Me Free 11: An Alternative Mind

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. – Step 11

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

“You must put aside your old self which has been corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution.” – Ephesians 4:22-23

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up, left the house, and went off to a lonely place to pray.

 Jesus used parables to teach great, deep principles about life and the Kingdom of God – the way things work in God’s economy.  It drove (and still drives) some people nuts.  Here’s one that stumped his disciples:

At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.
     "What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
     "Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"
     He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it. I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again:
     Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing.
     Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing.
     The people are blockheads!
     They stick their fingers in their ears
          so they won't have to listen;
     They screw their eyes shut
          so they won't have to look,
               so they won't have to deal with me face-to-face
                    and let me heal them.
     "But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.

     "Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn't take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person's heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
     "The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
     "The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
     "The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams." – Matthew 13:1-23 (The Message)

This passage relates to Step 11 very well in my mind, and raises three questions:

What soil describes what you started with?

What soil describes what you’re working with now?

What soil do you want going forward?

 

Vigorous soil.  About a month ago I arranged for a colleague of mine to visit Monticello Winery and get a tour from CrossWalk’s own Stephen Corley.  Even though I have been there many times, I still enjoy the tour because I learn something new each time.  My friend and his family really enjoy gardening, so they were very interested in the ins and outs of growing the vines.  Stephen dropped a word that my friend and I had not associated with gardening before: vigor.  Stephen was explaining that his brother, Kevin, who leads up the growing side of the business, tests the soil for vigor, to see if the soil has enough vigor, or energy, to allow the vine to grow and produce good fruit.  If the soil isn’t good, it’s a waste of time and money to plant.  So, assuming you want a good life that grows though all of your seasons and produces fruit for yourself and others, let’s talk about what it actually takes to reinvigorate your soil.

Steps for Reinvigorating Soil

1.       Pull any dead or dying plants from the previous season. Remove all weeds and garden debris, including fallen leaves and branches.

2.       Squeeze a handful of the soil into a tight ball to verify the soil is ready to work. Flick the ball with your fingers. If it falls apart, the soil is dry enough to work. If the ball retains its shape or only develops a slight dent, the soil is too wet and must dry for an additional time before you can revitalize it.

3.       Turn the top 6 to 8 inches of soil with a spade or hoe. Break up any large clods as you loosen the soil. Remove any old roots. Alternatively, use a power tiller to turn and loosen the soil in a large garden bed.

4.       Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic matter over the soil, using compost, aged manure or leaf mold. Turn the organic matter into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil with the spade, incorporating it completely. Work in 1 inch of organic matter for each 3 inches of soil depth you are working, so if you loosen and work the soil to a 6-inch depth, apply at least 2 inches of compost.

5.       Sprinkle 1 1/2 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer over every 50 square feet of soil. Turn the fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil so plant roots can easily absorb the nutrients after you replant. Alternatively, apply a suitable fertilizer at the correct rate for the specific plants you grow.

Things You Will Need

·       Spade or hoe

·       Power tiller (optional)

·       Compost, manure or leaf mold

·       5-10-10 granular fertilizer

Tips

Cover the bed with plastic sheeting or 2 inches of mulch if you aren't replanting right away so weeds don't invade the fertile but empty bed.

Although an existing bed doesn't require a soil test before replanting, performing a test can verify soil pH and fertility. Perform the test at least four weeks before planting and follow the test recommendations when choosing fertilizer and amendments.

You’re welcome.

Soils and Seeing.  Maintaining vigor in our soil requires intentional effort.  While our innermost being, our True Selves long for all that God has for us, our culture does not lend itself to the necessary work required to keep our soil healthy.  This makes the shift to soil maintenance not just work, but hard work, because culture is pervasive, shaping our eyes and hearts in ways we don’t recognize until we take measures that help us recognize it.  As many have noted, people don’t see things as they are, they see things as they are.  Because our prayers are shaped by what we are seeing, and what we are seeing says more about us than anything else, our prayers may at times be off base.  Rohr notes:

     At early-stage praying, there has usually been no real “renouncing” of the small and passing self (Mark 8:34), so it is not yet the infinite prayer of the Great Body of Christ, but the very finite prayer of a small “body” that is trying to win, succeed, and take control—with a little help from a Friend. God cannot directly answer such prayers, because frankly, they are usually for the wrong thing and from the wrong self, although we do not know that yet… People’s willingness to find God in their own struggle with life—and let it change them—is their deepest and truest obedience to God’s eternal will. We must admit this is what all of us do anyway, as “God comes to us disguised as our life”! Remember, always remember, that the heartfelt desire to do the will of God is, in fact, the truest will of God. At that point, God has won, and the ego has lost, and your prayer has already been answered. – Breathing Under Water, 79

This is the heart of Step 11, isn’t it?  This step isn’t interested in grocery list prayers – though not all things on the list are bad – they are often very good – but we remember that there is something that must come first in our prayerful pursuit – the heart and will of God.  The goal of prayer in its depth is to match our steps with God’s, to find ourselves walking to the beat of God’s drum, to discover ourselves continually immersed in God’s loving presence and the power it brings.  With this deeper goal in mind, we are invited to a deeper form of prayer and thus transformation. 

Understanding our Enneagram type can be instrumental in guiding us in our pursuit of creating healthy soil.  Christopher Heuertz, in his book, The Sacred Enneagram, notes, “A contemplative approach to the Enneagram invites us to resist the reductionism of inner fragmentation; to realize we aren’t as bad as our worst moments or as good as our greatest successes—but that we are far better than we can imagine and carry the potential to be far worse than we fear” (137).  A deep prayer life, then, helps us see both our greatest potential and threats – both related to our particular type.  This prayerful process is just that, a process, as Heuertz explains:

     “The pilgrimage home to God involves three phases: a construction phase of identity, followed by an earth-shattering deconstruction of who we thought we were, which finally brings us to the necessary reconstruction of something truer… Fundamentally what we are doing here is excavating our essence, our True Self, from the lies, programs, and temptations we’ve wrapped around our identity. We do this by practicing presence, by showing up with our whole self to the God who lovingly seeks to shape and restore us. Being truly present requires establishing a particular prayer posture in contemplative practice” (143).

As you may recall, there are three major centers referenced in the Enneagram: Instinctual, Heart, and Mind.  In terms of approaching contemplative prayer, each center has its own goal and need.  Those types within the Heart center (twos, threes, and fours) need to appreciate solitude, since their seeing is so often related to others.  Those within the Mind center (fives, sixes, and sevens) need to focus on silence, as they tend to constantly think their way through everything – the churning needs to be quieted.  Those in the Instinctual center (eights, nines, and ones) need to focus on stillness, since these types are constantly working to advance their cause.  Even more specifically, each type needs to approach their center-specific emphasis with a particular mindset related to their respective triad in the enneagram.  Twos, Fives, and Eights need to consent – a way of intentionally agreeing to look at acknowledge and address their particular need.  Threes, Sixes, and Nines need to engage their particular mindset as an intentional act of being present.  Ones, Fours, and Sevens need to rest in their mode of prayer as an intentional act of suspending their crusade in order to take stock.  Obviously I cannot do justice to this complexity here, but merely want to open your eyes to the reality that there is much to discover about how your type needs to inform your prayer life, your soil management, your fulfilling Step 11.

In terms of specific forms of prayer, Heuertz offers several suggestions, all of which have served countless people for centuries.  These enduring traditions of prayer include the following: Centering Prayer, The Examen, and Welcoming Prayer. Each of these can be discovered in a variety of resources, and each is nuanced in a particular way.  Working with each of these may be helpful in different seasons of life, too.  I offer a reference to these forms of prayer as an encouragement to firstly recognize that there are different forms of prayer than what you may have known.  Realize a hallmark of each of these – they all require being alone, quiet, and still.  If you are serious about deepening your relationship with God, with soil management, and with Step 11, you will not get there without engaging, consenting, or resting in some form of contemplative prayer.  Our culture does not support or encourage such a waste of time, which means you will feel a constant pressure to dismiss it.  But we’re talking about your life, here.  Perhaps its time to take the time…

 

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.  Also, look through 12Step.org for tons of helpful resources from the recovery community.

Me Free 10: Is This Overkill?

Note: We encountered technical difficulties today - no audio or video - sorry!

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

The gist of this step is to remain mindful of our attitudes and behaviors in order to stay sober, conscious, and thus more able to live into our True Selves.

Just after Jesus was baptized, The Gospel of Matthew writes that he went on a camping trip to 40 days in the wilderness.  The writer of the Gospel was not giving us a mere biographical account.  Much more than that, each Gospel attempts to paint a deeper, richer picture of the Jesus each Gospel wants to portray.  It’s not just a story about a person, but also God, the world, humanity, cosmology, eschatology – and how everything works together.  Recalling that each Gospel drew from a variety of sources, and that writers of that time did not feel pressured to conform to our love of literalism, they used all the tools in their toolbox to communicate what they wanted about Jesus. 

The temptation story of Jesus is an example of such literary freedom.  Whether or not Jesus literally experienced such a weird encounter with the personification of evil called Satan, the account remains true…

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: "Since you are God's Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread."

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth."

For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, "Since you are God's Son, jump." The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: "He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone."

Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: "Don't you dare test the Lord your God."

For the third test, the Devil took him on the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth's kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, "They're yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they're yours."

Jesus' refusal was curt: "Beat it, Satan!" He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."

The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus' needs. – Matthew 4:1-11 (The Message)

There are some pretty cool things being communicated here – we’ll beyond the literal account.  The first thing worth pointing out is the word “since”.  The prosecuting attorney, Satan, is not querying into whether or not Jesus is the Son of God.  Most translations use the word “if”, but the better, more accurate translation is “since” as Eugene Peterson’s Message translation notes. Jesus’ identity as the anointed one is assumed.  The three temptations are given to help us understand some important ethical issues all related to identity.  Since the identity has to do with being “Son of God”, then the greater focus of this account really is Godself.  Let’s see what we see.

