Tag Archive: Eighth Step


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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life in the vineAbstinent Today:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more* day at a time.  †

In case you missed it, I threw a pity party last night and was the only one in attendance.  Please don’t feel left out.  You didn’t miss anything.

 

 

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“The amazing secret to the success of this program is just that: weakness.  It is weakness, not strength, that binds us to each other and to a Higher Power and somehow gives us the ability to do what we cannot do alone.  We have discovered that if people in this program love us, it is not for our strength, but our weakness and our willingness to share that with others.”   – Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition, p. 5

How ironic this would appear this morning, after such a day as I had yesterday!  Is it possible that one of my self-centered fears is the fear of being perceived as weak?  That kind of insecurity is sure to explain my tendency to stomp around like a dinosaur.  The problem is that once such posturing does its job and forces everyone to flee, there is nothing left for ol’ Rex but loneliness.  No wonder the poor idiot is extinct!  That’s no way to thrive.

There is something I’ve learned about spiritual attacks: when one steps forward from the ranks, one makes a target of himself.  I must have done something right in the last few days to be pelted by the enemy as I have been.  My response to this recent attack, however, was too little too late.

 

 

From Proverbs 18 (NRSV):

1 The one who lives alone is self-indulgent,
showing contempt for all who have sound judgment.”

Retreating into isolation is a coward’s way, and I am ashamed to have gone so long in hiding.  Certainly to recognize that I am harming others is a positive step, but to give up trying to love is backward, foolish, and according to this proverb, self-indulgent.  Self-indulgence is never in one’s self-interest, as was pointed out Friday.  So, retreat is harmful to them, me, and the Spirit for whom I am called to stand firm. (Daniel 11:32, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:13)

 

 

From my reading through the Bible, currently in John 15 (NRSV):

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Abiding in a vine gives a branch life-sustaining sap that empowers and enriches the branch to grow, to thrive, and to bear fruit.  When a branch breaks itself off from the vine, and retreats into isolation, it becomes a dead stick, useless for anything but fire kindling.  This word “abide” seems to have a life-giving connotation, like “remain” wouldn’t quite cover it.  It is not enough just to stay in close proximity to, or refrain from departure from, the One who gives life.  Abide suggests an intimate connection, like the veins and arteries abide in the heart, and so, by the nature of their life-giving conduit, bear sustenance to all the extremities, clearing away evil deposits and breathing vitality back into the rosy flesh that so desperately needs its drink of life.

Root of Jesse, True Vine, Body and Blood of God, relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Your will.  Feed me, sustain me, and breathe Life back into me, that Your light might shine through the windows of my eyes, and that I may bear the fruits of Your Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Engage me with Your children, so Your light and the Spirit’s fruits may entice the hungry, darkened spirits around me, and the Father, the Vinegrower, might cultivate them into His garden for His glory and their everlasting joy.

 

 

From the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 99:

“After they have seen tangible results, the family will perhaps want to go along.  These things will come to pass naturally and in good time provided, however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does.  Of course, we all fall much below this standard many times.  But we must try to repair the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty by a spree.”

 

 

Footnotes:

*Abstinence began for me on May 11th, 2010.

For the sake of accountability, the details of my eating are posted in my online food log.

From “Our Invitation to You” out of Overeater’s Anonymous:  “The OA recovery program is patterned after that of Alcoholics Anonymous. We use AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, changing only the words ‘alcohol’ and ‘alcoholic’ to ‘food’ and ‘compulsive overeater.’

Thursday, 2013-03-14

Abstinent Today:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more* day at a time.  †

I have family visiting from out of town, so I will be spending my day with them.  They are on my Step Eight list, so I will be working extra hard to do no harm and to live in such a way as to mend what I have broken in the past.

 

 

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“Permanent recovery is possible, and I am worth receiving it.”

