One day at the Recovery Café, James raised his voice, disturbing others. This wasn’t his first incident. He was out of control and probably off his meds.
“You have gotten yourself cut off from almost every place of support in this city,” one of the counselors said to James. “Don’t cut yourself off from your community here at the Café. You need us and we need you. Practice reining in that temper. It hurts you and upsets others and we can’t allow it.”
James stormed out.
He had broken at least one of Recovery Café’s requirements for membership:
- To have twenty-four hours, drug and alcohol-free.
- To meet weekly with a small, loving accountability group called a Recovery Circle.
- To contribute by helping to maintain the physical space and to create a culture of healing and unconditional love.
Notice they call the rules “membership requirements.” Member. Belonging.
Do I belong, am I a member, do I follow the requirements? I’m a recovering workaholic, meet weekly with loving groups, and I contribute. But by the grace of God, I have not experienced the enormous challenges that plague the members of Recovery Café.
So what rules do I follow? The Old Testament Ten Commandments come to mind. But the average human mind can only remember seven items, if chunked by three and four like a phone number. And my memory is only average. In the New Testament, the rules are stated more simply. When Jesus’ disciples asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus listed only two.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40.)
Love springs from the same trunk, but splits like a bifurcated tree. The greatest branch goes to God, and the second is for others as yourself. That begs the question, what is love? The Apostle Paul wrote:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Love – easy to say, but hard to do, at least for me. I’m not always patient or kind; I’m sometimes envious, boastful, proud… and I get angry and lose my temper like James did.
So what happened to him? After walking a block, James turned and yelled to the counselor, “I love you!”