Turn Stones into Bread.  There were some Jews who believed that the coming messiah would bring with him an abundance of food to address widespread hunger.  Thus the temptation is to create more than one loaf, but loaves of bread.  We know Jesus refuses here.  But if you’ve seen the movie (spoiler alert), you know that later in Jesus’ ministry he actually does feed the multitude in miraculous fashion.  Did Jesus cave at that point?  What’s the big deal, anyway?  There’s certainly nothing wrong with feeding hungry people.  In fact, that’s a very good, CrossWalk thing to do, right?  Right!  It is good.  But at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we are learning about what is most central to the anointing of God, and therefore, what is most central to God.  The capacity to provide endless food for people would bring tremendous political power.  Politics was not going to be the means by which God was going to usher in an alternative kingdom.  That’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?  Do you remember when Jesus fed the thousands?  He did it almost as an afterthought after he taught all day about what it means to live in the kingdom of God as a child of God.  Feeding is good, but it is secondary to keeping first things first: we feed and take our cue from God.

Base-Jumping the Temple.  Round two has Jesus being tempted to test God’s loyalty to him by taking a very theatrical risk.  A circus act, if you will, to showcase how much God cares for God’s anointed.  Once again, another spoiler…  Immediately after these temptations occur, angels do come and tend to Jesus.  And, on a number of occasions, Jesus Does give into some pretty theatrical displays proving God is truly with him.  So, what’s this about?  Once again, the issue is about what is core, what is the motive involved.  Is Jesus going to gain the allegiance through displays of power for the sake of power which lead to more displays of power, or is power not the means or the end?  Sorry to do this twice in one teaching, but, another spoiler: Jesus embraced powerlessness as the center of power.  Displays of power for its own sake was never the tone of what Jesus was about.

Pledging Allegiance.  The final temptation invites Jesus to view the whole world from a mountain top (just like Moses, which was undoubtedly noted) with the offer of gaining it all simply by bowing the knee to Satan.  Here is what is at play:

“The temptation is for Jesus to rule the kingdoms of the world—i.e., to assume the role presently played by the Roman emperor, and to do it by capitulating to the devil’s kingship. The devil’s command challenges Jesus to accept the status quo of the rebellious state of the world, to acknowledge that selfishness and practical atheism prevail, and to fit in with it.” – New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary

In other words, we are learning that God is not interested in changing the world through the means of a system that is corrupt from the word go, but through the offering of an entirely different option that can be embraced regardless of who or what political figure or system is in power.  Side note: I wonder if there is something to hear here given our current political realities, where, according to George Hunter in his book, To Change the World, conservative and progressive Christian organizations have become the useful idiots of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively, who really don’t resonate or care much about the faith tradition which is at the end of the day the same.  In fact, politics cannot be so devoted to the Way of Christ so long as being a true servant of all remains Christianity’s primary mission. 

Each temptation story gives us stuff to think about regarding God’s character, nature, and mission in the world.  Each temptation is an opportunity for Jesus to decide who he is and who he wants to remain.  He decision, again and again, is to remain first and foremost the son-child of God that he is.  The point of Step 10 is to remind us that we were given the same question: who are we and who do we desire to become?

Richard Rohr notes that there are times when we do not live out of this True Self Way of Christ:

“Whenever you do anything stupid, cruel, evil, or destructive to yourself or others, you are at that moment unconscious, and unconscious of your identity. If you were fully conscious, you would never do it. Loving people are always highly conscious people. To rely on any drug or substance [or alternative identity or personal happiness program] is to become unconscious.” 

The goal for us in this step is to live in conscious awareness.  Rohr continues, “Consciousness is not the seeing but that which sees me seeing. It is not the knower but that which knows that I am knowing. It is not the observer but that which underlies and observes me observing.” I believe Jesus mastered this kind of centered living.  He was a human being anointed by God, but had to choose to live into that anointing.  He chose to live aware, awake, consciously as a son of God.

How do we cultivate this step into our lives?  Rohr suggests the following: “Don’t judge, just look can be your motto – and now with the very eyes of God. That will awaken consciousness, and then things will usually take care of themselves, with even the least bit of honesty and change.”  When we fully embrace the reality that we are truly children of God – “since!” – we can enter the process with confidence that God will welcome us as we do, even helping us: “‘The Spirit will help you in your weakness’ (Roman’s 8:26). From this most positive and dignified position you can let go of, and easily ‘admit your wrongs.’ You’re being held so strongly and so deeply that you can stop holding onto, or defending, yourself. God forever sees and loves Christ in you; it is only we who doubt our divine identity as children of God.”

You have choices before you.  First, to believe the really Good News of Jesus that you are a child of God.  Deeply, unconditionally loved.  Second, to discover the Way of Christ which is within you, longing to be given the freedom to guide your life. Third, to become increasingly self-aware so that you can recognize when you’ve chosen the lesser way that doesn’t deliver the life God has empowered you to have.  Fourth, to truly strive to live out of and lean into your True Self, animated by the Christ within you shining through the incredibly beautiful kaleidoscope you uniquely are.  Integrating a daily practice such as The Daily Examen (below) helps us make Step 10 a normal part of our daily walk.

St. Ignatius of Loyola: The Daily Examen

1.       Prayer for enlightenment: “Help me to see and hear you more clearly, that I may respond more fully to your love and follow you more closely through the claims of your call upon my life. Help me to be aware of those times when I have been blind and deaf to your presence and to your gifts of love. Amen.”

2.       Reflective thanksgiving: “Thank you for all the ways you make yourself present to me – through nature, persons, events, situations. Thank you for accepting my love for you. O God, how great you are! Amen.”

3.       Personal examination of actions: “I really do love you, my Lord, in spite of the ways I have missed your presence and have not responded to your love and actions in my life. Help me in these moments to be conscious of the ways that I may become sensitive to your desires in all my ways. Amen.”

4.       Contrition and sorrow: “I’m sorry, God, for failing to respond to your love and for my failures. But I rejoice in your generosity and gladly receive your many gifts – and heartily eat at your table with joy and celebration. I’m not worthy of the many gifts you give me, through your constant love. Amen.”

5.       Hopeful resolution for the future: “Be with me, Lord, ever helping me to respond more authentically to your love. By your help I will see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day, and serve you from this moment on. Amen.”

 

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.  Also, look through 12Step.org for tons of helpful resources from the recovery community.

Me Free 9: Skillful Means

We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. – Step 9

Have you ever taken a trip and realized that you forgot something?  I know I have.  I’ve driven out of our neighborhood on the way to the store and quickly realized I forgot my wallet.  Time for a U-turn…  Years ago I made it to church on Sunday morning and realized I forgot my bathing suit, which mattered because I was going to baptize people that morning. So, I had to perform my priestly role in my birthday suit.  I always wondered why I never saw those people after that special day – I wonder if something scared them off? Just kidding!  Luckily, Lynne and the kids had not left yet, otherwise the teaching may have been a little skimpy (or perhaps much better – who knows?).  In the 1970’s my parents drove home from church one Sunday.  When they arrived, they realized they had left something at church – one of their four children – me!  They quickly realized it, thankfully, and came back to get me the next Tuesday after my dad finished his work.  That was content for therapy session 601…

What have you forgotten?  What did you do?  I imagine if you forgot your sunglasses and were down the road more than 15 minutes, you wouldn’t turn back.  What about if you forgot your wallet?  I bet you’d drive back an hour.  Passport? You would do whatever it takes, otherwise the trip would be lost.  In every case, the trip would be diminished to varying degrees if you didn’t bring what you needed.  Especially if it’s a trip we’ve been looking forward to – like a vacation – forgetting something could ruin a trip for ourselves or those with us on the journey.

Life is a trip.  We are not on the journey alone.  We are surrounded by people – some very close, some a world away – all on the trip together.  When we forget something on this trip, it impacts not only ourselves, but a range of others.  Sometimes our forgetfulness significantly reduces the enjoyment of other people’s trip.  Step 8 helps us come to grips with how we have messed with other people’s trip, and Step 9 calls for making direct, thoughtful, wise amends to those whose trip we’ve tainted unless doing so would bring them or others harm.  Bernard Robeson has some great practical advice on Step 9 – take a moment and watch it.

Bernard Robeson was obviously talking about Step 9 from the perspective of substance abuse like alcohol or drugs.  We have recognized in this series, however, that we are all addicted to our own way of thinking that we have crafted over the course of our lives to get through life.  The Enneagram suggests that our plan is directly tied to our type, which is directly connected to what is referred to as our Childhood Wound – something that got in the way of our deepest longings, needs, and living out from our True Self.  Depending on how developed we are regarding our True Self, to varying degrees we mess up other people’s trips pretty regularly.  All part of the human experience! 

Jesus spoke into this phenomenon as part of a bigger talk about living from a spiritually-centered life:

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)

One biblical scholar noted that the type of sacrifice offered here was not an obligatory one, but rather an offering of praise or thanks.  It’s not to be taken literally, which would not have been logistically possible.  Rather, Jesus is saying that if we’re in a good place in life and want to say as much to God, thanking God for the help, yet knowingly are a source of pain to someone else, we need to take care of it.  Why?  Because God loves them.  Why? Because they are our neighbor.  Why?  Because the most important spiritual truths were are called to live by is to love God wholeheartedly and love our neighbors as ourselves.  To not care about the person we’ve hurt is essentially an offense to God.  If you hurt one of my kids but want to give me a gift of appreciation, I don’t want your gift.  To take your gift would in some way be to dismiss what you’ve done to my kids.  You messed with their trip while you’ve been enjoying yours.  We’re not okay at that point. Our relationship is strained.  Clean up the mess you’ve made and then we’ll have a chance at relationship again. We may not realize that we have a block in our relationship with God because we’ve hurt one of God’s kids and have left a mess.  It’s not that God won’t forgive – that’s already happened. But you will fail to know God and grace along deeper lines if you fail to take this step seriously.

Bernard Robeson offered a lot of wise counsel regarding some ground rules on making amends.  If we are not careful, thoughtful and wise with this step, there is a great chance that we will blow it. Especially if we go into it without having done the hard work of empathizing with the person we have harmed we will likely minimize the pain we have caused and be generally dismissive of the other person’s feelings.  As Richard Rohr notes:

“One often needs time, discernment, and good advice from others before one knows the when, how, who, and where to apologize or make amends.  If not done skillfully, an apology can actually make the problem and the hurt worse, and the Twelve Steps were experienced enough to know that. Not everything needs to be told to everybody, all the time, and in full detail. Sometimes it only increases the hurt, the problem, and the person’s inability to forgive. This all takes wise discernment and often sought-out advice from others” (Breathing Under Water, 67).

I asked my Wednesday morning Praxis group about Step 8 and 9.  Linda Murphy had some great advice about this.  She essentially said that if we do our part of the hard work necessary to prepare for Step 9 (which is related to Step 4’s conducting a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and Step 8’s making a list of all those we have harmed), then we are ready for the next step of actually making amends to happen more naturally and organically.  So, in light of Linda’s sage advice, please make the list, please process what you did deeply, please seek wise counsel, all as precursor to the big step of actually apologizing and making amends.