That I am worth any good thing was not something I was used to accepting when I came into the rooms of OA.  I knew that I was loved, but I had a warped understanding of “unmerited love” that fit the mold of my own self-loathing, and diminished my ability to respect anyone who did love me.  As a result, I doubted and disrespected those closest to me, even God.  Accepting that God found me worth crossing the universe and dying for made me put a clamp on the cynical chatter in my head that used to blame and shame me into disbelief, and awakened my spirit to join in the love that was always there.  With that relationship as a constant connection, there is no limit to what is possible.  Permanent recovery from compulsive eating?  That’s no small thing, but it’s nothing compared to the life I am being given!

 

 

From Proverbs 14 (NKJV):

16 A wise man fears and departs from evil,
But a fool rages and is self-confident.”

There is a turning point for me in this verse, because I see so much of what I was in the second half of it.  I do not want to be that anymore, so I will pray for the wisdom that teaches me to fear evil, and I will depart from it as I identify it.

 

 

From my reading through the Bible, currently in John 11 (NKJV):

25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.’”

I love this chapter!  It tells me much about Jesus’ character, as we see Him loving His friends and weeping even over one He would raise to life.  But wrapped in the symbolism of the resurrection of Lazarus, I find the story of me: a dead man, wrapped in clothes of death, lying in isolated darkness, called forth to life to resume friendship with Jesus.   It is a foreshadowing of what would come for Jesus, what will come for all Christians at the Resurrection of the Last Day, and what has come as a result of my redemption from the despair of self-absorbed living – the bondage of self.

 

 

 

 

From the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 63:

“We were now at Step Three.  Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: ‘God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.  May I do Thy will always!’”

 

Post Script:  I managed to make it through the day without harming any of which I know, and even had the opportunity to share with and serve those I love so dearly!   

It’s gotten late.  Good night!

 

 

 

Footnotes:

*Abstinence began for me on May 11th, 2010.

For the sake of accountability, the details of my eating are posted in my online food log.

Abstinent Today:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more* day at a time.  †

It’s back to work today!  I’m glad too.  I matter to the world a whole lot less when I am cooped up in the house, and the weather the last few days has had me under its thumb.  It will be good to get out in it.  Outdoors is where I can best “love all and harm none.”

 

 

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“Real humility about our character defects carries with it acceptance.” — The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, p. 61

washing muddy boyI don’t know about the rest of the world, but most of my defects come from my fear of inadequacy.  I realize I am not what I want to be, so I behave in ways that might make me appear to be something I am not – greater, smarter, more powerful.  The masquerade only harms me and those around me.  Coming to believe that my value comes from God and not my behavior frees me to behave genuinely according to that relationship, rather than out of my doubt, fear, and shame.  Acceptance is recognizing that I was made perfectly, and though I have soiled myself in my folly, my Creator still values me and eagerly awaits His opportunity to wash me off, put new clothes on me, and spend time with me while He walks me through the rest of my life.  I was so afraid of God, of the soap, the water and the scrub brush, that I hid and pretended I wasn’t dirty.  I believe humility is the willingness to accept that I am dirty, present myself before the One who can clean me up, and to stand still enough to let Him love me, even as the mud and clay come falling from my life under His cleansing power.

 

 

From Proverbs 28 (NKJV):

