“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” Luke 10:30
There are so many ways that people get “beat up” by life. Loving people like Christ is basically the same whether they are alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes…or just scared, lonely, or depressed. In July 2006, I was all of those things.
I wasn’t quite homeless. I had a room at a boarding house, where I dealt drugs and prostituted myself. I hung out with other addicts, but I didn’t have any real friends. Addicts are your friends until your stash runs out, and then they’re gone. I knew that. I did that to others. And I felt incredibly alone. I believed there probably was a God, but that He had crossed me off His list. I thought He would be present for someone more worthy. I felt there was no hope for me.
Years before, I fled an abusive marriage. To support myself and my young son, I worked nightshifts as a nurse. I started using cocaine to stay awake all day after working all night. Over the next 15 years, I would go to rehab, get clean and sober, then relapse. Each time I relapsed, it got harder to clean myself up the next time. I was spiraling…spiraling…trying to hold it together for my son.
When my son was grown and out of the house, my addictions took over. I knew how hard it was to recover, and I just didn’t have it in me to try anymore. I gave up. I gave in. I was angry at God for dealing me this hand. I was scared because I could feel my life slipping away.
So that is how I ended up stripped, beaten-up, robbed and half-dead when Midge found me.
Midge is a 50ish middle-class white woman who is completely in love with Jesus. She and her husband showed up at St. Vincent DePaul that Saturday morning with bottles of water. I smelled a church immediately.
She offered me water. I said, “Yeah I want water, but let’s get one thing straight. I don’t want God. I’m not interested in your church. And I’m not your ticket to heaven.”
Midge showed concern for me, but didn’t talk about God at first. She talked about recovery and safety. There was a part of me that was open to that. Before she left, she prayed for me.
(I didn’t know this at the time, but Midge had felt God tell her to “go to the streets.” She had been driving around rough neighborhoods for weeks, but could not make herself get out of the car. The day I met her was the first day she did.)
Three days later I landed in the ER when I lost feeling and function on my entire right side. The first day, a big guy showed up. It turned out he was the hospital chaplain. We chatted, and then he prayed for me. The next day, a priest came to visit. We chatted, and he prayed for me. The third day, a little old lady came to my room. We chatted, and she prayed for me. I thought, “This is getting weird.” Then I left the hospital and went back to my old life.
God was seeking me, even when I thought I was beyond His grace. He seemed to use anybody at all who was willing to be sent to someone like me.
Later Midge told me that from the day she met me, she was on her knees interceding in prayer for me everyday.
Midge kept coming around although I wasn’t nice to her and didn’t change my ways. She was the only person I knew who sought me out, but didn’t want to use me. She invited me to church. I said, “It wouldn’t be right for me to go. I’m dirty.” Midge said, “Jesus loves you dirty. All smoked up on crack. The dirtier the better.” So I went to church. I had stayed up all night doing drugs, then fell asleep during the service and drooled on her shoulder. But no one told me I didn’t belong there. No one looked at me like I wasn’t worthy. Over the months, I went to church again and again. I was looking hard for hypocrites so that if I needed an excuse to bail out, I could blame them. But I found a bunch of people who were really, truly following Jesus. They weren’t perfect, but they were really trying hard to do what’s in the Bible, and they invited me to come along. I wondered if I could really have what they have…that glow.
But I was afraid. These people were telling me they loved me, but I knew once they got to know me, they’d stop loving me, maybe even put me out of the church. I was afraid to be abandoned again. Over time, I experienced that the people in the church didn’t want anything from me, that they didn’t judge me for where I’d been, and that I was safe and could rest. I didn’t have to be so tired. I didn’t have to be lonely.
Midge offered that if I could stay clean for three days and get into a halfway house, the church would pay for it. Instead, I went on an all-out binge from August to October. I knew this life would end in death. I also knew the cops were watching me, and I thought I might end up in prison. I really didn’t want to go to prison. Finally, I was done.
I disappeared for three months. I knew I needed to get away from the people I ran with if I had any hope of getting clean. That was a tough three months—I was trying to kick crack and cocaine after getting high every day for a year, and I was going through menopause. I don’t recommend this if you can possibly avoid it.
In February, I finally took Midge up on her offer and went to the halfway house. Mary met me at the door and said, “Are you a Christian? I read the whole Bible when I was in Prison.” I told her I was a Christian. She didn’t have a church, so I invited her to mine. She was scared. She said, “I used to cook meth.” I said, “Don’t worry, I smoke crack. These Christians don’t mind.” So Mary came. At one point, we had 10 girls in a row at church service. It was a safe place.
Healing takes time. Although I believed and was saved and got clean and even evangelized, I still felt unworthy. Then, one Sunday morning, I was listening to worship music and reading the Bible. When I got up to get ready for church, I heard Jesus say, “Don’t go yet. Stay here and be with me. “ Every time I tried to get up, I heard, “Stay a little longer.” That was the first time I felt how much He loved me. That was the first time I really heard His voice.
It’s been eight years now. It feels odd to think about that time, because the old things are gone and I am a new creation. I used to think I was un-savable. That sounds ridiculous to me now that I know God. He made me. He knows me. He loves me. He gets it. I don’t get it, but He does.
Guest blogger Priscilla Mullen lives in Gilbert, Arizona, where she attends Wonderful Mercy Church and serves with Recovery Innovations.