My address at Zoe’s Journey graduation

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To all the recovering addicts:

We are here tonight to honor all the graduates and also encourage those who are on their way to graduation. Addiction has taken almost everything from you but by the grace of God you are sitting here tonight. Most of you should not even be alive. You have fought hard to get where you are and the fight is far from over. Every day is a battle- I know because you tell me. The struggle to learn to live sober seems virtually impossible some days and far from worth it on others. You are some of the strongest women I have ever met. You have fought in the face of adversity for most of your lives. Most of you did not have an easy life prior to becoming an addict….but you know you cannot stay the victim of your circumstances. You need recovery and we need you to stay clean.

I have told many of you that the world needs you sober. Often I get blank stares. Why would the world need me, you ask. Because your life matters. You are capable of helping someone else change her life because of your sobriety. Look around this room…..who do you see who is affected by you being sober? And are those same people just as affected when you are using? Addiction does not affect just you. It impacts all of us. And most deeply it changes your children.

As I see each of you fight every day to stay clean, it makes me stronger. I have found a deeper part of me by knowing you. You challenge me to keep it real, be on my toes, and realize that my brokenness is just as messed up as yours. I need Jesus just like you. I need to surrender just like you. I need to stay humble just like you. And I need you just as much as you need me. I cannot imagine my life without you. Thank you for being you. Keep fighting. Don’t give in to the enemy of addiction. You have everything to lose. This life is fleeting. Go be awesome. Go impact the world for good. Go love those you have hurt. Make peace with your enemies. Be light.

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To the friends and family of the graduates from Zoes Journey:

I am sure if we added up the hurt in this room it would be overwhelming. Disappointment, frustration, regret, fear, hurt, etc. I can imagine that there are very deep wounds. But what I can tell you is this….today is one more step in the direction of a healthy, productive life for these women. They have worked so hard to get where they are. Some have fallen hard and picked up and carried on. Some have really found themselves through this journey. Others are still seeking but I see great progress.

I know your pain from the past is real but i hope that after tonight you will either start or continue to forgive. Your loved ones need you. You can ask any one of these women- I am all about boundaries….I fully believe that you should use them when you need to…..but to the one sitting here who can’t let the past go and is holding onto the hurt. Maybe today is when you lay it down and move on…..and then you will be able to give second chances and make peace. I pray that for you.

To the family and friends who are here today….you are a testimony to me of your commitment to one or more of these beautiful women. I know their hearts grieve for what you have been through as a result of their actions. They share that part of their heart freely because it is a burden they have carried for a very long time. But you are here today. Maybe fully engaged or maybe as a skeptic. Not knowing if this time it is for good. All I can say is that the one in your life who you are here to support needs you. Needs to hear you say “well done.” Needs you to listen and not judge. Needs you to be present even when you want to be in denial. I pray that there are many years ahead of healthy memories. I pray that you will allow God to mend the broken places. I pray that tonight you can hug your loved one and tell her how proud you are of her. Her recovery has been really difficult. It has meant so much change so fast. She needs you desperately now more than ever. Thank you for being here for her. I know how much she appreciates it.

Maybe you are graduating and your family isn’t here because they could not make it. Call them up and thank them for being there for you. Then some of you don’t have family who is supportive because they have their own issues or the road has been too hard. For you that is where God brings people into your life to be that family. He brings friends, mentors, sponsors, and then people like us sitting here who just want to walk beside you. With no strings attached. No agenda. Just to love you. Because love is an action and love does.

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To the church at large: 

The moms in this room who are graduating need you. And they need you to love them and not judge them. Maybe they don’t have it “all together” and they yell too much or they aren’t “pulling their weight with the PTO”. Maybe they bring their kids to school in the same uniform shirt 3 days in a row and never make it to parent nights with all you “good mommies.”

Well, maybe just maybe those moms you were just judging need someone to show them. Someone to model parenting for them. Someone to be compassionate and understanding.

We take for granted that we have cars. Most moms don’t and the bus stops running at 5:15. No bus to go to the open house.

We take for granted that we have washing machines. Without cars, most moms have to load up the kids and the laundry and get on the bus. Oh that’s right….the bus does not run after 5:15 so she will walk to the laundromat.

We take for granted that adults in our lives did not introduce us to drugs as children. Most addicts I know were giving drugs at a very young age.  Usually starting at the age of 12. If you don’t believe me, I have many women who can tell you their stories.

We take for granted that we can get jobs. When someone gives a kid a joint at 12, grades probably start to slip so by high school they are dropouts. Ever tried to get a job with a 9th grade education?

When a child gets into cocaine at 14 because it is all over the house, she will probably be a full blown addict by 15 and start to steal to support the habit. Ever tried to get a house or apartment to rent with drug charges?

Many moms like the ones sitting in this room are scared to reach out to you. They feel that their mess is worse than yours. But they need your support. They want someone to share their victories with  (first place of their own, first legitimate driver’s license, first month clean). And to share their heartbreaks (bad news at court, relationship problems, not getting to see their children).

Why is it our nature to judge and reject? Because to have compassion might require something of us. It might make us tender and make us feel….and God will call us to rise up and be THE CHURCH.

A little girl explained to me recently that she worries that her mommy won’t have enough money to take care of them and they will go to foster care. Her eyes widened as I explained to her the early church  in the book of Acts. They sold all their possessions to give to those in need. In that moment, I think she got it. My dining room table could be gone next week to help them pay their rent.

But when are WE going to get it? That our lives are not our own and that there is a desperately dying world out there crying out for help? You might not hear their cries because they are not chatting in the carline (because they don’t have a car) or sitting next to you at Outback (most of them cannot afford it).  Or darkening the door of your churches (they have been led to believe that your sin is much cleaner than theirs and they would not be welcome in your pew or your gym).

We can’t do it all but we can do something. At any season of life and at any level of our own maturity we can make a meal, listen to a discouraged mom, or drive a mom to an appointment so she can get to work on time. We can all do that.

We fear what we don’t know….and we don’t know because we don’t want to.

If we are really honest, we want to shy away from poverty, brokenness, addiction, and prostitution because it is ugly and it messes up our day. It requires us to take our eyes off our dirty clothes piles and our need for order in our lives and forces us to go deep. Who wakes up one day and wishes that upon themselves? Well, if I am reading Jesus the right way….we all should.

We are a generation who has something to offer and it was not intended to be only poured out on our own offspring. We were given this nurturing ability to share it.  To pass it on. To break the cycle of abuse and neglect.

The day we decide to invest our lives in someone else’s  two lives will change and I promise that the first one to change will be yours.

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