13 He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

The power of Scripture, the Word of God, is that its promises cannot be broken.  God didn’t have to argue with light, He just spoke it and it was (Genesis 1:3).  Likewise with everything He has written.  Promises like the one in this proverb have flipsides.  In this case we are promised that, as long as we insist we are clean without Him, we cannot prosper.  When we hide, our separation from Him becomes chronic.  What we conceal becomes our sentence.  I am grateful for the discipline of God which led (and leads) me to repentance, and I hopefully pray that everyone I know or with whom I have contact will come to a healing knowledge of God and the cleansing power of His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Last night I was overcome with the power of words as I reflected on some of my own.  It occurred to me that there is no way I will ever be able to do a complete Step Eight inventory of all those I have harmed, because my careless words have pierced a multitude of people far too countless to number.  I prayed for all of them en masse, and also by category and by individual name as I recalled specifics.  I asked God to reverse any curse I had ever knowingly or unknowingly uttered, that the effect of my harshness anywhere I have ever been would be overcome now by some miraculous intervention of God’s goodness and grace, and that the wake of my carelessness would be stilled, its effects nullified.  It occurred to me that blessing should replace cursing, so I began to bless every single person who had ever provoked me to anger, blessing them with the thing I want most in life – knowledge of God’s will and power to carry that out.  As I blessed them in prayer and forgave them all, I was washed by a new forgiveness the depth of which I do not remember ever experiencing.  None of the harms done me, at that moment, mattered at all.  More than that, the irrational outrage in which I had partaken for so much of my life, which created imaginary enemies of those who had perhaps done me no wrong at all, melted away too.  It was amazing!

I was convicted by a recollection of the Scripture that says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45).  I have recently been asking God to help me stop cursing and using vulgarities, to clean up my speech.  What I was shown last night was that we can’t change the exhaust until we change what’s wrong in the engine.  Forgiveness, acceptance, and loving kindness all have to replace the fear, contention, and hate that was inside before the bitter overflow can turn sweet.

Later that night, I was participating in a worship experience, and the leader began to speak on the chosen topic of the night: the power of words!  God’s Holy Spirit is moving, and He is calling His children to forgive and be forgiven, to love and turn from harm, to be careful and caring rather than careless.

Lord, the ears You made have heard.  Help my hands, feet and tongue to follow.

 

 

From my reading through the Bible, currently in Luke 22 (NKJV):

70 Then they all said, ‘Are You then the Son of God?’

So He said to them, ‘You rightly say that I am.’”

Even as Jesus was facing a death sentence, He called a BINGO when His accusers actually got one right.  In fact, His choice of words as confirmation of His identity “I AM” rang of the identity God used when He introduced Himself to Moses (Exodus 3:14) as “I AM.”

Accepting who and what I am is only half the solution; recognizing who God is in Christ Jesus is the other half.  Today, I confess that Jesus is God made man, and that He died to bring me to His side.  I will let Him wash me and I will dress myself in as much of His likeness as He will apply, and follow His footsteps, marked with love and forgiveness, in the hopes that the God of grace would go with me, be my Guide and my Provider wherever I go.

 

 

From Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 49:

“All these failings generate fear, a soul-sickness in its own right.  Then fear, in turn, generates more character defects.  Unreasonable fear that our instincts will not be satisfied drives us to covet the possessions of others, to lust for sex and power, to become angry when our instinctive demands are threatened, to be envious when the ambitions of others seem to be realized while ours are not.  We eat, drink, and grab for more of everything than we need, fearing we shall never have enough.  And with genuine alarm at the prospect of work, we stay lazy.  We loaf and procrastinate, or at best work grudgingly and under half steam.  These fears are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build.”

 

 

 

Footnotes:

*Abstinence began for me on May 11th, 2010.

For the sake of accountability, the details of my eating are posted in my online food log.

three legged stoolAbstinent Today:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more* day at a time.  †

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“Serenity is knowing and accepting that God is in charge.”

For me, knowing was the easy part.  I knew of this reality since Mother and Dad told me so, and the preacher they took me to hear every three days confirmed it every Sunday morning and Wednesday night of my childhood.  Accepting it, however, isn’t something I remember consciously doing until coming into this recovery program.  My inventories proved I had never accepted it before then, and Step Eight stacked up a list of witnesses to that effect.  I had been of “agnostic temperament”; that is, my demeanor could not have proved I believed in God.  I think this might have even been the root of much of my trouble, because in professing faith but not living it, I became a walking conflict, even regardless of any other forces acting on my life at the time.  A wobbly wheel is easily put off by the smallest of obstacles, and so it was with my life.  Accepting God as unconditional Lord, King, Master, Boss, Ruler of my life and the universe, in addition to being my personal Savior, meant taking the blame for the world and its condition off me and dismissing it completely.  There is a temptation to transfer that blame to God, but doing so elevates my imagination to a position of authority over Him, and that won’t do either.  Accepting God’s charge over the universe means accepting that His ways are not my ways and that He knows better, sees farther, and is working everything out according to His purposes, in His timing, His way.  Accepting that makes me feel more secure than I have ever been before.

