At her lowest point, almost eight years ago, a neighbor in need was hunched over a chair while a case manager snipped her long blonde locks to the floor. In her months of staying outside and holding up in cheap motels she had collected such a horrendous case of head lice that no amount of treatment could restore her former tresses.
This hopeless place was not where the Mary Washington College alum and private high school graduate had pictured herself at the peak of her life. Her sites had once been set on law school, a husband and a family. But the journey, riddled with one tragedy after another, sent her spiraling time and again.
Two months after graduating college, her mother died. She passed up law school, began a career in the IT industry and got married instead. One of her three children, born at 23 weeks, died fourteen days after birth. Her marriage began to grow apart. After nine years of marriage, she split with her husband. He was killed in a car accident three weeks later.
Drinking numbed her pain, but it cost her a job, home and custody of her children. And for more than half a decade it left her in a tent, begging for money and at the doorstep of Micah Ministries. So chronically homeless was she then, that she became one of the first candidates for Micah’s housing program. While her roommates stabilized quickly, acquiring benefits and developing other supports, she spent her first year of housing laying on the couch in the same green sweatshirt and grey pants with a beer handily tucked behind the couch corner.
At about the year mark, there was little support that her household continued to require. Her liver wasn’t functioning properly and she was showing signs of nerve damage, but there was nothing about her pattern that led us to believe there was any more we could do.
Months went by.
Little changed until the phone rang one day with a strange request. She was still housed, hadn’t had a drink in several weeks and was searching for something good to occupy her time. She wanted to volunteer. It started with a few hours and slowly grew to two and three times a week. Before too long, we weren’t the only place she was lending her time. Our friend began attending Alcoholics Anonymous quite regularly. She had taken well to the community it offered, found a sponsor and put her computer skills to work by taking on the responsibility of updating their monthly meeting list.
On her own, she sought professional assistance with panic attacks and clinical depression, which she learned had triggered her alcoholism so many years ago. She took initiative to ask Micah for help finding a job, and by November 2013, she cashed her first paycheck in years. She has maintained her connection to the Micah community for many years, helping others in their efforts to move off the street. Likewise, Micah continued to be a support to her, working through the process to reinstate a driver’s license, seek advancement in employment opportunities and get a car.
To hear her tell the story today, her decision to change her lifestyle had a lot to do with the old idea of getting “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” But her persistence to maintain that decision, she attributes to the consistent community available throughout her journey.
“Were it not for the love, support and consistency, which was about the only consistent thing in my life, it’s unlikely I’d be here today,” she says. “The community showed me love and offered me a way out countless times—even times when I was not very lovable. It took me a while to take that hand, but I eventually did.”
In Exodus 3, God tells Moses he has been chosen to lead the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.
“Why on earth would the Egyptians believe I have the authority to do that?” Moses replies. All you need to tell them, God says, is “I am who I am.” As we know, Moses took that charge and he did not fail.
Sometimes, I think it is this same “burning bush” moment that each of us need in order to embrace the process of becoming our best selves. It is far easier to believe we are unworthy, incapable or unqualified than it is to look in the mirror and tackle the day with same battle cry—“I am who I am.”
If God cannot direct the path into his vision any more than the call to “I am,” who are we to expect any more from ourselves and others than simply being the best version of self that any of us were created to be?
Certainly, that was the case for the friend in this story. But it was not any grandiose solution that brought her life full circle.
Simply put, the time and presence of the great “I am” working through the children of God allowed her to become her best self, and all of us learned a valuable lesson about the process each and every one of us faces in our journey toward God’s vision for our lives.