Follower: Going for 8th

The first house I remember living in was my home until I went into grade 3. I remember the backyard where we buried my first pet. I remember the front yard where I committed my first homicide by beheading my, now former, best friend’s snowman. I awoke one morning to find my snowman a mere lump and when I saw his robust looking Frosty I knew he’d offed mine out of jealousy and built his own to taunt me. So I whacked Frosty. Later my dad explained the concept of melting, too late to save the friendship though. I remember the driveway where I played with my Captain Action figure, he was NOT a doll, he was an action figure.

And I remember the neighbours.

I especially remember the neighbours next door because of one particular day where I learned about the 8th step of following.

We’ve talked through 7 so far. 4 & 5 pretty much separate the believers from the followers. Step 8 makes following very real though.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

One day, I was probably 7, maybe 8, I was out playing when I noticed a ceramic cardinal on a planter at our next door neighbour’s house. I was a fan of the Cardinals and thought the little ceramic one would look way cooler in my room than it did on the stupid planter. So I broke it off and took it home. At 8 there are only so many secrets you can keep from your mom and mine found out about the cardinal. She promptly took me and the broken cardinal next door to the neighbour. I screamed. I cried. I threatened. I begged. I cried more. But my mom insisted I apologize and make amends. The front door open and my neighbour stood there, smiling, completely unaware of my treachery.

“Tell her.” Was all my mom said. And I began to verbally vomit, between halting sobs, my confession. I held out the broken cardinal with a shaky little hand. She took the cardinal from me and with a very serious voice asked me and mom to come inside. If there was any water left in my body after all my crying I would’ve wet my pants. But there wasn’t.

We sat in her living room and I waited for the screaming to start, the inevitable slap on the hands or the butt. It never happened.

My neighbour talked. She told me how it felt to have something she liked broken. She told me I could make it up to her by helping her with this or that. And she offered us some cookies.

When I left the house and the moment that I knew would be the end of my little 8 year old life, it was like an elephant had been lifted off my shoulders. My relationship with my neighbour was restored, I could go over there any time I wanted, I didn’t have to hide whenever I saw her out and I didn’t have to keep any secrets from my mom or threaten my little brother’s life if he ratted me out. I experienced peace.

Believer love grace but followers experience grace in the receiving and the giving. Believers love to be forgiven. Followers live to be reconciled. It’s not an easy. It is the best way.

No more secrets. No more crossing to the other sidewalk to avoid someone. No heart attack every time the phone rings because this time it might be him or her.

But it doesn’t always go well.

A couple years ago someone came to mind that I needed to make amends with. I needed to be willing to make things right with someone I wronged. It was a monkey I needed to get off of my back.

So I reached out and braced myself, just like I was 8, for the yelling or the smack. I wasn’t prepared for the indifference and silence that followed.

Nada. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t produce the results that are right: if the only results are what happens with the other person. But they aren’t. I still felt like the elephant was off my back. I stopped having a recurring nightmare about the person I reached out to.

Because being willing is enough when the other person just isn’t having it.

Jesus once said that followers, when they’re at church and remember that someone has something against them, they’ll leave worship and first be reconciled to that person (ie. make amends) and then come back and sign their songs.

Followers have to reveal grace by our words and our actions by seeking to make things right with those we have wronged. Followers confess and then follow up with actions. This is the path of real peacemaking.

Anyone come to mind that you need to go make things with, or be willing to, before you sing another song?

P.S. If you’re wondering why I haven’t contacted you yet to make amends and you were thinking you should be on my list – please be patient, I haven’t gotten to everyone yet…

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in 12 steps, Christianity, Church, Confession, discipleship, faith, God, parenting, theology, truth. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Follower: Going for 8th

  1. Chaz says:

    Brian… you have said a lot here. And it prompts a number of critical thoughts.

    First off, I can see the distinction you are making between believers and followers. Following involves far more doing. It is a full-body participation activity. Believing, as I have experienced it, can often remain in the realm of thoughts, wishes, theories, and intentions.

    Perhaps this is the distinction that defines dead faith. Faith without works.

    I know for me, I never got sober for any length of time, nor did I get sane to any reasonable degree, until I started doing the doing. Not talking the talk, or wishing the wishes, or theorizing theories. But actually doing. Full-body involvement.

    Your other point about having things against people. There are some for whom I do not feel the time has arrived to address yet. I simply don’t know how. I believe in grace and forgiveness. I believe that the only thing that can neutralize the grace we receive is the grace we are unwilling to give.