This goes along with a passage I read just yesterday:

“Finally, the most common correlation I observe between mind and healing in people with chronic illness is total acceptance of the circumstances of one’s life, including illness.  This change allows profound internal relaxation, so that people need no longer feel compelled to maintain a defensive stance toward life.  Often, it occurs as part of a spiritual awakening and submission to a higher power.”  (Dr. Andrew Weil, Spontaneous Healing, p. 100)

From Proverbs 4:

10 Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.”

There are those who have tried to convince me that spirituality is to the exclusion of the physical.  Not so, but there is a preference for the spiritual that overwhelms the physical with supernatural balance.  I am proving it daily, and am looking for new ways to build these up, and incorporate mental wholeness with these two, in my continuing quest for INTEGRITY (oneness, wholeness).  Not to exclude any of my three parts, but to give preference to the spiritual, the part that can fuel and heal the rest, is the goal.

From my reading through the Bible, currently in Matthew 12:

Jesus did not shy from asserting His authority on earth and in Heaven, though He warned His disciples not to go around blabbing about who He was just yet (v. 16).  In this chapter, He established Himself as greater than the temple (v. 6), Lord over the Sabbath (v. 8), vessel of the Spirit of God (v. 28), greater than Jonah (v. 41), greater than Solomon (v. 42), and an intimate relative of any who follow Him in obedience (v. 50).  A few points of interest in this chapter include yet another reference to God’s words from Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” this time to chastise those who would not understand its meaning, but attempted to accuse Christ and His disciples on a legal technicality.  He prioritized people over material possessions, namely livestock, and shamed His party’s accusers for breaking laws for the lesser concern.  At this, His enemies began to plot His death.  Matthew is faithful to point out another prophecy Christ fulfilled, this one from Isaiah 42:1-4.  There is an insight into demonic activity in verses 43 through 45, referenced as a warning to a wicked generation not to leave a cleaned-up life (or room) neglected, at the risk of it ending up worse off than it had been before.  (Attention, those in recovery!)  I noticed in the footnotes a reference to the word used to describe “evil” spirits as being “unclean” a description also translated as “leprosy” in previous chapters.  Apparently, in the Greek, uncleanness can refer to physical or spiritual.  I find that interesting and relevant to my recent studies.

Perhaps my favorite part of this chapter is one that comes as a result of the self-indulgent cries of the people for a miraculous sign.

39 He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’”

It is interesting to imagine their reaction to this, given that they had no way to know what He was talking about at the time.

This reminds me that following Jesus is not about the miracles, and that the biggest miracle of them all has already been done for us in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  It is a reminder that, regardless of my current condition or circumstances, God’s grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient for me!

God, I apologize for the times I have prioritized my sacrifice over merciful action toward others.  I do wish to deny myself in preference for You, but I acknowledge that You are represented in “the least of these” around me, and even the most stringent self-sacrifice that comes at the cost of making someone else stumble, rail in their bitterness, or just remain neglected and overlooked, was a selfish abstinence after all.  Make mine a selfless abstinence and not a futile exercise of self-serving legal victories that leave me and those about me lifeless and shattered.  Lift my spirit and restore me to balance, so that those who see my life might find You at the center of it and You would be glorified, in the name of Jesus, I ask.  Amen.

From the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 20:

“Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body.”

Footnotes:

*Abstinence began for me on May 11th, 2010.

For the sake of accountability, the details of my eating are posted in my online food log.