Fair warning: I’m stretching out of my usual format with this one.
LOVE WARRIOR by Glennon Doyle Melton is a five-star, life-changing, spiritual journey memoir. Highly recommend!
I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to read this book now in the middle of Lent. I mean, I had decided to take a sabbatical from spiritual research and writing during Lent to catch up on my pile o’ Nat Geos, practice praying the Rosary every day, and work on other nonwriting projects.
But then the angels, in their way, told me to take it out from the middle of my to-read book pile and read it. So I opened it and read the dedication:
For Grandma Alice, whose fingers danced across those beads and brought Mary to me
Oh, that’s why.
And then I turned the page and read the quote before the Prelude:
I am not afraid . . . I was born to do this. – Joan of Arc
Oh. Uh oh.
LOVE WARRIOR is a story of recovery including bad thoughts, addiction, betrayal, accountability, redemption, healing, and love. Why do people write these intense personal stories? Why do they put themselves through it again? They’re doing it for us. So we can recognize ourselves on their pages and learn through their examples. Glennon Doyle Melton IS a warrior and a hero.
Glennon’s defining moment happens on page 65:
I look up at the ceiling, hoping to see God, but I only see brown stains from a water leak. I close my eyes and remember Mary. She is holding her baby boy and she is smiling and her eyes insist that no one is angry with me, they’ve just been waiting for a yes. It’s time to begin, she is saying. But I am afraid and confused and young and single and pregnant. So am I, Mary says. And then, as I sit on the floor, I remember that today is Mother’s Day. This is the day. Let it be.
Oh, my God. This is a different version of my own spiritual journey guided by Mary. Glennon's is much more intense, but at their core level, our journeys are identical. At the core level, I’m Glennon and she’s me, and I turned the page knowing I was in for a bumpy ride.
Okay. And then there’s this next paragraph. Now, I did finish reading this whole page-turner of a journey, but my soul got stuck between page 67 and 68:
I have decided that I’m ready to stop destroying myself and start creating. I have already accepted my invitation and no one will convince me again that I’m not worthy. Not ever again. I have been invited and I have said Yes. My yes is final. From now on, when I sense No – in a facial expression, in a tone of voice, in someone’s disapproval of me, in my own mind—my mental response will be, Fuck you. Fuck you is what I say to fear, to doubt, to shame, to every form of No, Glennon, not for you. Fuck you is all the language I have for now. It’s my shield. It’s my ode to Mary. It’s my prayer and my battle cry.
This passage spoke to me on so many levels, I needed to dive in and swim around in it for a while. Let’s start with “fuck,” a powerful word with many quality uses.
For example, according to MythBusters, "Cursing aloud will allow a person to tolerate more pain than using mild language. Confirmed." Remember that the next time you stub your toe. Even if you’re at work in a library.
Another way the word “fuck” has value for me is when I drive over a suspension bridge. I keep my fear from reaching phobia level by singing my “fuck song” as I steer my way slowly, but not too slowly, in the right lane, but not too close to the guardrail, across the bridge. It’s goes like this, “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity Fuck, FUCK, FUUUUCK, FUCK, fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck, fuck. Woot!”
As an expression, “Fuck you” empowers women because it shocks the patriarchy when we say it. I wish I had had the courage to say it to the faces that hurt me over the years. Perhaps if I had, I wouldn’t still be harboring so many bad memories that I say “Fuck you” to when they surface. (Although, I’m not knocking this technique as a tactic. Over time, it does work to eradicate bad memories.)
Like “Twanda” in Fried Green Tomatoes, instead of running after people asking them why they’re so mean to me, I could just say, “Fuck you,” or ram my car into their car in the parking lot multiple times until they come running out of the Winn Dixie to ask me if I’m crazy and I answer, “Face it, girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.”
But that’s a movie. In real life, “Fuck you” is a horribly mean expression. Don’t say it out loud unless absolutely necessary. Although, you can say it if you’re joking around and everyone’s in on the joke. It’s all about your tone and intention.
In the same way, be careful how you deliver other expressions with the underlying “Fuck you” intention. For example, if you’re a priest and a volunteer tells you that she's leaving the parish after 21 years because you wield shame like a sword and she’s done taking those hits, know that when you say “Go with God,” it sounds exactly like “Fuck you.” Funny also how that expression is the exact opposite of “I’m sorry. I’ll work towards reconciliation.”
Yeah, that happened to me. And yeah, the mental “Fuck you” was all the language I had for a long time. It was my shield. It was my ode to Mary. It was my prayer and my battle cry.
Let’s see, that happened almost three years ago. Then about six months ago, I had a different type of falling out with another group and a priest. It was based on professional decisions and ultimately it was the best decision for my career. But at the time, I see now that I had imprinted my experience with my former priest onto the priest I was now dealing with. So, when he said, “I’m sorry. I hope we can still be friends.” I accepted out loud, but I was thinking, you don’t really want to be my friend, it’s shameful for laity to be friends with priests, plus it’s me we're talking about, and I’m not worthy of your attention.
Months passed. (Really bad Trump-filled months, just saying.) And then I started to become aware of various ways my priest friend was calling me back to the fold. For several weeks, I believed it was my imagination or unintentional coincidences. Reading LOVE WARRIOR showed me that his reaching out was authentic.
And so, I let him know that I appreciated his calling me back and I trusted him enough to return. He thanked me, then told me how his Lent was going and about a book he was reading. Because that’s what friends do, and that’s all I really wanted.
The whole thing made me realize that just like grief, recovery comes in waves, and I have wounds that run deep. Not only do I have to read LOVE WARRIOR again and again, I probably also need to attend recovery counseling or Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings.
One more thing:
Priests, you are walking around as representatives of Jesus Christ on Earth. Stop allowing your humility and your fear of engagement to get in the way of understanding this. I’m sorry you can never truly take off your collar, but that’s what you were called to do, that’s what you signed up for.
Some of you fear veneration so much, you don’t acknowledge the connections your flock makes between you and Jesus. On the other hand, some of you do, but you stand in an ego-based, prideful place. Don’t do that.
You need to practice stepping yourselves back. Let go of your ego and your fear of what people think about the real you. Quiet down and be still.
Because when you do, you’ll remember that you aren’t wearing a costume and performing a role. You'll remember you ARE a priest. You’ll feel yourself truly open as a conduit for the Holy Spirit, and you’ll allow Jesus to serve through you. Relax and fall into His hands. He’s got you.
And with you in Him and Him in you, your unique expression of His Light will shine through and beam out onto others.
How do I know this? You preached it to me.
Seriously, you don’t want to read this book with any type of numbing agent. No alcohol or recreational drugs. No eating while reading if you can help it. Drink plenty of water to flush any emotional toxins that may come up for you. You might have to set the book aside for a while as you process or act on what surfaces. You might realize you need counseling. You might not. Who knows.
Either way, I highly recommend the drinking of tea as you read or during your breaks.
Tea shows up throughout the book. Here’s my favorite passage from the beach:
“I carry my tea and snacks back to my blanket and as soon as I sit down, the sun hits the horizon and its white light shatters into all the colors of the rainbow.” Page 166
Tea is hydrating, warm, and comforting.
I’m all about Holy Basil or Tulsi tea. In India, it’s believed to be a sacred plant infused with healing powers. The box comes with “Blessings and Namaste!” Can’t beat that.
Whether you microwave your mug o’ tea, or boil a pot of water to sooth yourself via the whole tea-brewing experience, it’s all goodness.
Cheers to you, Glennon Doyle Melton! Thank you for your book.