On a cold February night nearly a decade and a half ago, desperate with nowhere left to turn I walked through the doors of a twelve step meeting. Searching for a ray of hope in my chaotic world I found it in a room of total strangers where I began what was to become both the most difficult and the most wonderfully transformative journey of my life. I entered the world of recovery.
Recovery programs are most commonly associated with addiction to drugs and alcohol, neither of which were a problem for me. What I eventually came to understand is everybody is recovering from something. I was addicted to other people, Not only the need for their approval but the desire to fix, manage and control their circumstances and their interrelationship with mine. Particularly those closest to me. This type of attachment is sometimes referred to as codependency. Needless to say, it wasn’t working very well for me or for them. In fact, my life was in the toilet.
If we consider the word recovery itself we think of gaining something back we have lost, like a job or a person perhaps through the end of a relationship. Maybe the loss takes the shape of financial hardship, health issues, betrayal, fear, anxiety or depression. And I think I can safely say we are all recovering from the year 2020!
On that frigid February evening I felt as though I had lost my sanity -my soundness of mind-not to mention my ability to discern true from false and most certainly the ability to trust other people. Something was terribly wrong and I was out of solutions.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “ The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” And by his definition, I was nuts.
Not to mention powerless, which is right where God wanted me.
To keep me from becoming conceited…
there was given me a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV)
When I graduated from high school I didn’t think I’d end up in a twelve step meeting, heck, I didn’t even know what one was! Much less believe it would become one of the most transformational events of my life. I thought transformation would be along the lines of becoming rich and famous or some such thing. But God had something much better in mind for me.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
God may have known the plan, but he had not shared the roadmap with me and if I have learned anything in my walk with Christ it is that his roadmaps tend to take some significant detours and twisting roads with hair pin curves. Wild rides, where I can’t see around the next corner!
I remember shaking my fist at him in a tearful conversation in the early days of my recovery saying, no, I was shouting, “This isn’t what I signed up for!” I felt completely hopeless and futureless.
I repeat, this is right where God wanted me. Because my powerlessness left me no option but to trust in and depend on him and his power. Because powerless he most certainly is not.
I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to the steps in my twenties. Much like I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to Christ as a child. There are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God, as both became cornerstones that I would later stand on when I finally got to the end of myself. In fact, the twelve steps are Christian at their core. In the 1930’s a Christian evangelical group called The Oxford Group and their Four Points of Light were the basis that eventually became the twelve steps for the very first step program, Alcoholics Anonymous. And for me, the steps became the form and framework I had lacked to live out my Christian faith. The four points that were to become the twelve steps are:
1) Surrender to Christ
2) Confession of sins
3) Restitution to those I have harmed
4) Carrying the message to others
As I regularly attended meetings and took the medicine of the steps under the tutelage of a sponsor (mentor), it became clear the root cause of my troubles was the same root cause for the insanity of the rest of the human race, self centeredness and separation from God. We humans are all recovering from the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. Through the use of our free will, by choosing to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil we attempt to play God by thinking we know better than God. The first human beings infected the rest of the human race with this disease. None of us are exempt nor can we escape it, and self deception is a huge roadblock that keeps us from the sunlight of the Spirit. Christ said we are known by the fruit we bear, and I might add the fruit we choose to eat! This is often referred to as the ever present, inescapable, hardwired in our DNA original sin.
What’s a body to do?
It is said that when we reach a point of powerlessness, we either get bitter, or we get better. I was sick of bitter and I wanted better and it required me to die to my old way of thinking and self (which the waters of baptism make possible), to keep an open mind and do something new. Sound familiar? Again, there were four key elements to effect a successful consummation of this process.
1) Surrender to Christ. Recognize there is a God and I am not him. I had to admit I was powerless and licked and surrender my life and will to his care. I had to trust God.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV)
Reads easy, lives hard. Powerless, not me! Which is self deception number one. Isn’t that what society says we shouldn’t be after all? I was to discover that if I was simply willing to let go of what appeared to be true and trust the process I might possibly have something different! Something better and most importantly someone more powerful than little old me running the show – like…THE God of the Universe! Perhaps I could be free of the constant fear the sky was falling, all the time. The desire to not be driven by fear alone created in me a ready willingness to at least attempt to do more than just believe God exists, but to really trust him with the most important things in my life, like other people and circumstances and money and the future and the weather ( I am a farmer’s wife after all). I quickly learned recovery/ new creation in Christ is a marathon, not a sprint, and if I wanted the peace that passes all understanding that is promised, I had to be willing to be in the game for the long haul and to be completely recreated.
I was desperate and I jumped in with both feet.
2) Confession of sins. I had to quit looking at the stick in others eyes and take care of the log in my own. I had to confess out loud to someone I trusted the worst things I had done.
Self deception number two was this: There is nothing wrong with me, I am a good person. My thinking was often, if so and so would do thus and such I would be happy. Wrong. Just wrong. That’s called the blame game and I had it down to a science. It was really hard to quit taking inventory of everyone else’s flaws and start recognizing my own. And I won’t lie, it was painful because in the end I came to realize what I disliked most in others, was what I disliked most in myself. I like to call this carrying out the garbage that was rotting me from the inside out.
3) Restitution to those I had harmed. I had to right my wrongs.
This piece of the puzzle is kind of like doing your income taxes, the worst part is thinking about it. I began with the easy ones and those successes fueled courage to try the difficult ones. The goal is to balance the scales of justice this side of eternity and my only responsibility was cleaning up my side of the street. The other person’s response was moot. I truly learned to love my neighbor as myself with no expectation of anything in return through this exercise.
4) Finally, I have to carry the message to others and to give away what I have been given.
I have come to understand that if I don’t give it away what I was given I don’t get to keep the precious jewel of peace that passes all understanding. This is the gift of recovery and Christianity if you don’t quit before the miracle.
And when I do give it away I have an endless supply of kingdom living. I am laying up treasure in heaven where moth and rust can’t destroy. And the best part of paying it forward is I take the medicine of the steps over and over and over which keep me from becoming, once again, spiritually sick. Because in the end, that is what I have recovered, my spiritual health through the right relationship with God first and then others.
We are all recovering from something.
Be joy filled always,