    So for these people, I have put the issue in a place I heard about in an AA meeting a few years ago. It is a definition of forgiveness that I find very useful for certain situations. The defintion says, “forgiveness is forgoing your right to vengeance”.

    Now I do not hold this out as the absolute definition. It is just a perspective. Or one aspect of forgiveness. It is the definition that helps me put the complex, hurtful mess in a place other than resentment or self-pity while I am waiting for the opportunity and maturity to deal with it more completely.

    So for those who I feel have wronged me greatly, I lay down my weapons and allow you to pass in peace. I will not attack you or demand justice of you. But, nor will I sit at a table with you just yet. Just for today, may God’s will be done in your life and may be bring you what you need.

    Ciao

    Chaz

    • brianmpei says:

      Chaz, thanks. That’s definitely an aspect of walking in forgiveness. And I think a key part of this step, also found in the New Testament is the simple idea, “wherever possible”.

      Our willingness to make amends where we’ve wronged others, to me, is entirely different than reconciliation with those who have wronged us. Distance has to be maintained in many of those cases.

      I find within the Church that a lot of us talk about forgiveness but we never put any skin on it. AA started with James in mind and a lot of us would rather live that “mental” faith, I find, rather than a James or Hebrews 11 sort of faith that does.

      This step comes with a “unless it will do more harm” exemption that I’ll write about later but is important with those we’ve harmed and contact with those who have harmed us.

      Your blog is excellent by the way, great insights!

      • Chaz says:

        Brian… I have experienced the same limitations in church. Not that church has to be this way or that it is even church’s fault. I simply found in my church experience, far more talk, theology, and belief than “do”.

        Then, to my utter surprise, I found my AA involvement extremely helpful in my growth and recovery. Life leapt forward in a few months of AA.

        Why?, I had to ask. Again, not blaming church, God, or the people in it. I found that in AA, we had a simple and clear motivator; death. And less likely a sudden death. More likely a slow, painful death. Painful for me and the people in my life who I claimed to love the most.

        My church experience seemed to have allowances for certain dysfunctions. Pride being one of them. In fact, in my experience, many churches nurture pride by their very structure and function. They promote leaders and give them ego-feeding opportunities that many are not capable of handling. Leaders are put on pedestals and lavished with attention and praise.

        Singers and musicians become small “c” celebrities. All in the name of “ministry”. Then we are surprised when they crash and burn with some ego-driven calamity.

        AA is not immune to this by any means. AA as I experience it does however have less opportunity for people to be grand-standed and worshipped. There is a greater awareness of the danger and cunningness of ego in AA than there is in most of the Church experiences I have had. AA is less exclusive in its membership. Money, property, and prestige/fame are better kept at bay. I believe church structure could learn a lot from the 12 Traditions of AA.

        I believe this is a big reason I found AA more effective in helping me give my head a shake, first with my alcoholism, then with other issues of life. Yet I still believe in the same God. In fact, more than ever.

        I give God the credit for the 12 Steps. He doesn’t even require accurate recognition for them to work in someone’s life.

        Ciao.

        Chaz

  2. Michelle says:

    The 12 steps have made me leap from theory to practice. I suppose that’s the same leap believers make when they become followers. But now I’m dragging my feet. Sitting pretty at steps 6 and 7 for way too long. Sigh.

  3. TJ says:

    Inventory: check
    Confess: check
    Ask for removal: check
    Amends: check
    It’s work, it’s stressful, it’s difficult, and there is no more fear, no more hiding, a few tense moments, not so nice outcomes, but on the whole, better done than not done.
    The first time: what was on the list was what I put there, the person I confessed to was my choice, the list of amends were names I chose…still a lil bit of ‘control’ left huh…I can handle this…I know what’s coming…suuure I do.
    What I learned: I have shortcomings I was blind to, that I denied having…I wronged people, hurt them without knowing I had, I had amends to people that had been hurt and I thought the issue was really theirs, not mine…
    Lots of ‘I’s’ in there, isn’t there…
    Some of the best amends have been and are the ones that weren’t listed anywhere, were dragged out of me, where by the Grace of God I went from “I’m sorry, but…” or “I didn’t mean it that way…” or “You took it the wrong way, not my fault…” to “I’ve hurt you, I’m so sorry, what is there you need from me, what can I do?”
    Times where the ‘stuff’ at the back of the closet starts getting stinky, and it can’t be ignored anymore, and it shows me pieces of me I really don’t like, and gives me the chance to clean it up and stop hurting people.
    by the way, getting married…that’s serious closet cleaning…

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