Friday, June 30, 2017

There is No God Proxy

Since my last post, I have been in the End-of-School-Year vortex: wrapping up teaching, finding a new apartment, booking movers, and planning summer travel. Some days, I feel like I am KILLING IT at this adulting thing...other days, I want to curl up on my futon and not do anything except watch the chimney swifts darting around in the sky outside (they always look like they are having the best time). Yesterday evening was of the latter type, and then it got dark out so no more chimney swifts, so I decided to search for a little inspiration online. I went on Instagram (sometimes a good idea, sometimes a tricky one) and saw that Laura McKowen had written a blog post in honor of her 1,000th day of sobriety.

One of the greatest blessings of my recovery is that I've found myself some truly outstanding teachers along the way. These women are some of the most open-hearted people I know, and they are all eager to share the wisdom they've gained from their own journeys. With some of my teachers, I've had close personal relationships; with others, like Laura, I've connected in person but know them mainly through their blogs or other online forums. Laura is a true gem. She positively radiates authenticity and she is brave as all get-out, even when being brave means saying, "I don't have anything figured out and am a total mess right now." So when I saw that she had been sober for 1,000 days, I immediately had to read her post about it.
Laura lists 5 lessons she's learned in 1,000 days of sobriety. They're all perceptive and each one rings true for me, but #2 resonates with me the strongest. Here is Laura's second lesson from sobriety:

Don't make anyone your god.

Never before have I seen anyone articulate so clearly what I do all the time, what I have always believed to be proof that I am pathologically insecure or hopelessly needy or pitifully devoid of integrity. Maybe each of those things is a little bit true, but the bigger truth is that I haven't been negating myself, I've been trying to find myself. I've just been going about it the wrong way. And, while I've known for a long time that this pattern isn't healthy, it has been very, very hard to change it. Old habits die hard, and all that.

For me, making someone my god means that I adjust my words and actions to elicit the approval of another person. It means that I reach out with emails or texts and then wait, simmering with anticipation, for a reply--and, when one is late in coming, spin fantasies about what I might have done wrong to make this person not want to stay in touch with me. It means I let another person dictate what parts of me are acceptable and what parts need adjusting or squashing. It is giving higher weight to someone else's opinions and judgments than I give to my own. It is not believing in my own strengths and positive qualities unless someone else affirms them. And it is a driving hunger-- deeper and more desperate than any I ever felt for food--for connection with a person; a hunger that leads me to think, I will be anyone you want me to be--just don't leave me.

Without going into all the painful details, I'll just say this: making someone my god has never, ever ended well.

Laura's post got me thinking: when I make someone my god, what happens to my actual God? I still think about God when I'm davening or saying brachot or observing Shabbat, but I stop thinking about my relationship with God, because I am mistakenly looking for that relationship with another human. I am so busy seeking validation, praise, and affirmation from someone else that I forget I already receive all of those things from God. When I make someone my god, that person inevitably ends up disappointing me because humans cannot actually manage all that power. I also end up feeling out of control because I am flailing around in search of a security that doesn't exist. People were never, ever meant to be god.

Who I am, and how "okay" I am, is a matter that is solely between me and the God Who made me. Other people can have their opinions, but those are just human opinions, not Divine opinions. If I get rejected or rebuffed by another individual, that is human rejection, not Divine rejection. That's not to say it doesn't sting--it does, often badly--but it is not a final verdict on my worthiness. People might cause me to feel insecure or inferior, but those are just feelings, not facts. The fact is, I am fine. I am flawed, and I have things--many things--to work on, but at my core I am a good person who is deserving of love and belonging...and I can always find both of those things with God.

For sure, we need other people, and people's opinions matter. Connections with people matter. God cannot replace relationships with other humans, and I don't think He wants to. But if you find yourself trying to use people to replace God, if you are looking to human beings to affirm your baseline worth as an individual, I would suggest that you examine how that's working for you. Take Laura's advice: don't make anyone your God. You already have a God, and that God created you with love and care. You are who you're supposed to be. You're independent, remarkable, and intuitive. Use people to enhance those qualities, not to work against them. But never forget that God has already ruled: you are worthy. You are.