I didn’t know what to expect. I sat in the parking lot, gathering my composure and my nerve, preparing to enter a new environment full of strangers. I was going to a meeting to hear someone share his testimony. I was there for somewhat selfish reasons – I wanted to find out if I could possibly come and speak to the group myself one day. So I took a deep breath, got out of my car, and walked into Celebrate Recovery.
Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-based 12-step recovery support group. It is a biblical and balanced program that helps people overcome their hurts, hang-ups, and habits. Think Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous, then add Jesus and a variety of struggles in addition to chemical dependency. The program is in almost 30,000 churches worldwide.
I saw my friend and quietly took a seat next to him on the back row. I looked fully around the room and took notice of the types of people that were present. Men, women, young, old, black and white. Conservatively dressed. Tattooed. Well off. Homeless. Free. And those with ankle monitoring devices.
The leader began the meeting and soon he asked if there were visitors. My heart began to race as I was not prepared for this! My pride made me want to slink down in that back row chair and not acknowledge my attendance at Celebrate Recovery. After all, I don’t have any hurts, hang-ups or habits, do I? But then I bravely lifted my hand and said, “I’m Lisa.”
All eyes were then on me as the room reverberated with a loud and friendly chorus, “HI, LISA!”
There was a gentleman who shared his testimony of addiction to drugs and alcohol. I was moved as I heard the devastating tragedies that drove him to find peace and solace in substance abuse. I listened to how he had hit “rock bottom” and saw that God was waiting there. I clapped with the rest of the room when he shared that he had been “clean” for many years now.
I was moved at the end of the meeting when the leader gave out “chips” for milestones of sobriety.
“Has anyone been clean for 30 days?”
We all clapped as people went up to celebrate their successes. One person was celebrating 2 years of being clean. Another was celebrating 13 years of sobriety. Others made brave decisions to give up drugs and alcohol for good, and start their first day of recovery that very night.
When the leader prayed and thanked God for loving those whose lives were a mess, I thought, “These are my people.” They acknowledged that their lives were a mess. There was no pretense there. No one was hiding the elephants in their rooms. They were openly sharing about their hurts, hang-ups and habits.
It was the most honest hour of my entire week.
And those that fessed up to their weaknesses weren’t judged for not being perfect. They weren’t corrected with scriptures or lectured on how they should do better. Instead, they were deeply loved right where they were. Even in their mess.
Even though I look as conservative and as clean as they come, I felt so at home at Celebrate Recovery. In fact, I felt more comfortable there than in some church meetings. These new friends were vocal and honest about their struggles and their total dependence upon God. It was a safe place for everyone, warts and all.
Because if I’m honest, I have hurts, hang-ups and habits, too. Lots of them.
Celebrate Recovery was a place where pride and judgement had been crucified so that unconditional love could flow freely.
It was the hands and feet of Jesus to broken and hurting people.