Sue Berger

Key West Magic

The day started normally enough. I could hear Mary Sunshine half falling out of her custom-made crib.  Larry had cut it down, shortening the legs and side when she started hurtling herself over the rail at nine months. Now she was toddling her little caramel body in to my bed for her morning feeding.  This arrangement had its pros and cons. I enjoyed not having to drag myself out of bed to crying demands when she awoke, but on the downside, once she was up, I was at her mercy. However, morning was the most productive time in Key West, so I actually benefited by this arrangement. Once the midday heat arrived, my stamina slowed to a crawl.

As hippies, Larry and I had migrated to Key West in the early 70s.  We found the local conchs were almost as counter cultural as us, and they were certainly as wacky.  At that time, Key West still had the small tropical island atmosphere. We were two tribes, both contributing colorful characters and lifestyles to make the island unique.  When we arrived in Key West, Larry had just received a check for three thousand dollars from his grandma for Christmas.  Mary was 9 days old, and we had high hopes of starting a Christian bookstore.  Now a little over a year later, we were running our fledgling store on faith and attempting to minister to a various assortment of truly unique characters.

We actually lived in our store. It was on Simonton Street right down from the post office and a block’s distance from the notorious Duval Street Central. Our bookstore was the front room of an old conch house that one entered right off the street, and then like an open train, we had a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and closet room.  When you came into the bookstore, you also came for a visit as all the rooms were visible from the front.

On this particular day, besides my normal chores, I had to babysit three-year-old Will, and I was not a happy camper.  I was not only upset with Linda, Will’s mother, but also my husband who had arranged this situation without me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like little Will.  He was three and although more of a handful than Mary, he wasn’t much trouble. What I minded was that I never knew when his mother would return after she dropped him off. She was progressively becoming more and more undependable, and sometimes I wondered if she would show up at all.  Linda had an addiction problem that at that time I did not understand at all.  This made her unpredictable and unreliable, two traits that I had a hard time dealing with.

I was not normally a complainer. In fact, I was pretty laid back and organized so that most of the time life ran pretty smoothly for me. But this arrangement for Will was really starting to bother me. I think I was feeling controlled and manipulated because I didn’t volunteer for the job. When Larry came out for breakfast, the first thing I did was complain about Linda and being tied down to Will again that day.

So “What would Jesus do?” asked Larry.

This was not what I wanted to hear.  I wanted pity and sympathy. I did not want to be challenged. I retorted back with a list of Linda’s offenses. Larry came right back at me.

“Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Love your enemies?’”

Now I was really upset. And defensive. And convicted.

I responded, “How am I supposed to feel loving toward someone who obviously doesn’t care a bit about me?”

“Well”, said Larry, “love is a verb.”

Great! In theory I knew that I needed to “love” Linda. And in my heart I really wanted to do the right thing and honor Jesus. I just didn’t “feel” like it.

So now I began having a passionate conversation with myself. You know what I mean. I started arguing with myself. I went out to the back courtyard and sat down. I wanted to cry. I didn’t want to oppose God, but this seemed so hard. What could I possibly do for Linda? And why should I? Wasn’t I doing enough? My life was already busy. I had a baby and her son to take care of.

Somewhere in that conversation, I heard God say, “How about making her a loaf of bread?” What!! Why should I make her bread?  What has she done for me?  She should be bringing me bread! How could you ask me to bake bread in the summer? (Almost no one had air conditioning, including us. We had a huge fan in the back that drew the air through the whole place and kept it tolerable. However, baking was not something most people did in the hot season. The fan was no match for a hot oven.) I could hardly believe this was happening.

I made all the excuses I could think of, and God said nothing more. He just waited for me to deal with myself. He knew that my love for Him would win out. I knew that too; I knew He had me, and I knew I would make the bread. I just didn’t like it!

Now I wish I could say that my defiance ended there and that I happily made the bread. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I complained the whole time I was kneading the dough, punching it like somehow it was the dough’s fault. While the bread was baking, and I could smell the heady aroma, I protested again to God.  Funny how we can seem so strong and resolved spiritually until our senses become involved. On the outside, I was being obedient, but on the inside, I was acting like a spoiled brat. As the bread got closer to being done, I started justifying in my mind all the reasons that would allow me to keep the bread.

Had I been just mulling over the idea of making and sharing bread, I think I would have probably felt more charitable. I would have thought that it was probably a good idea. But as the smells saturated the rooms and my taste buds were stimulated, I found myself craving the bread. This made it personal. This made the bread a sacrifice and not just an idea.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived. Linda actually showed up on time to get Will. As she came into the store and the kitchen to get his things, I started trying really hard to ignore God’s Spirit and allow her to walk out of the store without the bread. But I knew I would feel really guilty if I didn’t abide by what I thought God had said. I was already learning pretty well that when I rejected God’s instruction, I always later deeply regretted it. So I stopped Linda and told her to wait.

I then heard myself saying, “I made you some bread.”

I could tell she was surprised. I was amazed myself, but I was about to experience an even bigger shock.

I went to the counter and grabbed the bread, put it in a bag and reached out and handed it to Linda.  It was at that precise moment, I experienced the supernatural.

It felt like a bolt of love struck me on the top of my head and careened down through my body into my toes. It was both an emotional and physical experience. I felt such a strong sense of love that it almost took me to my knees and made me cry.  Instantly, I realized that I loved Linda. I loved her in that moment, and I continued to love her through the rest of our relationship. My eyes were opened, and I realized I had failed to see the pain in her eyes because I was too busy being concerned about my own issues.

In an instant, God spoke to me what seemed like volumes. He told me that when I was obedient, He would supply the power to do His will. I knew that He would give me the power to do whatever He asked of me.  I realized how much He loved me. His love was pouring into me, and I knew that He wanted me to share it with everyone. I learned in that instant that like everything else in the Kingdom of God, finding love was upside down from what the world was proclaiming. Did I want to experience life-freeing love in my life? Then I had to love by faith.

My experience that day with Linda changed my life. Many times in the future I would look back and remember and contemplate what God showed me. I had been given the KEY and a glimpse into Kingdom authority. I no longer needed to worry about being capable or having enough faith—I only needed to step out in obedience.

 

Recovery & Beyond is Sue’s website dealing with addiction.

Sue is also the author of Beyond Addiction which can be read online.

 

Recovery & Beyond

 

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN LIFE IS SPIRALING DOWN BUT THE OBVIOUS SOLUTION IS TERRIFYING, OVERWHELMING AND SEEMS HOPELESS?

Many addicts (and those they effect) don’t believe that change is possible. There is a presumption of failure that is overpowering. For some addicts even success looks dismal.

This site is offered to show you a path.  This path has proved successful.  We hope you will take the time to read Beyond Addiction, watch the Stories of Triumph and brouse around and discover that although change may take effort, it is not only possible; it can be exciting, healing and fulfilling.

Our desire is to:

  •    Inspire hope
  •    Give practical and structured guidance
  •    Share stories of victory
  •    Answer questions about addiction and recovery
  •    Reveal the spiritual aspects of successful transformation.

MANY HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU TO PAVE THE WAY…

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Visit . . . Recovery & Beyond

One Comment

  • Larry Berger says:

    Good story, Sue. I’m glad you’ve recorded it. We had quite a few in that old bookstore. I’d like to hear more.

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