Apologizing doesn’t come naturally for most people.  Our lizard brain defense mechanism fights it, our “blame the other party” politicians don’t ever own their share of the blame, and our propensity to think more highly of ourselves than we ought rules the day.  But the more we apologize, the easier it becomes.  The more we apologize, the more humble we stay.  So, for God’s sake, for the sake of others, for Pete’s sake, and for the sake of your own personal development and maturity, swallow your pride and take the appropriate step.  As was the case for Jacob seeking reconciliation with Esau, and for Jesus’ true-yet-fictional younger Prodigal Son, what you do on this note impacts more than you – it serves to shape the community around you.  What are you modeling for the world around you to see?

Step 9 Questions…

What amends have you already made? These can include apology ies already made, helpful tasks for those that you have hurt and changed attitudes or behaviors, among other things.
 

From your List of People in step 8, fill in the table on the List of Amends page. One way to do this is to fill in the names one by one in the List of Amends table as you make amends to a given person. In that way, you can record the date, what happened and so forth and then learn from that when you move on to the next amends. You might begin with those amends that are easiest and move on to the more difficult ones as you gain experience and wisdom about this step.
 

Write out any planned apologies or other planned amends in the table on the Planned Amends page.
 

Read your apologies or planned amends to a friend or sponsor and ask them if it sounds sincere or if it sounds defensive or like an attack on the other person. Record in the table on the Planned Amends page their response.
 

Role play with your sponsor or friends concerning anything you plan to say when making amends. Record on the Planned Amends page the results of this role-playing.
 

Do you feel angry or resentful towards any people on your amends list? If so, you can write them a letter of anger, but don't send it to them. You can also list in your letter ways in which you have hurt them. Describe here any other ways that you have used to get rid of anger and resentment towards anyone on your list.
 

What consequences do you fear in making amends? What is the worst thing that can happen? What is the best thing that can happen? What is likely to happen? You can record these expectations in the table in the Planned Amends page.
 

What is your experience with the first time of making amends? You can record it in the table on the List of Amends page. How did the other person respond? What have you learned from this? What would you do differently next time?
 

After making several amends, what is your overall impression? Is there anything in common? Is there anything that surprised you? Has anything disappointed you? How do you feel about the process and how has it affected you as a person?
 

What amends to you have the most difficulty making? What do you need to do to be able to make these amends?
 

How has making amends affected your relationship with others?
 

How are you dealing with the feedback from others after making amends? How are you feeling? How are you dealing with the desire to defend yourself and/or accuse the other person of what they have done wrong?
 

If you have found other people to whom you need to make amends, record this in the table in the List of People page for step 8 and then add it to the table in the List of Amends page for this step 9 and continue from there.
 

Have you had any dreams about making amends? If so, describe them in detail.
 

Describe any celebrations or activities that you plan or have done to honor the completion of your making amends (or for at least the initial stages of making amends, for often making amends can take many years or up to a lifetime).

 

 

 

 

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.  Also, look through 12Step.org for tons of helpful resources from the recovery community.

Me Free 8: Payback Time*

We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. – Step 8

In early October, Lynne and I spent a couple of days at Yosemite National Park.  It’s one of our favorite spots. It’s one of your favorite spots, too, but if you haven’t visited you don’t know it yet.  On our way out of the park on our last day, we pulled to the side of the road to take in a closer view of El Capitan, the 3,000-foot-high granite monolith.  Two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another would not reach the top.  Three and a half TransAmerica buildings wouldn’t reach the top, either.  From the ground, it appears to be a completely sheer, vertical wall of rock.  Standing beneath it is like standing in front of the ocean – you suddenly feel very, very small.  We gazed with others in awe.  Initially we didn’t see any climbers, which I thought odd for a Saturday.  We grabbed binoculars and still didn’t see anyone.  With time, however, we were able to see a flash of color against the granite.  Once we saw one, our eyes were able to see others.  We quickly were able to spot 20 or so climbers from our vantage point.  During peak season, as many as 80 will be climbing the face of El Cap.  That experience came flooding back as I began thinking about this step because I think our capacity to recognize harm we have caused others does not come into focus readily.  Rather, it takes time and intention to adjust our gaze in order to see what has been there all along.

Step 8 is not easy because we are not naturally wired to see ourselves accurately.  Over the course of my ministry I have known parents and spouses of alcoholics and drug addicts who lament over the pain they have endured from their loved one.  Heart-wrenching stuff.  I have also had the opportunity to know the offending kids and spouses, too, and was somewhat surprised to discover that they truly had no idea how much pain and suffering their addiction was causing the people who loved them.  One person many years ago told me with great sobriety, “When you’re stuck in the throes of addiction the only person you are thinking about is yourself – you are oblivious to others except whether or not they are in the way of your getting your next fix.”  Step 8 is another opportunity to hit the pause button and do some serious reflection on a painful proposition: list all the ways you knowingly harmed another.  Making amends is Step 9 – all we are asked to do at this point is to become aware.

Since we are all addicted to our own programs for happiness that lead us to hurting others in one way or another, this step is truly for everyone.  It’s interesting that we’re all pretty capable of creating an impressive list of how others have hurt us, yet may come up near empty when we try to identify the ways we’ve hurt others.  To help us along, lets learn from this recovery community video on how to think about this.

Step 8 requires a strong degree of self-awareness, doesn’t it?  Lucky for me, I am pretty self-aware.  My Bachelor’s degree was in Psychology because I wanted to understand myself and humanity as a whole better.  In early adulthood I read lots of introspection-oriented books from both sacred and secular sources.  To become a pastor you have to go through a series of courses that not only teach you about the way we humans work, but are at the same time challenged to work on ourselves as well.  Furthermore, my role has me working with people every week from teaching to leading groups to counseling and more.  All practice on understanding others and inadvertently, myself.  So, I think we can all agree that I must surely be pretty self-aware, yes?  Well, actually, for me to say that I am pretty self-aware is likely the greatest guarantee that I am not.  Research shows, for instance, that those who believe themselves to be evolved to the point of being unbiased toward people different from themselves are most likely to actually be biased (because they’re convinced they simply are not, so why worry about it?).  My hunch is that we all feel pretty evolved. And yet we must wonder if we truly are.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were among the most learned of their time.  And yet they were apparently blind to the way they were mishandling their faith and responsibilities. So much so that Jesus was remembered as locking horns with them on multiple occasions.  Once they quizzed Jesus on whether or not he knew what was the most important law in the Jewish tradition (out of the 613).  Jesus’ response? “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31 | NLT).  The religious leaders let Jesus know that he had answered correctly.  In other words, they knew the answer – they weren’t on a learning quest.  They knew the answer!  Why, then, did they not live up to it? Why were they known for being harsh and judgmental toward the people they were called to serve?  Why were they known for living lavishly while the poor among them struggled to get by?  Because they, like ourselves, believed themselves to be more self-aware than they actually were.

To prepare astronauts for their long-term visits to the International Space Station, NASA would take a group of 11 of them, drop them off in the wilderness, get them lost, then leave them on their own for three weeks.  According to some of the astronauts, learning to rely on each other for survival in this Wilderness Training Exercise taught them more about themselves and gave them the opportunity to know others on a deeper level than being in other relationships for years.  When your life depends on teamwork, teams work.  You get past pleasantries fairly soon and call people on their bullshit.  Every member learns more about who they really are from the rest of the team whether they want to or not.  The mirror is constantly before them.  CrossWalk’s own Zane Watson spent a summer hiking through the Alaskan Tundra above the arctic circle.  He told me that the team got along pretty well, relying on each other to get to the next drop point where thy could get more food and supplies.  But one team member wasn’t as committed as the rest, and the team definitely let him know.  I’m guessing intense military service has a similar affect.  So does intense humanitarian work. 

The Morning Star Company, known for it’s tomato products, takes self-awareness very seriously, as noted in their official statement on self-management:

     The Morning Star Company was built on a foundational philosophy of Self-Management. We envision an organization of self-managing professionals who initiate communication and coordination of their activities with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers and fellow industry participants, absent directives from others. For colleagues to find joy and excitement utilizing their unique talents and to weave those talents into activities which complement and strengthen fellow colleagues' activities. And for colleagues to take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for achieving our Mission.

To insure a good fit with the company, the founder of Morning Star is known to conduct 3-5 hour interviews with potential team members in their homes!  If welcomed onto the team, the company culture requires each member to become part of an ongoing assessment process whereby everyone evaluates everyone on the team regarding performance.  In that company, there is nowhere to hide.  You will become more self-aware because your team members will make you painfully aware of yourself!  Much more so than good friends, family, or intimate partners who have every reason to think highly of you and let you know it.  I wonder if the religious leaders thought so highly of themselves because they primarily took their cue from each other?  Perhaps they were all members of the mutual admiration society?  Perhaps the reason they grew so tired of Jesus was because his very person – and eventually his teaching – gave them an honest picture of themselves.

Knowing our propensity toward self-aggrandizement, Jesus did some strange things during the last supper with the disciples before he would be arrested and eventually killed within 24 hours.  First, he washed their feet, which made them intimately aware of the fact that Jesus was intimately familiar with them.  They undoubtedly squirmed as he made the rounds with the basin and towel.  Then, a bit later, he gave them a new commandment which provided further clarity on the greatest commandments:

I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

– Jesus (John 13:34 | NLT)

Left to their own imagination, the disciples would likely have found themselves in the same trap as the Jewish leaders, congratulating themselves on a job well done even if it wasn’t.  But with Jesus as the reference point, we have a model to look at to help us determine how well we are loving God with our heart, mind, and soul. And we have an example to follow regarding loving our neighbors as ourselves – and a lifetime of moments where Jesus showed what it meant to love oneself which enables us to love others.

This week, may you take some time to see what has always been before you – like climbers on El Cap.  May you find yourself being quiet enough and mindful enough to discover that there is, in fact, a list longer than you could have imagined apart from such prayerful contemplation.  As pen hits paper, as knees hit floor, may you also find yourself willing to make amends to them all.

Step 8 Questions

How have you hurt yourself by practicing your addiction?
 

What important relationships did you destroy or damage because of your addictive behaviors?
 

