Tag Archive: Bible


Forgive Again!

This morning I visited an AA meeting before my regular OA meeting. While sitting among them listening to their Step Eight shares, the following occurred to me:

I, like many Twelve-Steppers before me, resist listing harms done in Step Eight because I am fully aware of the Step Nine amends to follow. One of the basic spiritual concepts linked with Step Eight is forgiveness, and many people mingle forgiveness with amends because they believe an apology is necessary in order to forgive. I often say that the hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do. I can tell that I’m getting the two confused when I repeat an apology or fail to repeat forgiveness. I don’t want to be the guy who starts every day telling his wife he is sorry for cheating on her in 1985. That guy is ruining two lives. I also know there is something amiss when I ask God to forgive that sorry, no-good, son of a trouble-maker! I cannot leave all the forgiving to God.

The hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do.

When I think of amends, I think of a tailor repairing a garment. I don’t know much about how sewing machines work, but I do know there is a spool at the top and a bobbin underneath. If the thread only comes from the top and never the bottom, as soon as the fabric is lifted, the thread pulls right out. So it is when forgiveness only comes from Heaven. When it is not met with forgiveness from someone of us down here underneath, it has no chance to bind to the fabric and all the blessed progress just comes unfurled.

There is a white board on my bedroom wall, and on it I have written a forgiveness prayer that goes like this:

“I love and forgive _____ in the Name of Jesus, and I call my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors into alignment with God’s will.”

Below that prayer is a running list of my resentments, each one an answer to my fill-in-the-blank prayer. The list has changed some since I first took a Fourth Step, but it is my way of continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when I’m wrong. The thing is, I have to list those people, groups, and institutions regularly, or my carnal self will begin to slip back into judgment, I will hold those parties in contempt, often trying to punish or correct them, and maybe even despising them with bitterness that poisons only one soul — mine. While praying this list, sometimes I think, “I don’t even think about that person anymore,” and they retire off my list. Other days, I storm into my room and emblazon a new name on my list, and I start again, calling God’s will into my life and aligning with it my intentions for a loving attitude.

I confess I suck at this forgiveness routine. That’s one of the many reasons my own name appears at the top of my forgiveness list. I despise the me that failed at being kind and generous today almost as much as the 6 year-old me who never stopped crying because he was convinced nobody loved him. I want to tell that school kid to suck it up and get a grip, and I want to tell the grown man in the mirror how ashamed of him I am for failing at grace so quickly after committing to mission living in his morning devotion.

Still, the stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below, so I’ll bob and weave my part while God supplies the good stuff from above. As today’s AA meeting closed with the Lord’s Prayer, I heard “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” a little differently. God and I are stitching a tapestry, making something new of many tattered shreds. It’s His masterpiece; I’m just submitting to His work.

The stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below.

 

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5, NIV

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15, NIV

 

 

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Photo credit: Woman's Day

Photo credit: Woman’s Day

Confession time! The transformation of recovery isn’t complete when Self keeps taking charge.

For the last couple weeks, I have moved, for the most part, into a guest bedroom in my house, partially to study without disturbing my precious bride, but mostly to hide from disappointment. I have repeatedly told the one who loves me that I was giving her “space to have her own way.” The truth is I have grown increasingly impatient, even intolerant, with her decisions lately. I have judged her actions as being based on her whim and emotion, when they are more than likely only lacking what I would deem an appropriate level of consideration of my own will, wish, and way. Either way, I am using isolation as a shield for disappointment, whether the expectations that feed it are realistic and fair or not.

Last night, while I fell asleep alongside her for a change, my mind and mouth were engaged even in the twilight of wakefulness. In the mental fog where the lies that support justifications begin to buckle under the weight of truth, I had some profound thoughts that escaped by way of mumbled, almost hypnotic, verbal expression. I confessed to my precious bride that, more than anything else, I am afraid of her. Not that I am afraid of her intentions or convictions, but that her intellect is not behind the wheel. After acknowledging my fear that her emotional navigation would run us, or more accurately – me, amok, I was forced to acknowledge that isolating myself from her to prevent injury puts my own emotions at the helm of my life, and so, constitutes me becoming the monster of which I was afraid.

The last thought I remember uttering before drifting off was that she is worth whatever pain I may experience, whatever it takes. As I recall what Christ endured for His Church (Ephesians 5:25), I am reminded that I have “not yet suffered to the point of shedding (my) blood” (Hebrews 12:4). I have not done everything I can. I have avoided pain by disengaging. I have behaved according to my own self-interest rather than sacrificing myself “as an act of worship” (Romans 12:1) giving preference to those around me. “As a dog returns to his vomit” (Proverbs 26:11) I have put Self on the throne of God yet again!

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity…” (AA, 62).

Holy Father, rescue me from the bondage of self!* I have wandered back into my old cage, and it is dark and lonely in here. Deliver me so I can be relevant to those You have placed in my path, and that You, not me, may be glorified. Make Your light shine on me and reflect onto others, that they may be attracted to You and discover for themselves that You are able and willing to deliver us from our prisons, no matter how comfortable we have made them. Empower me to do Your will only always. Through Christ our Lord, amen!

 

* (a variation of AA’s Step Three Prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, page 63)

Going Against the Current

 Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭14‬:‭9‬ NLT)

Friends of Earth make sport of children of Heaven who make introspection a habit and holiness a goal. “Nobody likes a saint,” mockers say. Just yesterday I was ridiculed by one of my childhood mentors who tried to tell me that “self-flagellation,” which was his word to describe my practice of living Twelve-Step life surrendered to God, was unnecessary and unproductive. I have to remember that the broken world will resist my amends-making, because disorder does not well tolerate order. It goes against the current.

Holy Father, today, accept this broken offering and transfigure it into a useful beacon to You. Give me grace to continue on the upstream path You have set before me. Never let me forget what waits ahead: more perfect unity with You.

Quieting the Mob

  “But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their voices prevailed.” (‭Luke‬ ‭23‬:‭23‬ NLT)

The voices we permit to prevail direct our thoughts, our rationale, and finally our actions. Pilate succumbed to a crowd manipulated by fear and greed and so sent our Lord to the cross. We are perpetrators of Pilate’s corruption when we, filled with worry or regret, demand our addictions be set free while we give up the King of our Sunday to satisfy a Thursday night whim.

Holy Father, today, I quiet the voices of my worry and shame, and I turn to You, seeking Your still, soft voice. Let Your quiet whisper call my every fiber to attention and make my actions Your own design. You who gave me ears to hear, let me know Your voice, and call me like a favored lamb into Your strong and protective embrace.

  There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭40‬ NLT)

What a great prayer, to rely on the One who can hold us and rescue us even in mid fall! It is not so arrogant as the toddler who insists he can do a grown up task “all by myself.” On my own, I can neither breathe nor stand, let alone resist the chemical and biological signals and triggers of a body so long abused by indulgence and the manipulation of a greedy marketplace. Many have asked me, “What should I pray?” Toddler pilgrim, here is a good place to start; seasoned traveler, here too is a good place to return. Pray that you will not give in to temptation.

Holy Father, today, lead me not into temptation; but if Your will is that I should walk through the valley, be my rod and staff to comfort me; lead me through by Your grace to greener pastures and make me lie beside still waters. The turbulence of this world we will shortly endure. Grant me grace to know I’m never outside Your care. Keep me from falling into self-service while I seek to follow You.