Hearing God

The Opening of a Door

Some days are foggier than others. Seven years ago today was one of the foggiest days I’ve known. I woke up with a really bad hangover, again. But this was not just any hangover. It was the kind of hangover that dares you to try to get out of bed and then laughs at you as you limp back from the bathroom, where you’ve spent the last hour throwing up. It was the kind of hangover that demands every ounce of your life force, leaving you with nothing left for anything or anyone else. It was the kind of hangover that doesn’t even begin to release you from its grip until after you have missed an entire day’s worth of sunlight.

This hangover prevented me from being able to even make eye contact with my fifteen month old daughter. It confined me to my bedroom until dinner time and brought back memories of countless other horrible hangovers. Once again, I was ashamed and embarrassed and left asking myself how I had managed to get to this place.

The worst part about it was that I had been drinking alone the night before. I had sworn to myself that I was just going to have a couple glasses of wine and watch a Lifetime movie on TV to unwind before bed. But somehow a couple glasses turned into a couple bottles, and here I was.

It was in this hazy state that I heard the voice of God speaking to me as clearly as I ever have. In a subtle moment of clarity, a quiet voice inside said “What if you just never even have one drink of alcohol?”

Eureka! It was like the opening of a door in my mind – just a tiny crack of an opening, but an opening nonetheless. Before that moment, I had honestly never considered not drinking at all. Sure, I had tried to limit my drinking. I definitely wanted to stop getting drunk, and I had spent countless hours trying to figure out which drink it was that was causing me to lose control. I had tried to stop after six drinks, after four drinks, after two drinks, but never before the first drink. Not drinking at all had honestly never crossed my mind, or if it did, it was such an absurd thought that it didn’t register in my consciousness before it drifted away.

Even this time, the thought was fleeting. I actually had a couple of beers that very night. But that door in my mind was still open the tiniest crack, and it had enough light peeking through for me to find it a couple days later, when I took the first of many actions that would lay the foundation for not drinking at all, ever. Each action I took opened the door a little bit more until it finally swung open so widely that I had no choice but to step through to the other side and embrace sobriety as not only a requirement but something I wanted more than anything else.

My experience seven years ago came after many prayers where I asked God for help. Not with my drinking – that seemed like a problem of will power that shouldn’t need to involve the Lord Almighty, especially given all the other problems in the world that required His attention. No, what I prayed for, over and over, usually while drinking wine in my garage, was for God to help me overcome my crippling insecurity. To fill me with self-confidence. Not with the kind of borderline arrogance that comes only from myself but with the kind of self-assurance that is centered in Him.

His response to these prayers was not a direct infusing of self-esteem that rendered me a suddenly self-assured woman, but a subtle message about what I needed to give up in order to get closer to Him. He knew that giving up alcohol was ultimately going to allow me to become the new, self-confident creation He always intended me to be. His response gave me a new perspective on one of my favorite bible verses.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”

1 Corinthians 13:12 (The MSG)

Many times I have read this verse, and what has stood out is the hope of one day going to heaven, where we will see things clearly and know God face to face. In The Message translation of the verse, shown above, exclamation marks are specifically placed on the sentences that describe this future state to seemingly highlight it as the primary message of the verse.

Now when I read this verse, however, what stands out is that “not seeing things clearly” does not mean we cannot see at all. “Peering through a mist” may not compare to the full splendor that will be fully revealed in the afterlife, but even “peering through a mist” affords some of the most beautiful views imaginable. I was definitely “squinting in a fog” when God gave me a glimpse of His will for my life as it related to my drinking. What has stayed with me, seven years later, however, is not how foggy the day was when God gave me a moment of clarity, but that God gave me a moment of clarity in the fog.

It doesn’t matter how foggy or misty or scary or overwhelming or dark our lives get. And even in our darkest moments, we don’t have to put all of our hope in an unseen, faraway place. We can and should expect to see and experience God in the land of the living. Through the fog, through the mist, through the fear, through the darkness, God is always, always there. Even when we peer and squint and still don’t get a glimpse, He is there. If we wait long enough, and keep our eyes open, eventually we will see Him. Even on the foggiest of days. Even during the hangover to end all hangovers.

Sometimes I wonder what it will be like when there is no fog to provide a contrast to the sunlight of the Lord. Will we appreciate the goodness without having the darkness to compare it to? Will we start to take for granted that we see everything clearly and understand all things? As we are listening to heavenly choirs of angels sing in perfect pitch and harmony for the thousandth time, will we still have a sense of awe?

Maybe by the time we get to heaven, we will be so changed, perhaps because of the specific trials we have been through here on earth, that we will forever appreciate the glory that is revealed to us and in us. Or maybe, there will be some form of hardship in heaven.

The bottom line is that I don’t need to understand all things clearly right now. I don’t even need to think about the fact that one day, I will understand all things clearly. I don’t need to know what heaven is going to look like or how I’m going to be transformed once I get there.

I have all that I need right here, right now. I’m grateful for every moment I have in this life. Even the dark, embarrassing, shameful, painful, foggiest days. Because when the fog is the thickest, I have to squint the most, and when I have to squint the most, the most magnificent glimpses of God’s glory come into focus – just like the one that transformed my life seven years ago today.