The setting could not be more familiar to me. The cast of characters, although always changing, somehow remains constant in reminding me of Home. The conversation always starts the same: “My name is Sharon, and I’m an alcoholic.”
On this day I sat in the familiar circle of chairs in the musty church basement, smelling of Sunday school and coffee, to celebrate ten years of sobriety. Although recovery has been a part of my life for thirty years, my three-steps-forward and two-steps-back journey brought me to ten years of sobriety in February 2019. Following the traditions of our meeting, I received a celebratory coin marking ten years from one of my fellow sojourners. The bronze coin, marked by the roman numeral X in the middle, was circled by the words “One Day at a Time” and “To Thine Own Self Be True.”
I held on to the coin for a minute and pressed into it all the gratitude I could muster before handing it over to my circle of fellows—my communion of desire. Each member held the coin for a few moments while they prayed silently for me. As I waited for the treasure to make its way around the sacred circle, my mind drifted back to that terrible, beautiful day when I was pulled over to the side of the road by the police to be ticketed for a DUI.
A terrible, beautiful wreck. Fear. Humiliation. Dread. Self-hatred. Tears dripped from my face as I remembered the ruins. Strangely, I thought about the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). I have come to believe that he weeps not about the wreckage of our lives but about everything we cannot know without understanding our story of grace—our genesis story. From the beginning, failure allows us to fall into Grace.
My mess has become my message: There’s hope in every moment, every conversation, every person we encounter. Disappointment reorients our view of ourselves so that we are no longer the most important character in our story. Our failures are not the point. Our wrecks are not the point. We are not the point. In fact, wrecks are a relief, revealing we cannot save ourselves. We need a Savior.
As the ten-year coin that took me thirty years to find made its way back to me, I thought about the hundreds of faces who deserved to be imprinted into its gold. Faces filled with sorrow, anger, confusion, hope, and grace. I recalled so many words I’ve heard along the path of recovery—words from my sponsor, my children, my parents, my pastor, my friends, my enemies, as well as tender words from Jesus during many dark nights of the soul, inviting me into grace. The many characters and conversations in my story of recovery still leave room for me—a sixty-year-old woman with a tattered, raggedy heart threaded with breathtaking, brilliantly colored ribbons of grace.
Unexpected grace whispers words I would have never believed while I sat in handcuffs in the back of a police car:
You’re blessed in the very moment you’re at the end of your rope.[i]
His Story swallows your story until, together, they become the deepest story.
[i] Author’s paraphrase of Matthew 5:3, msg.
Belonging offers a fresh perspective on common grace, leading us out of self-destructive narcissism and into whole and healthy relationships with God and others.
The reality is, God created us with an innate desire to belong to something more than us. When we integrate our story within God’s first story about us, we can bravely face ourselves and discover the truth of belonging and worthiness that God has written. And we start to imagine how to invite others into a greater sense of belonging.
The journey to finding ourselves and one another is not for the faint of heart. It’s messy. It’s hard work. It’s worth it. We can have a front-row seat to a tectonic shift, not just on the surface of our lives, but in places deep down inside as we recognize common grace in the beautiful and terrible parts of our lives. In other words, every chapter in our stories, every conversation, and every character is part of the way back to belonging. You are invited to the very edge of your seat to anticipate what could happen in you and others if you engage with the unexpected grace that passionately declares life is not all about our pain, our accomplishments, our rights, our abuse, our power, or our beliefs. It is about us finding our way. Together. It is about a supernatural interconnectedness to a deeper story that invades every nook and cranny of our lives with light and love—because we belong to one another.
Belonging by Sharon A. Hersh is available wherever books are sold.