Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
-John Greenleaf Whittier
I reflected in my sermon yesterday that the unity we share as Christians comes not from group membership but from the individual relationship each of us has with the living Christ.
In him, we are united in one body, because each of us has known his forgiveness.
The words of this beautiful hymn came to my mind this morning, especially the phrase, “Reclothe us in our rightful mind.”
People in recovery from alcoholism often speak of the “stinking thinking” that is as much of a problem for the addict as the drink itself.
People practicing recovery and learning to live well with mental illness also know what it is to suffer from problems in the mind, medical conditions in the brain that make living such a struggle.
Forgiveness, for me, began with admitting how badly my drinking had affected me and those around me.
Forgiveness felt first like being stripped naked, being fully known, being seen in the unlovely state I was in.
The grace I have received in recovery — in the love of family and friends who looked with me, in the support of my church and recovery group who held me, in the reawakening of my appreciation for the Daily Office and the practices of the Christian life and of recovery that shape me — all of these feel like by grace I am being “reclothed in my rightful mind.”
And now another lovely hymn springs to my lips: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!” Where pride and frustration once colored my life, gratitude paints a different picture.
If you for a long time have “worn no clothes,” and feel like you’re living “not in a house but in the tombs” — like the Gerasene man whom Jesus healed in the story from the Gospels (and the source of the hymn) — know that in forgiveness and in recovery you, too, can be “found … sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in [your] right mind” (Luke 8:35).
Reclothed in our rightful minds, we then find our fulfillment, as Whittier suggests, in trying to lead “purer lives” of “deeper reverence.”
Not that we are perfect by any means, but our service and praise show God how grateful we are and can offer hope to others who still suffer.