Follower: And Then Came Step Four

We are kings and queens of the superficial. It’s in our DNA. We’re genetically predisposed to keeping things as shallow as possible.

Consider our universal greeting and response.

“Hi! How are you?”

Frankly, we don’t give a damn.

The proof is in our response. “Fine.” Or “Good.” When we know that we’re neither. And God help us if someone launches into a real response when we reply, “And how are you?”

“Well, I’ve actually been going through a hard time…” And our eyes glaze over as we maintain and appearance of listening while we internally search for the fire escape or pray for our cell phone to ring with “an emergency we’ve got to deal with.”

Most of us are o.k. with a mirror even. We can accept certain imperfections but we can work with what we’ve got. The X-ray, on the other hand, no one likes the shadowy look inside and what it might uncover about how they’re really doing. That occasional ache could be anything down there until I get it confirmed by someone who takes a look inside. So we skip like stones across the surface of life hoping for enough momentum to carry us to the distant shore. Truth is, most stones will sink.

Following requires sinking. We’re called on to drown in the reality we’ve worked so hard to avoid.

Back in Philosophy 101 we called it, “the unexamined life.”

There’s also the flip side, “the over examined life.” The over examined life keeps busy turning over stones and won’t rest long enough to look at what’s been exposed because there’s always another stone to get turned over.

Both keep us distracted or diverted from the inventory that that real life, a following life, a fully engaged life, requires.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

For me this step came up when I was accused of doing something I didn’t do. I was ‘righteously indignant’ about the accusation and was ready to slay some dragons. The short and uninteresting version is that my motives were being questioned on something that I was involved in – wasn’t I only doing this for financial gain and self-interest? I was on the third day of a fast and crying out bitterly to God to come down and smite my accuser – or at least drop some big hail stones or something – when I heard the whirrrr and click of the X-ray. “I would NEVER do something like that…” was what I was telling God. His response, as I recall, went something like, “Oh? Really?” And slowly the picture developed of what was really in my heart. I might not have made that one request for personal gain, “but what about this?” it seemed like God was saying, as he opened the door on that cupboard I hadn’t thought he’d noticed.

Most Christians talk in vague terms about our own personal sin. This helps us maintain an equally but misguided sense of superiority over un-believers. Of course we’ve sinned, but we aren’t pagans like you.

Jesus told a story once about forgiveness. He said those who have been forgiven of much will forgive much. Most Christians, in my experience – and I’m including myself here – don’t think there’s been all that much to forgive so we can be a little stingy with our own forgiveness. Truthfully, we aren’t encouraged to be specific about our stuff unless we’ve got a truly spectacular conversion story to share, consequently we are less inclined to forgive others freely.

Following, in my experience, requires us to ignore the generic cries of “I’ve sinned!” “I’m a sinner!” which are superficial and can mean so many different things to different people as to be meaningless declarations.

Tomorrow I’ll post some quotes from the Big Book that better describe what I believe a follower must do to lay hold of the fullness of this experience – to be a follower and not merely an enthusiast for Jesus.

…tomorrow, for the adventurous, the how to do its…

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in 12 steps, Christianity, Church, discipleship, faith, Life, reality, recovery, religion, theology, truth. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Follower: And Then Came Step Four

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m enjoying this series of posts.

  2. oh this is so my stuff…. We are not real, we do not assess ourselves, and but oh how we spend our life assessing others.. I wil constantly assess my self, constantly learn, or just go ahead and shoot me now : )

    • brianmpei says:

      There is that! We’d love to do a 4th step for everyone else, eh? God help me! I think you said it well, we’re all in a rush to get past our neighbours and into our garages so we never actually have to be real with anyone.

  3. Cathy says:

    What a fantastic post! Reminded me of my first.. second.. third.. read of the Big Book .. unfortunately many years ago. I feel motivated to dust off my copy and re capture the simple truths I once found in there. The fearless part of the moral inventory kept me at bay of the searching , until it became too painful to live in the mud my denial forced me to trudge through. Wow, how amazing that we have a loving God that wont let that trudging be so comfortable that we never seek another way! Does that mean in some weird way I should be grateful for the trudging through the muck is ? Ironically so! In fact I was so stubborn I had to be face down in it, and in utter defeat become willing to surrender. At first surrender was magically uplifting, now I’m ashamed to say I fail all too often at the daily surrender.. Look forward to the future posts..

  4. Judy says:

    I’d always felt like gagging when people asked me how I was – I knew they didn’t want to know. I overheard one guy say, when I was 15, “All she ever talks about is crap.” To my face he appeared interested. Hm. Lesson one – small talk is just that: small.

    I was so great at blanket confessions; I made them so many times in my life and within a couple of days all the promises had been broken: “All my sins,” or “All the times I have failed You.” Step 4 made me face the specifics – not only the what but the why and the how much of my life’s hurts – how others had hurt me and I held onto that for decades, how I had hurt myself, and how I had hurt others.

    The steps have stripped away the façades in my life, and allowed me to connect with God in a way the church didn’t know how to teach me. I can’t control how others behave, but I can decide to give God my own life to do with as He wants – and one of the tenets of this new lifestyle is something known as Rigorous Honesty. Step 4 is just one more layer peeled off the onion.
    Thanks for these posts.

  5. TJ says:

    Ah yes…the inventory…the list….
    Back when I was in a relationship with an abusive alcoholic, I was fed up with the mess, the stink, the fear, the tears, the hurt…
    I decided it was time for me to get some help…for him…I marched down to the offices, asked to see someone, and proceeded to tell them I wanted to learn what to do to ‘fix’ his problem..I was ready to do the work….she grabbed a bunch of literature, shoved it in my hands, looked me in the eye and said, in a very strong, calm voice “You are just as sick as he is… the meetings are on Thursday nights” and she promptly walked out of the office before I could tell her to pound sand….the phrase I remember rolling in my head all the way home was “What the fffft do you mean, I’m just as sick as he is!?!?!?”…
    I was pissed, I went home, I read the booklets, I went to the meetings, it’s been over 15 years, and I’m still workin’…
    Roy once said that alcoholics, addicts, among all God’s people are the blessed ones…maybe what he meant was it’s harder to hide the addiction when there is a ‘substance’ involved, something that can be pointed to and used as the catalyst to start the journey…when the addiction is internal, easier to hide, it’s harder to believe you need to do any work…
    That’s a crock…everyone….e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e needs to do this…for as long as it takes…
    my list has been longer, shorter, different, items drop off, added back on, ugly stuff, minor stuff…
    i’m a work in progress…if you asked mr tj, he’d say i’m sometimes a piece of work…it’s a good thing he’s cute… >”<

  6. Jeff Gillis says:

    I love the use of “the overexamined life”. How do we examine our lives with out being so self-centered?
    I also liked when you said “Most Christians talk in vague terms about our own personal sin. This helps us maintain an equally but misguided sense of superiority over un-believers.” Truth is we sometimes feel afraid that Christians will judge us more harshly. After all people want to look like their character is getting better. Like they are getting the Christian life more and being more like Jesus over time.
    Sometimes though I feel I am mostly going backwards.
    Actually the last time I spoke at church I spoke about this debunking of people’s ideas of their own goodness. Thank God we have grace to carry us.
    Sometimes I sure feel bad as Jesus shoulders are probably getting sore by now , carrying me around all the time.

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