How much time and energy have your lost from your addictive behaviors? What do you think that you would have done or become had it not been for your addictive behaviors?
 

Make a list of those that you have possibly harmed by your addictive behaviors. List the effect on them as individuals as well as on your relationship. You can use the page for the List of People to keep track of this list.
 

Describe any dreams that you have had that relate to making amends to others.
 

How will you celebrate or how have you celebrated the finishing of step 8?
 

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.  Also, look through 12Step.org for tons of helpful resources from the recovery community.

Me Free 7: Why Do We Need To Ask?*

We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. – Step 7

The American Poster Child who liked, of course, Apple Pie.  His life began in hardship even though he was born in the United States.  He didn’t have the benefit of wealthy parents.  If he was going to make it in the world, it was going to be up to him.  At an early age he got a paper route (back in the day when practically every household subscribed to a newspaper that would be delivered daily by kids on bicycles).  When he was a little older he added a lawn mowing business to his portfolio. Nothing big – just a couple of houses each week.  He was careful with his money, having a little fun now and then but mostly saving up for a car when he turned sixteen, which he did.  He kept the paper route since it was an early morning job, kept the lawn mowing accounts which he could work into evenings or weekends, and managed to add a job at a restaurant into his schedule – all while attending high school.  Having waited tables for a couple of years, he acquired some really good people skills and landed a job in sales.  With all of his income streams flowing nicely, he was able to move out of his family’s home after high school into his own apartment.  Over time his responsibilities increased as his good sales and job reviews shined brighter and brighter. He met a girl, fell in love, and got married.  His career soared as he was moved into management where he worked his tail off to motivate his employees to greater and greater sales.  As he saw his income rise, so did his situation.  Over time he upgraded from an apartment to a starter home to eventually a large, fine home in the most desirable part of town.  His cars followed suit, from practical economic cars to luxury automobiles that signaled his success wherever he drove.  Everyone respected him.  He and his wife maintained a lasting marriage while raising their kids.  He was known as one who didn’t have any skeletons in his closet.  He practiced his religion privately, but never doubted in the existence of God and tried to be good and ethical.  Now an owner of his sales office which was running like a top without much supervision, he was encouraged to run for public office.  He won a local election and thus began his career in politics, where he consistently referred to his own life as evidence that the American Dream can come true.  His abundant wealth and excess, coupled with his squeaky-clean past made him a shoe-in for a bright future – who knows how high an office he might one day inhabit?  He was surely blessed, and thanked God for his success.

     One day one of the local officials asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?"
     Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God. You know the commandments, don't you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honor your father and mother."
     He said, "I've kept them all for as long as I can remember."
     When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."
     This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go.
     Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God's kingdom? I'd say it's easier to thread a camel through a needle's eye than get a rich person into God's kingdom."
     "Then who has any chance at all?" the others asked.
     "No chance at all," Jesus said, "if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it." – Luke 18:18-27 (The Message)

Why do we need to ask?

The Mega Pastor who loved Lemon Meringue Pie.  She was born to two loving parents who provided well for her.  She never wanted for a thing, was brought up in church where she learned the Bible from an early age.  She had memorized a great number of scriptures and had a sharp mind.  Coupled with good people skills she quickly became a young leader in the church.  Her parents encouraged her to dream big – “You can become anything you want!” was their frequent cheer.  Graduating from High School with honors and doing just as well in college, she never stopped developing her faith.  She attended small groups and a church regularly, and, as before, moved quickly into leadership, using her gifts as a speaker and leader to group whatever group she led.  Someone planted the seed in her mind one day: she should really use her knowledge and skills to be a pastor.  Sensing that perhaps God was in it, she pursued it.  Fast forward a decade: she grew her church to one of the largest in her denomination.  The crowds that came to her worship services and Bible studies paralleled the books she published from her sermon series’.  The speaking circuit where she shared her secrets of success were equally impressive – she became an expert in her field, with carefully, thoughtfully crafted words delivered from a head-to-toe presentation that personified perfection.  With great attendance comes great compensation and so she found herself living in the best neighborhood in town, driving a luxurious car that communicated to everyone she passed that God was good and she was blessed.

     Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. "Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?"
     He answered, "What's written in God's Law? How do you interpret it?"
     He said, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself."
     "Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you'll live."
     Looking for a loophole, he asked, "And just how would you define 'neighbor'?"
     Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
     "A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back.'
     "What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"
     "The one who treated him kindly," the religion scholar responded.
     Jesus said, "Go and do the same." – Luke 10:25-37 (The Message)

Richard Rohr, in his book, Breathing Under Water, in addressing why we should ask God to remove our shortcomings instead of relying on our own introspection alone noted: “Don’t dare go after your faults yourselves or you will go after the wrong thing, or more commonly a clever substitute for the real thing” (54).  These two stories from Jesus’ ministry illustrate our human capacity to become so enamored with ourselves that we cannot humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings because we are, in fact, not humble.  Asking for help from God is itself a humbling activity if we are serious about it.  Proverbs 9:10 commends to us: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Many people approach faith out of being afraid of God, and related fears of judgment can curb some foolish behavior for some. But that rendering of fear doesn’t really capture what the writer is trying to communicate.  Deep reverence is a better way to think of it, or being in awe of God.  When we are in awe, when we find ourselves in such deep reverence, we are very naturally humbled. God is not interested in humiliating us to get us to bend the knee, nor is God interested in scaring the beeswax out of either, for that subverts the love relationship that God longs for with humanity. It turns out God does have a favorite pie – humble pie.

When we are humble in this way, the way we pray changes from wish list to relationship.  Rohr notes: “We ask not to change God but to change ourselves. We pray to form a living relationship, not to get things done. Prayer is a symbiotic relationship with life and with God, a synergy which creates a result larger than the exchange itself. (That is why Jesus says all prayers are answered, which does not appear to be true according to the evidence!) God knows that we need to pray to keep the symbiotic relationship moving and growing. Prayer is not a way to try to control God, or even to get what we want. As Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel the answer to every prayer is one, the same, and the best: the Holy Spirit! (See 11:13.) God gives us power more than answers” (54).

When we allow God to do the work, we don’t find ourselves looking for a new addiction to fill the addiction (which is very common).  Rohr understands it this way: “God’s totally positive and lasting way of removing our shortcomings is to fill up the hole with something much better, more luminous, and more satisfying. Then your old shortcomings are not driven away, or pushed underground, as much as they are exposed and starved for the false program for happiness that they are. Like used scaffolding, our sins fall away from us as unneeded and unhelpful because now a new and better building has been found. This is the wondrous discovery of our True Self, and the gradual deterioration of our false and constructed self” (57).  This surely jibes with the Apostle Paul’s thoughts expressed to the church in Philippi: “Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (Phil. 4:6-7 MSG).

The good news is that we can learn to discipline our lives to incorporate space for this kind of healthy humility to develop.  Jesus taught a parable about four types of soil, where only one type allowed the seed to sprout and grow.  As we become adults we have the capacity to choose the soil we want to live in.  Choosing to build in a healthy environment is our responsibility if we want to experience the full benefits of faith, which includes the removal of our shortcomings and our development into mature people who think beyond themselves unto the whole world. Further help comes from Jesus’ model for prayer, uttered in rote fashion by countless millions in recovery meetings all over the world. Here are three version of the same prayer found in Matthew 6:

     Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (New Living Translation)

 

     Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors. And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Amplified Bible Classic Edition)

 

     Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (KJV)

Note that the prayer begins with awe, then moves to inviting God’s Way into our lives and world before going further.  The prayer assumes God’s provision as well as grace. The grace received assumes that we will be graceful in return. A commitment to trusting and following God leads to a final statement of awe – we are addressing the One who is the Kingdom, the Power, Forever.

A final story to annoy you and make you wonder why we may need God to help us both see and remove our shortcomings.  From Peter Rollins in his phenomenal book How (Not) to Speak of God:

     I remember seeing a sticker that said, ‘If Christianity was illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’ That evening I had a dream that it was true and that I was summoned before a judge. The prosecution has quite a case against me. They begin by offering the judge dozens of photographs which show me attending church meetings, speaking at religious events and participating in various prayer and worship services. Next they offer up as evidence some of the religious books that I have been reading, followed by some of my religious CDs and trinkets. After this they step up the pace and reveal to the court many of the poems, pieces of prose and journal entries that I have written about faith. Then, in closing, the prosecution twist the bloody knife that they have skillfully used by offering my Bible to the judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings and underlining throughout – evidence, if it were needed, that I have read and re-read this sacred book.

     Throughout the court case I have been sitting in fear and trembling, saturated by sweat. I know deep in my heart that, with the evidence against me, imprisonment or even death is a strong possibility. At various times throughout the proceedings I have been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this idea haunts my mind, I resist the temptation and remain focused.

     Once the prosecution has finished presenting their case, the judge proceeds to ask if I have anything to add, but I remain silent and resolute, terrified that if I open my mouth, I might be weak enough to deny the charges made against me. I am then led away while the judge ponders my case. 

     After about an hour I am summoned back to the court-room in order to hear the verdict and receive word of my punishment. The judge enters the room, stands before me, looks deep into my eyes and states, ‘Of the charges that have been brought forward I find the accused not guilty.’

     ‘Not guilty.’ My heart freezes. Then, in a split second, my fear and terror are transformed into confusion and rage. Despite myself, I stand before the judge and demand that he tell me why I am innocent of the charges, in light of all the evidence.

     ‘What evidence?’ he replies in shock.

     I start by pointing out the various poems and journal entries I have written, but he simply replies that they only show that I have a way with words.

     I then refer to the services I have spoken at, the worship meetings I have participated in and the conferences I have attended.

     But again he simply smiles and tells me that it is only evidence that I am a public speaker and a bit of an actor who pretends to be what he is not – nothing more. And then he says that such foolishness would never be enough to convict me.

     The dream ends as he looks me in the eye and says, as if informing me of a great, long-forgotten secret: ‘The court is indifferent towards your Bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such church-going artists who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist for those who would lay down that brush, and their life, in a Christlike endeavour to create such a world’ (132).

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.

 

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.

Me Free 6: The Chicken of the Egg?

