For me, getting married meant a series of meetings for pre-marital counselling. It was really valuable time that gave the Elusive and I a great start. We talked about things that “love” wanted us to gloss over and the sessions also helped us to begin to develop a new sense of ‘normal’ that was separate and independent of our families of origin. We read, we discussed, we listened to a third party help us sort through our piles of beliefs and practices.
Then we got married.
And theory became reality. And reality turned out to cut a little closer to the bone than theory. Turns out that all the steps we took to the wedding were just a prelude to the work it takes to have a satisfying marriage. Apparently being married isn’t about resting after the long and successful hunt has finally landed our prey. It turns out that being married is about putting into practice things we’ve learned and exercising principles everyday to keep our relationship happy, healthy and growing in the right direction.
We’ve done a really bad job over the last few decades of explaining what following Jesus is all about. We’ve tended towards a list of don’ts and prohibitions and warnings. In short we’ve made it sound like a miserable week of camp where nobody has any fun. Our adverts tend to read, “Come be bland with us!” It’s like explaining how great marriage can be by listing all the things you can’t do anymore but reminding everyone they do get a great honeymoon and after that it’s all about hanging on ‘til you die!
But here’s the deal, it’s not about learning how NOT to live, it’s about learning HOW TO live. Jesus claimed to be offering abundant life. A quick trip to Mr. Roget’s turns up the following synonyms for abundant: plentiful, copious, rich and profuse. Bland, boring and empty didn’t make the list.
Step 10, 11 and 12 are all about the daily experience of cultivating and maintaining what we’ve been given.
Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
It’s a call to practicing SELF-HONESTY. Note: Being SELF-CRITICAL is NOT being SELF-HONEST
A guy called Brother Lawrence wrote about it in a book called, “Practicing the Presence of God”. It’s about living in this moment because it’s the only one that’s real. The past is gone, the future isn’t real yet, what we have is today. It means being awake in this moment in a world that most people are sleepwalking through.
How do I feel? Why do I feel that way? What am I thinking about? Why am I thinking about that? What am I doing? Why am I doing that? Why does that push my buttons? It means that we recognize that we have feelings but we aren’t our feelings. We aren’t defined by them. Feelings come and feelings go and they should be paid attention to but not allowed to run our lives. It doesn’t mean we analyze every moment, every thought but it does mean we pay attention and stop letting life just happen to us.
Resentments are inevitable. People will say and do things that will hurt us. But we become aware that holding onto resentments is like borrowing money. The longer I go facing it, the harder it is to pay back the debt. That’s why we must keep short accounts. That’s why forgiveness becomes our right hand and amends our left.
This step helps us maintain the awareness that a lie is high maintenance – especially ones we tell ourselves – you have to feed them – lies on lies on lies – and eventually the weight takes me back to my addiction. When I was young I invented lying – started on a path – lie to protect myself or get what I wanted – PRODUCED anxiety – lies on lies on lies. Sometimes I couldn’t remember what was true and what was lie – more anxiety.
Be honest with getting it wrong – own it, share it, get it out in the open. At the same time do one more thing that addicts are equally hard at: be honest about getting it right – catch yourself making the right choices.
From the Big Book:
“…we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.”
“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But we must go further and that means more action.”
As followers what counts is what happens after we say we will follow. We might slip, fall, mess up big time but do we look back to God for help when we’re down? Do we get back up facing His direction? Do we work to maintain our relationship with Jesus or do we hope we’ve earned a golden ticket just by saying “I do”?