Epiphanies Can Be Painful (or when ‘aha!’ becomes ‘oh no!’)

I have been having some epiphanies lately that have been painful – painful in that they have shattered what I have previously called reality.

I realized this morning after a particularly poignant ‘Aha!’ moment when I was walking Juno along beautiful Lake Champlain that epiphanies can be painful. I went from divine moment to darkness when an encounter with another dog owner, all precipitated by my mishearing what was said, the beautiful view became scarred by my darkness.

Some quick history: my sweet girl, Juno, tries to eat most dogs she meets mostly because for the first three years of her life she was abused and trained to fight by her previous owner. Since I adopted her in 2008, I have been trying to love her back to herself, but she still lunges after larger dogs and growls on a daily basis.

The owner of the lovely Labrador – who just wanted to play while Juno is all puffed up, teeth and slobber turning her into Cujo – said something. I thought he said, “Too bad she can’t be loved into gentleness.” I took issue with what I thought was a judgment of my ‘parenting’ skills. I screamed at the guy, got all puffed up myself, got all wired and wound up, lacing my response with salty language and “threatening” to unleash my dog on his.

What the heck?!? Where did that come from?!?!

This man did nothing to me. He did not say what I thought he said. Yet, I went from zero to 60 in less than 10 seconds. I raged up all over this guy.

The end of that story is that I apologized, we made nice, and I walked off. A few blocks away from where all this happened, I began to sob uncontrollably. I was enraged at myself for being so stupid. I was saddened by my violent response and how much rage is still within me. I was scared at how such a minor event triggered such a deep, rage-filled response.

I walked back to my car and, of course, there is a parking ticket on my windshield. Getting a parking ticket is stupid because all it takes is being a normal person and putting some change in the meter. Then I hear this song on the radio that sledgehammers me: “I knew a guy who quit his job, moved to NYC and had to learn the hard way that he’s still running from himself.”

And the still small Voice within said “that lyric is for you.” Ouch.

But it’s true. In many ways, even in recovery, I am still running from who I am. I’m not talking about denying I am an addict and alcoholic; no, I embrace that truth which is why A.A. and N.A. is a staple of my being. I’m talking about the greater, wider spiritual truths that I am running from myself: running from the rage and its source; running from the fear that still has way too much influence on decisions small and large alike; running from living as deeper life from the Center; and embracing my vocation.

That last one is interesting because the other epiphany I had this morning is that I talk about my vocation; I do not actually live it nor am I actively seeking to embody it. I give it lip service, patronizingly denying the very gifts God has given me to serve people.

So, I wept hard over this…

The tears were cleansing. I need to cry over the darkness in me that still hurts people…that still hurts me otherwise transformation cannot occur. Guilt, in these moments, is good because it assists in surrendering to God and in understanding the true affects of my behaviors towards others. Guilt and tears can hold me accountable. But this morning’s lingering self loathing made the learning so much more painful. The shame voice that says “I am a mistake” rather than that I merely made one. Big difference.

I’m not sure where to go with this. I know I need to pray, asking God to gently transform and soften the hardened heart, to send grace to surround me so I neither destroy others nor deny the need for change.

Epiphanies are good; they are moments when delusion, denial, and/or cynicism can be cracked wide open, leaving room for God’s amazing grace. Epiphanies can also be painful; ‘aha’ moments when we are so shocked by what transpires and rises to the surface that they can shake the very fabric of our being thereby becoming “uh oh” moments.

I am left holding on tight to some wisdom told to me almost 20 years ago by an old timer from A.A. when I was told that “God loves the man that I am today, but God loves me too much to let me stay this way.”


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