We were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character. – Step 6

What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. – Apostle Paul (Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2, Verses 12-13, The Message Translation)

Let’s review.  In Step 1 we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol (or that which has held sway over us from practically day on).  Step 2 was all about believing in a God that could restore us to sanity. Step 3 focused on surrendering to that God.  The fourth step involved embracing a searching and fearless moral inventory, with the next, fifth step taking us to confess the specific nature of our wrongs with ourselves, God, and another human being.  The sixth step calls us to ready ourselves for God to remove all of our character defects.  If you see a pattern, you’re not alone.  We are back to a decision to invite God to do God’s redemptive, restoring, remodeling, reconstructing, resurrecting work.  God removes character defects (a form of healing, of saving).  And yet something is required of us that allows God to do what God alone can do: we acquiesce. Richard Rohr sees this as a which came first, the chicken or the egg, dilemma.  His answer?  Yes.

This issue of what leads to our salvation (healing, redemption, etc.) has been debated ad nauseum for, well, forever.  The most historically recognizable milestone happened, as the legend goes, on Halloween Night, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses (protests) on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church.  Protestantism was born (or at least finally recognized).  At the heart of the debate: do we gain favor with God by “clean living” or by God’s grace alone?  Luther distilled it down to “grace alone” while the Catholic Church that formed him said our works tip the balance one way or the other.  Which is it?  God’s grace alone or our effort?  Yes.  In Breathing Under Water, Rohr paints the contrast:

     The work: So the waiting, the preparing of the mind for “chance,” the softening of the heart, the deepening of expectation and desire, the “readiness” to really let go, the recognition that I really do not want to let go, the actual willingness to change is the work of weeks, months, and years of “fear and trembling…”

     The only problem is that [Luther’s grace alone] devolved into our modern private and personal “decision for Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior” vocabulary, without any real transformation of consciousness or social critique on the part of too many Christians. Faith itself became a “good work” that I could perform, and the ego was back in charge. Such a mechanical notion of salvation frequently led to all the right religious words, without much indication of self-critical or culturally critical behavior. Usually, there was little removal of most “defects of character,” and many Christians have remained thoroughly materialistic, warlike, selfish, racist, sexist, and greedy for power and money—while relying on “amazing grace” to snatch them into heaven at the end. And it probably will! But they surely did not bring much heaven onto this earth to help the rest of us, nor did they speed up their own salvation into the present. Many “born agains” have made Christianity laughable to much of the world (I can’t just pick on Catholics!). – (52)

A story from Jesus’ life came to mind as I reflected on this tension between what God does and what we do to bring about the full salvation for which we long.  It’s a rich, deep, and weird event remembered in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 14, Verses 22-33, New Living Translation):

     Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
     Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
     But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
     Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
     “Yes, come,” Jesus said.
     So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
     Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Such an interesting remembrance of Jesus, isn’t it? Work hard to appreciate the story in all of its fullness. Don’t get hung up on the historicity of the account – nobody captured the moment on their smartphone, so there is no “proof” that this actually happened, and no proof that it did not happen.  Get over your “Western Civilization Self” and enjoy what we have here, okay?  Now, some commentary…

Note that Jesus, after a full day of ministry, took time to be alone.  Do you consider yourself a Jesus follower or aspire to be?  How about making sure this rhythm of rest makes it into your schedule.  I wonder if what happened in him in the still, silent solitude played a role in his capacity to water ski without a boat (or skiis).

The disciples, meanwhile, were wiped out.  After their long day, they entered a long, perilous night at sea, a red flag night for sure.  I wonder how their weariness impacted their capacity to respond to what was about to happen?

Enter Jesus walking on water followed by disciples freaking all the way out.  “A ghost!” they thought.  Why didn’t they naturally assume that it must be Jesus? Because they didn’t attend Sunday School where they learned the story ahead of time, that’s why!  What would you think? Why on earth would you think it was a living human being?  If you’re not freaking out here, you’re not paying attention! Like so many other messengers of God, Jesus encourages them: “Fear not!” Sure…

Peter actually took Jesus seriously and asked, “if it was really Jesus, could he command him to get in on the water-walking moment?”  Eugene Peterson, in his Message translation of this account, notes that Peter was suddenly emboldened, almost as if God was in the urge to ask for such an opportunity.  Maybe so?  It’s an odd thing to ask, to try on water-walking in the middle of the night in the middle of Lake Tahoe.  What could possibly go wrong?  If any of the disciples were susceptible to speaking before thinking, it was Peter.  Perhaps God was moving in all of them to ask, but Peter’s natural tendency to speak before thinking made it a bit easier?  Rohr believes that God is involved in both sides of the dance: “God is humble and never comes if not first invited, but God will find some clever way to get invited” (53).

Jesus welcomes Peter to join him.  Peter stepped out of the boat (!), but soon after saw the strong wind and the waves and began sinking.  I find it interesting that Matthew makes note of Peter seeing the wind.  I don’t think it’s moot. Knowing the “wind” is used for “Spirit”, we have to wonder if what Peter was experiencing was a sense of the glory of God that was sustaining Jesus? (Again, just go with the story here).  In other parts of the Bible people were terrified of the presence of God.  Was it that Peter got distracted by the waves, or overwhelmed by the Presence?  I have experienced the Presence of God for sure – brushes against the Divine.  Holy Awe that leaves you breathless and more than a little shocked should be an obvious outcome.  Before we shake our finger at Peter, maybe we need to step in his water socks. He was, after all, the only one who dared to ask to join Jesus where he was, and was the only one who dared to get out of the boat.  Would you do it? Would you want to do it?  Here is an obvious but easily overlooked truth noted by author and pastor John Ortberg, who titled his book the same: If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. So obvious, so simple, and yet so difficult at times. The terror of stepping out of the security of the boat into the dark unknown is easy for any moderately reflective human being to appreciate because we’ve all faced such moments when we have been faced with the decision to do what’s comfortable or do what is counter-intuitive yet right and best.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit off of one of Japan’s islands which set off a tsunami that flooded over 200 square miles and took more than 25,000 lives. I remember watching the footage, seeing people pictured watching too close to shore only to be wiped out like bugs.  I recently heard three “get out of the boat” stories, however, that this step reminds me of.

The first story is about a school principal who, upon hearing the tsunami warning, instructed his students to do four things before he released them.  1. Run as fast as you can. 2. Run as far as you can. 3. Get as high as you can. 4. Don’t look for your family.  The first three are easy to get our brains around, and they are important.  But the fourth, counterintuitive instruction is what limited the fatalities from that school to on student.  At another school, the principal instructed everyone to go to the roof of the school – three stories high. They all perished as the water destroyed the building and all who occupied it.  The kids who “got out of the boat” were the ones who listened to and obeyed the voice that told them to go against every fiber in their being to reunite with their families before fleeing.  Because they risked on that wisdom, they were still alive to rejoin their family members who survived as well.

The second story is about another village that was in the sites of the tsunami.  Young men who owned fishing boats, upon hearing the news, were reminded of ancient wisdom that had been passed from generation to generation: “When the Wave comes, get the boat into the water with a depth of 150 meters.”  Those who followed the ancient advice even though their common sense would have them be satisfied much closer to shore survived.  Those who settle for less depth perished at sea.  The surviving fisherman on their boats looked from a distance as the wave destroyed their village.  At night, no lights glowed.  To give hope to any survivors who might be on shore, the boats turned on all of their lights, beacons declaring that they were not alone. Those who “got out of the boat” by going deep were the only ones with boats left to shine brightly and also feed the survivors.

The third story happened long after the water subsided.  A village was getting ready to rebuild.  A new mayor was appointed of the town.  He was handed the plans that were approved by the city elders and the mayor he replaced.  He was only 39 years old.  Something in him told him not to move forward with the plans to rebuild the city just as it was laid out before.  But he was so young in a culture that deeply values its elders – to speak out against the plan may be considered deeply offensive.  He couldn’t help it.  He got out of the boat and raised his concerns.  It was met with agreement, and a new plan was developed that was much wiser and forward-thinking than what they had created in the past.

God saves and Jesus walked on water.  If you want to experience the salvation of God here and now you are responsible for your part of the dance.  If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.

As Peter began sinking, he had presence of mind to call for help!  Good thing Jesus was kind – he grabbed him, enjoyed a giggle regarding Peter’s first attempt at water walking, and they both got back in the boat, at which point the wind stopped.  Hmmm.  They are back in the boat and the Spirit-wind that was sustaining them ceased.  Of course.  They are back in the boat. This wasn’t going to turn into Peter Pan – the boat wasn’t going to fly – so the need for such Presence was no longer necessary. Nonetheless, the disciples were impressed, and duly noted that they had never seen anything like this, and it sure seemed like God was surely in the mix.  Such divine attention surely moved them to declare Jesus “Son of God.”

I think we see here an example of what Step 6 is all about.  Readiness is a decision that leads to thoughtful action.  Jesus said that the way that leads away from life at its best is a highway with many people on it. He also said that the way to the life we dream of and God dreams for us and with us is more like a narrow cow-path with relatively few people on it.  I have enormous confidence in God’s immeasurable grace for us once this life is over.  God, however, gave us life to live fully right now.  The narrow path has few people on it because the Way of Christ is a “Yes! Come on out! The water’s fine!” invitation into the unknown darkness with gale force winds without a life vest.  And yet we’re beckoned to come. 

Our desire for control keeps us holding the reins of our lives even as we clearly recognize that we’re not exactly nailing it.  When we truly trust God with the reins of our lives, however, we discover more control than we had before.  We walk on water.  Of course, like Peter, we often lose focus and find ourselves sinking.  Peter relived this experience many times in various contexts.  Over time, however, he got better and better at keeping his eyes on the Wind and trusted it instead of rejecting it out of fear.  He, among others, dared greatly, which reminds me of the powerful statement of Theodore Roosevelt so often quoted:

     It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

Your life is on the line here.  I don’t want to pressure or shame you with such talk. I do, however, want to point out the urgency of the moment.  Your life matters.  You have a choice. An abundant life of meaning, purpose, deep joy, unfading hope, unshakable strength and immeasurable impact on the world for good is before you. It is life modeled after the water-walking Jesus who is out of the box and not in the boat. It is found in positively answering the never-ending invitation to “Come and join me, the water’s fine!” Because if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.

