman, who had suffered so much and come so far, would pray for me?
I said, "Pray for my strength, if you would. Pray that I'm strong enough to endure the gifts that have been given to me."
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest.
Healthy people don't need a doctor; sick people do.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
|The road of happy destiny.|
Best overhead line of the weekend:
"Here's the difference between me and God.
God doesn't get up up in the morning and think He's me."
Let's carry it on.