Soli Deo Gloria
Here’s a thing pretty much everyone who knows me already knows: on April 18, 2014 at 7:45PM, I crashed my car into a public building because I was drunk. It was Good Friday. I was fighting a custody battle with my ex-husband, and because of my actions, I lost almost everything I’d been fighting for.
Later that night, like all crazy addicty people do, I pleaded hysterically with my lawyer–I did not want my parents, who were 800 miles away, to know what had happened. I can still hear his logical, kindly but urgent voice: “Leslie, I understand. But you have no choice. You HAVE to tell them.” I couldn’t see the terrifying path ahead, but he could, and he knew there was no way I’d be traversing it alone.
I was both utterly humiliated and entirely numb. My accident was in the local newspaper. Someone made a video of it with her cell phone. It took about three days for most of my relatively small community to hear about it. I was excruciatingly humiliated, bruised with two black eyes, in constant pain, and at the same time, absolutely numb.
On my first day of treatment, April 24, 2014, which my parents had helped me get into, my God-given addiction therapist, Roxanne, looked at me, terrified and shaking in her office. She was wearing a gold blouse with the coolest black boots I’d ever seen. Her nail polish matched her blouse, and she radiated fearlessness. I wanted to be her, but all I was was fear.Christ, how many of me has she seen over the past 15 years? Paralyzed white girls with no experience of the system. But she sat with me knee-to-knee, looked right into my eyes and said, “What are you most afraid of?” “That I’m going to jail.” “It’s your first offense and you didn’t hurt anyone. Which is fucking divine intervention if I’ve ever seen it. You’re not going to jail. Now, what are you most afraid of?”
“That I’ll lose my son.” “You’ll do treatment and get him back.” “But he’s the love of my life.” “Yeah, I hear you, but you need to start acting like YOU’RE the love of your life.”
By then I thought she was full of shit. But she just said, “Now WHAT ARE YOU MOST AFRAID OF?” I started to cry. “That I can’t do this. That I won’t get better. That I can’t do this.”
And she said, “Well, obviously you can do this. If you follow the directions, you can do this. Girl, I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy. But its pretty fucking simple. You follow the directions, and you get better. You hear me?”
Yeah, I hear you. Supervised visits with my son for the next several months, outpatient treatment every day for five weeks, medical leave from work, a revoked license, and the terror (and cost) of the criminal charges. I did not begrudge “the system” for any of these restrictions. In AA I learned the phrase “societal amends,” and I was paying mine. Frankly, I grateful for the help.
By then Easter had come and gone, and one line from a daily devotional I’d been reading reverberated in my head: the crucifixion is never the end of the story.
Exactly one year later, Good Friday 2015, I learned that after 20+years, my contract at the U of I was not being renewed. I received a year’s “notice rights” in order to find something else, and it took me half of that year to get it together to put my house on the market, apply for several other campus jobs, and pull myself out of the weighty gray fog that pressed on me 24 hours a day. Finally, in November 2015, I decided to leave academia to pursue a 12-year old dream, that of a job in clinical counseling. Such work is made all the more pressing and meaningful by my own experiences. I feel strongly drawn to helping others as I’ve been helped.
I applied to a well-known grad program, was told by many people that of course I’d be accepted. Shortly before Holy Week of 2016 I learned that I wasn’t. It felt like I had lost my job all over again. But worse, I had lost my vision, and how it would manifest itself. Then a few days later, in a totally bizarre twist of fate, it happened that I was invited to apply for a different program, one for “non-traditional” students like me. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
The crucifixion is never the last word.
I hope God gets me a spot in a Clinical Counseling program. And is damn quick about it. Like the Carrie Newcomer song, “The Clean Edge of Change” says: “I thought if I tried hard enough/With endless motion like a bribe/As if by this the will of God/Could be bent to my version of right.” I hope what I want to happen happens. Soon.
But if it doesn’t, something else will because something always does. Within the last six months, my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law both lost parents. The grace and compassion my siblings-in-law showed during these losses was breathtaking. The crucifixion is never the end.
It’s said that Easter has a deeper meaning for Catholics this year because Pope Francis has declared this “The Year of Mercy.” This jubilee celebration (jubilees are relatively rare events) has been called “a revolution of tenderness.” The mercy we receive, as well as that which we offer others is emphasizing one crucial belief: that we are always already forgiven. That God is ready to forgive us; when we are sorry and ask for forgiveness, it is given to us, not just once, but over and over and over.
Mercy is the last word because mercy allows us to be reborn, to become new, to continue to grow in hope, and therefore in resilience and faith. I’ve learned during the last few years that God offers us forgiveness because S/he has work for us to do, love for us to offer, service for us to extend. We don’t receive mercy only because we need it; we receive it because God needs us to carry on with our work with joy, and stamina, and love. There is simply too much to be done not to move forward with love.
Best wishes for a joyful, mercy-filled Easter season!