“You are my rock and my fortress – my soul’s sanctuary! Therefore, for the sake of your reputation, be my leader, my guide, my navigator, my commander.” PSALM 31:3 VOICE
Many of us, me included, wear our emotions on our sleeves. I had a great friend in early recovery who could read my eyes and immediately know what was happening within my soul. It was disconcerting sometimes that a person could look at me and tell me what I was thinking or how I was feeling. As our friendship deepened, he confided that my eye color was a giveaway. Dark blue eyes meant trouble and discontent while sky blue eyes indicated a cheerful and peaceful inner being. I eventually learned to discern the same in his eyes.
In the same way, body language can betray what is happening internally. Arms crossed in front of me tell others not to approach too closely. Eye contact indicates whether I am interested in continuing our conversation and fidgeting lets you know that I am uncomfortable with the interaction. Folded hands and a bowed head extend my respect for your inner essence, “Namaste.” A beaming smile and genuine bear hug says, “come on in and share my life for awhile.”
But, what else do I wear on my sleeve? How about my faith? I lived most of my adult life keeping my faith hidden within. My church upbringing frowned upon sharing a part of me that could intrude or disagree with another’s beliefs. Although my church named itself as evangelical, it did not practice evangelism. Much of that attitude stemmed from cultural issues within my community which was isolated from mainstream America well into the 20th century. We kept to ourselves because it was a safer way to approach the ridicule of the more popular cultures surrounding us. We were Germanic people whose forefathers had immigrated to the British colonies in the early 1700s indenturing themselves to the governor of New York for 7 years in return for land, we spoke a Germanic dialect, and we kept to the old customs. We were not overly popular during WWII and the years following.
I learned early to keep my faith to myself. In retrospect, I probably did not have much faith during my active alcoholism because I could not allow an old gray-haired, bearded, eyes-on-fire entity dwelling somewhere in the heavens into my life. It was far too frightening. I knew that I was always in His cross-hairs and the fear was overwhelming. So I drank as much as I could to overcome my fears and inhibitions. When I was drunk that old man in the sky was powerless over me.
When drinking finally brought me to my knees, I did some praying while I was down there. The miracle of Alcoholics Anonymous and its concept of a Higher Power pulled me from the insanity which had become my life. I learned how to hold my head high and I learned to wear my faith on my sleeve for the world to see. If you want to talk about faith, give me a big smile and a huge bear hug. We’ll talk.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see
John Newton 1779