Me Free 5: Accountability IS Sustainability*

We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. – Step 5

So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you. – James 5:16

If you forgive others their sins, they are indeed forgiven. If you withhold forgiveness from one another, they are held bound. – Jesus (John 20:23)

God resists our evil and conquers it with good, or how could God ask the same of us? Think about that. God shocks and stuns us into love. God does not love us if we change, God loves us so that we can change. Only love effects true inner transformation, not duress, guilt, shunning, or social pressure. Love is not love unless it is totally free. – Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water (42)

The best way to prepare to read the following is to start with your own personal communion.  Get some grape juice or wine and some bread.  Before you read, enjoy both, reminding yourself that this is the lasting symbol of the love of God for us and with us – a meal that nods to the horrific death of Jesus, yes, but a death he chose to endure because he was not going to play by the world’s expectations.  He was about peace, not more violence, because the nature of God is restorative love, not retributive vengeance.  Enjoy your communion throughout the reading.  Go get more if you need to – a reminder that God’s grace is with us throughout our journey. Note: if you grew up in a tradition where only the ordained clergy were allowed to handle such sacraments, take the risk anyway.  If God wants to nail you on this, blame me.

“Authentic Prayer.” Jesus told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: "Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'
     "Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, 'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"
     Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." – Luke 18:9-14 (The Message)

“Throw the First Stone.” Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.
     The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
     Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.
     Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"
     "No one, Master."
     "Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin." – John 8:1-11 (The Message)

“Tears of Liberation.” One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee's house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him."
     Jesus said to him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
     "Oh? Tell me."
     "Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?"
     Simon answered, "I suppose the one who was forgiven the most."
     "That's right," said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, "Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn't quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn't it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal."
     Then he spoke to her: "I forgive your sins."
     That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: "Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!"
     He ignored them and said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." – Luke 7:36-50 (The Message)

“Graced Generosity.” Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus' feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. – John 12:1-3 (The Message)

“Justice.” Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn't see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.
When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home."
     Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, "What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?"
     Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, "Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I'm caught cheating, I pay four times the damages."
     Jesus said, "Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost." – Luke 19:1-9 (The Message)

I wanted you to be immersed in these stories after communion so that you might have a different view on steps four and five which have to do with identifying our failures and confessing them to ourselves, God, and another person.  These examples of the “afterword of accountability” display a very positive tone, don’t they?  I wonder how our attitude toward these steps might be different if we can change the way we see them from the outset.  This requires humility and maturity, of course, and challenges our more primitive notions of God as an angry judge ready to condemn us to hell.  Honestly, both views can be supported biblically – you have to do our own work to determine how you understand and interpret these ancient texts.  You have to decide which face of God you believe in most. For me, I look at Jesus as my most important reference point because he was apparently to dialed into God that the Spirit oozed out of him in everything he did and taught.  I hope you choose to see God as being the loving, restoring, hopeful One as I have.

If we ditch the idea of confession as a visit to the Principal’s office after we got caught skipping class and instead view it as a dinner where we are welcomed and unconditionally loved by our host who wants to hear about everything, we are more likely to engage these steps more often.  If it’s a long dinner with this trusted Friend, then we know they will be truly delighted in our tales of love and joy, and genuinely compassionate when we speak of our struggles, even offering encouragement and support to help us move forward.  This has been my experience.

There are some helpful tools available to help you grow the most from these steps that will lead to a more abundant experience or life for yourself and everyone you impact.  From the Enneagram stuff, pay attention to your type’s wound and stages of development – they are likely related.  Having a reference to help us see what health and unhealth look like provide a mirror for us.  Having a hint at the root cause of our pain helps us address the real underlying problem that serves to perpetuate all of the others.  The EnneApp mobile device application gives a brief description of the wound as well as broad descriptions of each type. 

The other tool I’d like to highlight is contemplative prayer using the St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer of Examen.  The idea is to spend fifteen minutes at the beginning and end of your day moving through the five modes of prayer in an effort to stay more connected to God and what God is working to develop in us.

St. Ignatius of Loyola: The Daily Examen

1.       Prayer for enlightenment: “Help me to see and hear you more clearly, that I may respond more fully to your love and follow you more closely through the claims of your call upon my life. Help me to be aware of those times when I have been blind and deaf to your presence and to your gifts of love. Amen.”

2.       Reflective thanksgiving: “Thank you for all the ways you make yourself present to me – through nature, persons, events, situations. Thank you for accepting my love for you. O God, how great you are! Amen.”

3.       Personal examination of actions: “I really do love you, my Lord, in spite of the ways I have missed your presence and have not responded to your love and actions in my life. Help me in these moments to be conscious of the ways that I may become sensitive to your desires in all my ways. Amen.”

4.       Contrition and sorrow: “I’m sorry, God, for failing to respond to your love and for my failures. But I rejoice in your generosity and gladly receive your many gifts – and heartily eat at your table with joy and celebration. I’m not worthy of the many gifts you give me, through your constant love. Amen.”

5.       Hopeful resolution for the future: “Be with me, Lord, ever helping me to respond more authentically to your love. By your help I will see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day, and serve you from this moment on. Amen.”

The power of this process is exponentially increased if you can get together with a trusted friend who will join you on the journey – an incarnation experience through the love of another.  Do communion together.  Often.  You will grow in your experience of God, of life, of meaning, of relationship if you dare.

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the EnneApp for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.

Me Free 4: A Good Lamp

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. – Step 4

But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. – James 3:14 (NLT)

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” – Jesus (Matthew 6:22-23 NLT)

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Jesus (Mathew 7:3-5 NLT)

This step has everything to do with how we see – ourselves, others, our experiences.  If our seeing is off, our perceptions and interpretations will be off as well.  Seeing ourselves with great clarity is critical if we are interested in growing more and more into our True Selves. As Jesus noted, if our eyes aren’t seeing correctly, it can severely limit our capacity to experience life in all of its fullness.

We’re pretty good at seeing other people’s junk, but as Jesus’ statement indicates, we may struggle seeing our own, larger problems.

In his book, Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr acknowledges that for some of us who may have grown up in a legalistic environment where our sin was regularly pointed out to us, this step may seem like an awful return trip to a hell we’re glad to have escaped.  So, he notes, “Shadow boxing, a ‘searching and fearless moral inventory,’ is for the sake of truth and humility and generosity of spirit, not vengeance on the self or some kind of total victory over the self.  Seeing and naming our actual faults is probably not so much a gift to us – although it is – as it is to those around us” (36).  This process is not easy – it is difficult and induces a lot of fear, actually, because we are naturally afraid of what we might find.  When Jesus said “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), he was referring to the truth of our sin, our natural capacity to mess things up.  Rohr notes that before we enjoy the freedom, the truth makes us miserable!  Why else would we avoid it?! Rohr reminds us of the goal of this step: “The goal is not the perfect avoidance of all sin, which is not possible anyway, but the struggle itself, and the encounter and wisdom that comes from it… People only come to deeper consciousness by intentional struggles with contradictions, conflicts, inconsistencies, inner confusions, and what the biblical tradition calls ‘sin’ or moral failure” (35).

In case you were wondering who needs to take Step 4, it includes you because we all have our shadowy side.  Rohr: “Your shadow self is not your evil self. It is just that part of you that you do not want to see, your unacceptable self by reason of nature, nurture, and choice. That bit of chosen blindness, or what A.A. calls denial, is what allows us to do evil and cruel things – without recognizing them as evil or cruel. So ongoing shadow boxing is absolutely necessary because we all have a well-denied shadow self. We have that which we cannot see, will not see, dare not see. It would destroy our public and personal self-image” (37).

I thought it would be fun to play along with this idea of seeing, and take a look at three scenes from Jesus’ ministry where he helped restore vision to those who were blind. The first story comes from (Mark 8:22-26 NLT):

     When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”
     The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”
     Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

I like this story for two reasons. First, it appears that this blind man wasn’t born blind, otherwise how would he know what trees looked like?  That’s helpful because perhaps he had an accident or something that had incapitated him.  To be healed meant to not just have his eyesight restored, but also his past.  The second reason I like this healing story is because the healing took two steps.  Nobody can be sure why the first spit-treatment didn’t work, but the point was that it took more than one attempt.  That’s how it is with Step 4.  We don’t see everything clearly all at once. Things come into focus over time and with effort.  This is a lifelong process, actually, of getting to see more and more clearly for the rest of our lives if we choose.  What a gift!

The second story I wanted to look at took place on the other end of ancient Israel (Mark 10:46-52 NLT):

     Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
     “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
     But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
     When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
     So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
     “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
     “My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
      And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

What I like about this story is the commitment shown on behalf of Bart.  He knew what he wanted and was willing to risk embarrassment to get it.  There were forces within him and certainly outside of him trying to dissuade him, but he stayed the course.  In our pursuit of seeing, there will be no shortage of distractions to knock us off track.  Seeing is worth the effort – persist!  As you persist, realize that God is with you to help you in the struggle.  Like Jacob struggled with God, so we struggle – but God is on our side in the struggle, not our adversary.  Our fear is our adversary, and God helps us to win that battle.

The final healing-of-blindness story is one I’ve referred to many times over my years as a pastor.  It is a story of more than just physical seeing (John 9 NLT):

     As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
     “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
     Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!
     His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”
     But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”
     They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”
     He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”
     “Where is he now?” they asked.
     “I don’t know,” he replied.
     Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”
     Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said,      “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.
     Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?”
     The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”
     The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”
     His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”
     So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”
     “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”
     “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”
     “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
     Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”
     “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”
     “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.
     When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
     The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”
     “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”
     “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.
     Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”
     Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”
     “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.

Yes, this story is a miracle story, this time featuring a man born blind – a sign of God’s judgment in the mind of the story’s original audience.  But much more than that, it is a story about a man’s growing understanding of Who is at work in the process.  First, Jesus appeared simply to be a healer.  But as he pondered as he was prodded, he then understood Jesus as one who surely had more going on – he must be a prophet!  By the end of the story he has truly had his eyes opened while the religious leaders remained blind: Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the one clearly anointed by God.  His proclamation got him kicked out of the “church” and cut off from Social Security.  But he didn’t care.  He could clearly see.  This is the work of God, as Rohr notes: “The God of the Bible is best known for transmuting and transforming our very evils into our own more perfect good. God uses our sins in our own favor! God brings us – through failure – from unconsciousness to ever-deeper consciousness and conscience. How could that not be good news for just about everybody?” (39).  Over time you will realize that God has been with you in the struggle to help you see everything more clearly for your benefit and for those you impact.  God is always about making you whole and holy.

Stuff to process…

1.       “Moral scrutiny is not to discover how good or bad I am and regain some moral high ground, but it is to begin some honest “shadow boxing” which is at the heart of all spiritual awakening.  Yes, the ‘truth will set you free’ as Jesus says (John 8:32), but first it tends to make you miserable” (35).  What part of you are you afraid to see? What are you afraid will happen if you are honest with yourself?

