Follower: a 10th the song that never ends…

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”?

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About brianmpei

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

4 Responses to Follower: a 10th the song that never ends…

  1. Chaz says:

    The concepts and practices (attempts) of marriage are far more complex than romantic notions, mainly portrayed in literature and entertainment, suggest they really are.

    I suppose in years gone by, marriage was part of the subsistence lifestyle where say for example, my great-grandparents who came over from Europe at the turn of the last century and farmed on the prairies of central Canada, they married to survive. I doubt there was much emphasis on love and compatibility. It would have been widely understood that one needed a family to survive so they married and procreated as the best means of running the farm. If they were in love and experienced romance or happiness, that was all bonus. Divorce was not an option. The culture had no place for it and where would one go other than the family farm? Few options existed.

    Fast forward a hundred years, and marriage is based on…. who really knows what? And divorce is as easy and available as a haircut. So if we are to stay married, we are going to need to find ways to remain happy. Because frankly, in my experience and observation, our culture carries a message that says if you are not happy, you should leave.

    So those of us who choose to be and stay married are under greater motivation to find and maintain happiness and function together. Relationships have to be more real in terms of mutual respect, pleasure, and working together. I am not yet sure if this is a good or bad thing.

    Hearing about divorce breaks my heart. My divorce hurt a lot and was life-defining for quite a few years. However, it is the new reality and I have come to accept it. With that said, I am now remarried very happily and very functioning (or so it feels).

    I think for all of us, we need to have some sort of track to run on if our marriages are going to survive the pressures and influences of our current culture. The steps have helped a great number of us miraculously sober up and recover. So I would give them a pretty good probability of helping a marriage remain healthy.

    Certainly a step 10 on a regular basis where we self-assess and make things right asap would give us a huge leg up in maintaining a good marriage. And I have always felt and expressed that the quality of one’s recovery ultimately expresses itself in the quality of one’s relationships. Marriage being the most complex of all and therefore in need of the most rigorous application of one’s principles of recovery.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

  2. Judy says:

    “… what we have is a daily reprieve, contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” I love that nugget of deep truth. Like Chaz, I believe that it is what keeps a marriage vibrant, just as it keeps a relationship with God from growing stale.

    I like to think of this step as “labouring to enter into His rest.” (Hebrews.. uh, somewhere). He provides ALL the strength to do that. In relationships, this looks like another set of promises I’m in the process of living out (which, the first time I read them early in my recovery, made me weep with wistful abandon) :

    I can expect a miraculous change in my life as I work the 12 steps…
    As I make an honest effort to [do so], –
    1. I know a new sense of belonging. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness will disappear.
    2. I am no longer controlled by my fears. I overcome my fears and act with courage, integrity and dignity.
    3. I know a new freedom.
    4. I release myself from worry, guilt, and regret about my past and present. I am aware enough not to repeat it.
    5. I know a new love and acceptance of myself and others. I feel genuinely lovable, loving and loved.
    6. I learn to see myself as equal to others. My new and renewed relationships are all with equal partners.
    7. I am capable of developing and maintaining healthy and loving relationships. The need to control and manipulate others will disappear as I learn to trust those who are trustworthy.
    8. I learn that it is possible to mend – to become more loving, intimate and supportive. I have the choice of communicating with my family in a way which is safe for me and respectful of them.
    9. I acknowledge that I am a unique and precious creation.
    10. I no longer need to rely solely on others to provide my sense of worth.
    11. I trust a guidance I receive from my higher power and come to believe in my own capabilities.
    12. I gradually experience serenity, strength, and spiritual growth in my daily life.

    Thank God!

    • brianmpei says:

      The remarkable thing is that this is what every believer longs for but often seldom finds as we resist the process that brings all these to life in our lives. And it’s not about us even doing something so much as it’s about letting God have his way in our lives.

      With promises that good and people actually enjoying that life why do we still resist?

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