I knew a guy named Rich and people would ask him, “Are you ‘born again’?” His standard answer was “Yes, often.”
That’s been my experience since that initial decision I made in 1982. I didn’t cross a finish line, join the team or get a gold star. What I did do was begin a journey. I found myself on a pilgrimage that’s been both metaphorical and literal. I am in this continual process of being melted down, forged, beaten and shaped. At times that has meant leaving ideas, attitudes and beliefs behind. At other times the process has caused impurities to rise to the surface where they can be skimmed off by hands that are not my own.
I am the me that I have always been and yet I hope, and believe, and have the elusive Donna’s agreement, that I am a better version of me, newer, fresher, closer to real than I have ever been before.
The old “Velveteen Rabbit” line has been true for me.
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” – by Margery Williams
Sometimes I feel despair when following gets reduced to believing.
It’s a perverse and destructive form of “I think, therefore I am.” When following a person becomes merely agreeing to a series or set of propositional truths, movement and progress cease. The only change we know is changing our minds and you’re welcome to try if you think you are up to it.
But followers know that it’s not “what I believe” but “whom I have believed in”.
Part of this journey for me has been falling into a group of people who have embraced following as a means of survival. From their experience they’ve come up with some steps – not propositions to be believed and recited – steps. These are steps that describe following and lead to life, real life.
They go something like this…
1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
The simple truth is that you can’t start following until you admit you’ve gotten yourself lost. After marriage and kids it wasn’t hard for me to admit that on my best days I was Goofy – Mickey’s friend – the dog/man – who gets into more trouble the harder he works to get things right. For me it’s my whole list of addictions and my insane desire to control. Control, it turns out, is an illusion and sometimes I know that. It’s basically played out in the Bible in Ecclesiastes – ‘vanity, vanity, all is vanity.’ A king, with all his resources, tries everything to cure his pain and still comes up empty.
Following required me to accept that I didn’t know best. My way was not the right way. I was not the centre of the universe. And these ideas and ways of living had to be pried out of my cold, dead hands.
Maybe your gig isn’t alcohol. Mine isn’t. But let me tell you, I’m an addict. I only got there when I ran out of rope and was graciously shown my own reflection. It’s only by grace that I didn’t just say, “Screw the mirror!” and it’s only by grace, day by day, that I’m kept on this journey.
…To be continued…