2.       “The goal is not the perfect avoidance of all sin, which is not possible anyway, but the struggle itself, and the encounter and wisdom that comes from it… People only come to deeper consciousness by intentional struggles with contradictions, conflicts, inconsistencies, inner confusions, and what the biblical tradition calls ‘sin’ or moral failure” (35).  When have you struggled to face the truth?  What happened?

3.       “Shadow boxing, a ‘searching and fearless moral inventory,’ is for the sake of truth and humility and generosity of spirit, not vengeance on the self or some kind of total victory over the self.  Seeing and naming our actual faults is probably not so much a gift to us – although it is – as it is to those around us” (36). Recall a time when someone criticized your behavior.  Step back from your defensive reaction and look for the truth that may lie at the heart of that criticism.  How does that help you begin and honest moral inventory?

4.       “Your shadow self is not your evil self. It is just that part of you that you do not want to see, your unacceptable self by reason of nature, nurture, and choice. That bit of chosen blindness, or what A.A. calls denial, is what allows us to do evil and cruel things – without recognizing them as evil or cruel. So ongoing shadow boxing is absolutely necessary because we all have a well-denied shadow self. We have that which we cannot see, will not see, dare not see. It would destroy our public and personal self-image” (37). Recall a time when your unwillingness to acknowledge an inner failure led you to hurt someone else.  How might you have handled the situation differently?

5.       “The game is over once we see clearly because evil succeeds only by disguising itself as good, necessary, or helpful.  No one consciously does evil. The very fact that anyone can do stupid, cruel, or destructive things shows they are at that moment unconscious and unaware.  Think about that: Evil proceeds from a lack of consciousness” (38). Think about a time when you admitted failure. How did that experience bring personal change?

6.       “The God of the Bible is best known for transmuting and transforming our very evils into our own more perfect good. God uses our sins in our own favor! God brings us – through failure – from unconsciousness to ever-deeper consciousness and conscience. How could that not be good news for just about everybody?” (39). How have you experienced God using your sins in our own favor?  Have you ever witnessed it in someone else?

7.       Most of the time we learn from experience when it comes to our personal morality.  When we blow it and it catches up to us, then we have to pay attention.  We can be proactive, however.  There are a number of things we can do that will help us envision a higher standard which may help us see where we have accepted a way that is not as healthy.  Reading resources that provide that vision helps pull us up before we fall (the Bible, helpful personal growth resources, etc.).  How have you been proactive in becoming more whole instead of waiting to find out the hard way?

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with.

Me Free 3: Sweet Surrender

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. – Step 3

Work for your salvation in fear and trembling. It is God, for his own loving purposes, who puts both the will and the action into you. – Paul, Letter to the Philippians 2:12-13

Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened. – Jesus (Matthew 7:7-8)

Naked and Afraid.  My wife gets into this weird, can’t-look-away show every so often called Naked and Afraid.  Have you seen it? I assure you that my wife is not a pervert.  The critical nudity is blurred out, which is actually a wonderful gift given the angles and settings viewers would be forced to endure!  The gist of the show is simple: A man and a woman who do not know each other get dropped off in some extreme, remote location, take off all their clothes, and try to survive for three weeks.  Each of them can bring a tool of their choosing.  It is not uncommon for one or both of the contestants to “tap out” before they hike to the pickup location.  How long before you would tap out? What would push you over the edge – mosquitos, snakes, cold, spiders, heat, fleas, hunger, wild animals, just being naked?  Would you ever say yes to such an invitation?

There is an invitation that Jesus extended many times in his ministry: Follow me.  As we continue moving into this series dovetailing the Twelve Steps and the Enneagram, this phrase came to mind as we recall Step Three: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.  Step Three was common in Jesus’ ministry, and is still prerequisite if we hope to experience life abundant and free.  Harkening back to last week, it may be helpful to remember that the invitation to follow wasn’t a once-and-done proposition, but an ongoing invitation to experience greater depths of life and faith.  Following the disciple Peter’s experience of multiple invitations gives us something to consider for our own journey.

The first invitation came near the shores of the Sea of Galilee – a Tahoe sized lake where Peter made his living as a commercial fisherman (Mark 1:16-20).  Jesus saw Peter and his brother and invited them to follow, promising that he would make them fishers of men and women.  They dropped their nets at once and followed Jesus.  Would you do that?  What would have to have happened beforehand for you to make such a decision?  For starters, the brothers had to have known something about Jesus already.  Unless there was some incredible sign from God pointing to Jesus, why would anyone entrust their lives to a total stranger?  Jesus grew up in a nearby community.  His cousin, John the Baptist, was well known for his preaching, and undoubtedly Jesus was around for a lot of it.  In other words, it is highly likely that many people were familiar with Jesus before his public ministry began, just as many people are familiar with political candidates long before they announce their bid for office.

Peter and his brother had to be at a place in life where the invitation was attractive, too.  This is the case for most people when it comes to faith – we don’t really consider it until we sense a need.  Sometimes it’s because our lives are in a particularly rough patch, and we sense that God offers hope and direction.  Sometimes people are afraid of death and the hereafter, and the promise that God offers hope is alluring.  Sometimes people are captivated by a vision of what could be if God was in charge and they can’t help but take the leap toward such hope.  My initial “adult” surrender waa motivated from the last category.  I grew up in church and knew a lot, but when I caught a glimpse of what could be, I wanted the potential future desperately.  I imagine that was largely what Peter and his brother experienced, especially since the nod to reaching people was mentioned.  Later in my life, after I tried my own way and failed, the rough patch brought me to my knees where I heard once again the same invitation.  From hopelessness I leapt for hope, from brokenness I lunged for wholeness – I found both and more.

Much later in their journey, Peter would hear the invitation again, but the circumstances were much different (Matthew 16:13-28).  Jesus gave the disciples a pop quiz with just one question: who do people say that I am?  One after another disciple got the wrong answer, and then Peter got it: You are the Messiah (anointed one), Son of the Living God.  Jesus then gave Peter a high five and let him know that his answer was more correct than he could have possibly known – that it would be the cornerstone of the entire Jesus movement. Peter was feeling pretty proud of himself for sure, and smart too, especially having aced the test.  The cat now out of the bag, Jesus proceeded to let the boys in on what was ahead for them: they were going to head into enemy territory where Jesus would be arrested, severely beaten, falsely tried and found guilty, sentenced to death, die, but then come back to life on the third day.   Peter, feeling quite smart now after the test scores came back, promptly took Jesus aside and told him he was wrong.  Oops.  Jesus retorted, “Get behind me Satan, for you have in mind the things of men and not of God.”  I’m guessing Peter wasn’t feeling quite as wise at this point?  Jesus went on to say some powerful words about losing your life if you try to hold it tight and saving your life if you lose it for God’s sake, putting the question to listeners forevermore: what does it profit a person to gain the whole world yet lose your very soul/life? Then the invitation once again: follow me!

There is a lot here.  Peter was on the wagon, feeling great about everything, but then lost himself in overconfidence, forgetting his new identity as a follower of Jesus.  Lack of perspective and humility led to poor choices that resulted in a come-to-Jesus moment.  I think this is actually pretty common.  We feel like we’ve got everything under control and we let our guard down.  With our guard down, we become increasingly vulnerable and find ourselves one step away from disaster.  This is why there is great value in recovery group meeting folks declaring themselves alcoholics – it keeps them respectful of the disease they are struggling with.  I have found it helpful to remind myself of my “happiness program” that is doomed to perpetual failure.  My obsession with equating my worth and wellbeing with my always escalating, always out-of-reach understanding of success has been a disease I’ve been fighting my entire life.

We also get a glimpse on another facet of what follow me entails: following even when to do so seems and feels counterintuitive.  The initial response by any sane person hearing what Jesus was saying would be Peter’s response.  Let’s not rip on him too quickly.  Jesus was saying he was going to drag the boys with him on his death march.  They could easily become collateral damage.  To not feel challenged by Jesus would be weird, honestly.  And that is the point.  The Way of Jesus is different than that of the culture.  They will rub.  The question at that point is, will we trust and follow or not?

The final follow me (in the Gospels, anyway – there are more invitations later for Peter throughout the remainder of his life) comes at the end of John’s Gospel (John 21:18-22).  Context: Peter denied knowing Jesus three times the night of Jesus’ arrest, which Jesus predicted would happen.  Peter felt terrible about it, no doubt.  After the resurrection, Jesus met the boys up at the lake where he reinstated Peter in a powerful scene where Jesus asked Peter three times whether or not he loved him, recalling the three denials.  After that beautiful scene, Jesus shared with Peter that his story is not going to end well.  In fact, he will likely be crucified just like Jesus.  Peter heard and understood.  Very sobering.  But then he wondered if everyone else would suffer, too, or would it be just him?  Will our levels of suffering be fairly distributed?  Jesus scolded him, telling him that the call on his life has nothing to do with the call on another’s life except that both were called to follow.  Humbled again.

We are fully capable of being like Peter here, hinting that our faithfulness in working the program may be contingent on whether or not it seems fair in comparison with others.  “I’ll suffer so long as I know everybody has to suffer.”  Like before, Peter’s allegiance came into question.  I think it does for us, too, and I think it is related to our sense of entitlement.  We live in an American Dream culture where we tell ourselves that everybody is equal, and everyone has the capacity to realize their dreams and achieve their goals.  Of course, data suggests otherwise, but let’s not be burdened with facts.  The point is we are just like Peter – we each come up with things we consider deal-breakers – I’ll follow you, Jesus, unless you ask me to

Surrender is sweet.  Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light. But not if we don’t actually surrender.  If we fail to declare our powerlessness and look to a Higher Power to lift us out of the miry clay, we will remain stuck and perhaps even more so because we know we are in our own way.  We don’t like surrender because, as Rohr notes, “surrender will always feel like dying”.  But he adds, “and yet it is the necessary path to liberation” (18).  Of course it feels like dying, and of course it is the only way forward.  Our way sucks, relatively, in comparison to the Way of Jesus into which we are invited.  To let go of our way is to let our will and way die, which is the point.  Why don’t we readily do this?

I don’t think humans in general like the idea of surrender, and I am sure Americans don’t.  Giving up is a sign of failure in our culture – that’s what losers do (we tell ourselves).  Perhaps we need a different way to think about the term.  Rohr is helpful in that regard, as he states: “Surrender is not ‘giving up’, as we tend to think, nearly as much as it is a ‘giving to’ the moment, the event, the person, and the situation’” (27).  We “give to” all the time in our lives, deferring to others’ expertise over our own.  We see a doctor and listen to the advice given even if it means getting cut open in surgery or treatment that will make us miserable for a long time.  We listen to lawyers who advise us to take actions that will cost thousands of dollars to avoid spending even more thousands of dollars.  We listen to building experts who advise us on how to address structural issues in our homes so that we can continue to live there.  We listen to counselors who give us advice on how to process things we really don’t want to process.  The list goes on and on – all of them facets of “surrender”, giving in to a moment and trusting another more than ourselves.  This is what it means when Jesus invites us to follow.  Surrendering our lives to God is the ultimate wisdom because God is the very source of life; God’s presence is everywhere and God’s wisdom is unparalleled. What are you sensing “surrender” means for you today?  What “Follow Me!” invitation is before you?

Stuff to Process…

1.       “Surrender will always feel like dying, and yet it is the necessary path to liberation” (18). What does the word surrender mean to you? What does the word conjure up in your mind and heart?  What have been your experiences with “surrender”? What is our culture’s perspective, and how might that influence your relationship with “surrender”?  What kind of death in your life would bring liberation to you?

2.       “Surrender is not ‘giving up’, as we tend to think, nearly as much as it is a ‘giving to’ the moment, the event, the person, and the situation’” (27). How does this way of thinking about “surrender” affect your relationship to the word?

3.       “How long it takes each of us to just accept – to accept what is, to accept ourselves, others, the past, our own mistakes, and the imperfection and idiosyncrasies of almost everything. It reveals our basic resistance to life, a terrible contraction at our core or… ‘our endless capacity for self-loathing’” (27). What do you find difficult to accept about yourself? About people close to you? Does our ability to accept ourselves or others change with age?

4.       “We each have our inner program for happiness, our plans by which we can be secure, esteemed, and in control, and are blissfully unaware that these cannot work for us for the long haul – without our becoming more and more control freaks ourselves. Something has to break our primary addiction, which is our own power and our false programs for happiness… What makes so much religion so innocuous… is that there has seldom been a concrete decision to turn our lives over to the care of God” (20). Have you ever had the experience of turning your life over to God? What happened?

5.       “Jesus made it step one, you might say: ‘If anyone wants to follow me, let him renounce himself [or herself]’ (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:4). Have we ever really heard that? It is clear in all of the Gospels: ‘Renounce the self!’ What could Jesus possibly mean or intend by such absolute and irresponsible language?” (29). What is your first reaction to Jesus’ words?  Spend some time working toward greater understanding and acceptance.

6.       “The common way of renouncing the self, while not really renouncing the self at all, is being sacrificial! It looks so generous and loving, and sometimes it is. But usually it is still all about me (29)… ‘Personal sacrifice’ creates the Olympics and American Idol, many heroic projects, and many wonderful people. It is just not the Gospel, but only its most common substitute… So much that is un-love and non-love, and even manipulative ‘love’, cannot be seen or addressed because it is so dang sacrificial” (30). How do you handle situations when you sense that you’re being manipulated by someone else’s “goodness”? How do you feel when someone calls your bluff for making sacrifices that only serve to make you look noble and heroic?

7.       You see, there is a love that sincerely seeks the spiritual good of others, and there is a love that is seeking superiority” (22). From your relationship with others, share an example of both ways of loving.

8.       “We can only live inside the flow of forgiveness if we have stood under the constant waterfall of needed forgiveness ourselves. Only hour-by-hour gratitude is strong enough to overcome all temptations to resentment” (34). Reflect about a time when you were forgiven for something you did.  How did that feel?  Reflect about a time when you forgave someone else. Was there any connection between the two experiences?  Could you make a connection between either one and a future experience of forgiveness?

9.       “We have been graced for a truly sweet surrender, if we can radically accept being radically accepted – for nothing! ‘Or grace would not be grace at all’! (Romans 11:6). As my father, St. Francis, put it, when the heart is pure, ‘Love responds to love alone’ and has little to do with duty, obligation, requirement, or heroic anything. It is easy to surrender when you know that nothing but Love and Mercy is on the other side” (27). How have you known unconditional love?

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with.

 

video Block
Double-click here to add a video by URL or embed code. Learn more

Me Free 2: Desperate Desiring

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. – Step 2

The God of old is still your refuge: This God has everlasting arms that can drive out the enemy before you. – The Bible, Deuteronomy 33:27 (recalling a period around 1500 BCE)

Yes, we are carrying our own death warrant with us, but it is teaching us not to rely on ourselves, but on a God whose task is to raise the dead to life. – Apostle Paul, The Bible, 2 Corinthians 1:9 (c. 54 CE)

May the God of peace make you whole and holy, may you be kept safe in body, heart, and mind, and thus ready for the presence.  God has called you and will not fail you. – Apostle Paul, The Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (51 CE)

The storm was brewing, but Dorothy had no idea what the day was going to bring for her (and her little dog, too).  Toto was supposed to act like a mature, intelligent human being but instead chose to be a dog in his interactions with a wicked witch of a neighbor who did what she had to do to put the dog down.  Too much for Dorothy, she opted to make a run for it.  She ran into a traveling conman with a big heart who discerned the familial struggle she was in.  He tapped into her love for her Aunt Em which motivated her to return to the house long before she was really ready.  Once home, the storm caught up with her and she found herself on an adventure she didn’t know she needed – all to get back home.  The Wizard of Oz was a great book and movie, not simply because of the surface-level storyline, but because it is our story, it is the human story describing the journey we all go through to get to our true home.  We discover in our respective processes that we have a lot of fears to face, and a lot of ourselves to develop.  We all have minds to develop, hearts to grow, and courage to foster along the way.  We put our hopes in the wrong things and discover in the end that home was a wish and a few clicks of the heels away from our grasp.  Sometimes, however, we get stuck in Oz.

During his ministry, Jesus taught about the endless, unconditional love of God everywhere he went.  He taught with his life, his healing, his very person how powerful the love of God is to change and sustain life abundant.  Likely on several occasions he told three parables (Luke 15) that drove the point about God’s love deeper and deeper.  The first pictures a shepherd carrying for 100 sheep.  One wandered off, and the shepherd left the 99 – a major risk – to go rescue the one that was isolated and in danger.  When he got back to camp, he called for celebration.  The second parable features a woman who lost one of her ten silver coins.  Jesus portrays her searching high and low, sweeping under the couch and throw rugs for that lost coin of significant value. When she found it, she was so happy that she threw a party!  The shepherd and the woman represent God here, who is willing to go to great lengths to find that which was lost and rejoices when the lost was found (instead of scolding the sheep or coin).  Sheep are pretty dumb, and a coin doesn’t have a brain at all, so we may be left wondering how God might treat more intentional wanderers – would the love of God be present in the same way?  Thus, the third parable. Do you know the parable of the prodigal son?  Here it is in The Message translation:

     “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
     “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
     “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
     “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
     “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
     “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
     “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
     “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Do you know this story? The focus of all three parables was the prodigious love of God who looks for those who are lost and rejoices when they are found, even if the “lost” one got lost in worst way imaginable.  This is the happy ending.  I imagine the disciples upon hearing the story the first time were sitting on the edge of their seat wondering how the story was going to play out.  Surely for the first few times they were stunned by the implications of God’s grace.  But the subsequent 100+ times they heard it – and shared it – I wonder if they were then free to examine other parts of the story, especially since they knew how it was going to end.  Like when we watch The Wizard of Oz for the gazillionth time, we don’t get too worried about whether or not Dorothy will make it home even when the hot air balloon drifts away (spoiler alert).  Because we are confident in the end of the story, we can slow down and appreciate the full story.

Rest assured in Jesus’ teaching: the nature of God is so loving and graceful that when we’re lost, God is all about us being found, restored, and healed up. When we’re found, God rejoices.  No “I told you so” scolding necessary – our lostness exacted suffering enough.  It might even help for you to read and hear these words aloud: “I will be welcomed home.”  Meditate on that for as long as you need to really allow it to become a foundation for you before we look further into the story.  It might take you a few minutes/weeks/years, but it’s worth it.

Resting in the security of a happy ending to our story, let’s embrace the sons.  The younger sons gets lots of attention for his unthinkable request (Dad, I wish you were dead) and his reckless lifestyle which landed him in a pigsty.  It was in that thoroughly non-Kosher, unclean space where he could finally hear what the Spirit of God was trying to tell him his whole life: come live at home.  This is so often the human experience, isn’t it?  We don’t really get it, we don’t wake up, until we hit rock bottom.  Until we realize we are powerless against the thing that has us, we will resist health.  When we recognize our powerlessness, however, and embrace it, a lot of things begin to open up.  Surrender is a critical step to victory, and it is a really, really hard step.  Richard Rohr writes:

     The surrender of faith does not happen in one moment but is an extended journey, a trust walk, a gradual letting go, unlearning, and handing over. No one does it on the first or even second try. Desire and longing must be significantly deepened and broadened. To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened up within us – and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body (20).

The younger brother in Jesus’ parable was “lucky” enough to find himself in a pigsty.  There was no denying that he was at the end of his rope.  People in the Twelve Step program speak of this as the “Gift Of Desperation” (G.O.D.): their lives became unmanageable and they really didn’t have much choice.  They either moved forward to live or they would soon die (or experience many faces of death until their final breath).  Are you the younger son?  Do you recognize that pigsty smell?  Can you see the mud mixed with all manner of filth that has accumulated all over your body?  Are you able to hear the squeals of the pigs?  By the way, alcoholics don’t get all the fun – you can struggle with some serious stuff and find your life a mess without ever touching a drink or a drug.  Sometimes our particular Enneagram type gives a nod to our struggle.  When we are in the extreme throes of the darkness of our despair, we are in the pigsty.  Perhaps you have been to the extremes of one or two in the following graphic:

Types and Needs Chart.jpg

If one of these describes you, then you know this story.  Are you ready to surrender?  Are you ready to believe that there is a God who can help you out of the pit and into new life?  To come home for each of you is to find your most painful wounds healed and your deepest needs met.  That’s what the Jesus Way of life offers: a life that is whole and holy.  That’s what faith is really about, as Rohr notes:

     Mere mental belief systems split people apart, whereas actual faith puts all our parts (body, heart, and head) on notice and on call, and offers us a new broadband station, with full surround sound, instead of a static-filled monotone. Honestly, it takes major surgery and much of one’s life to get head, heart, and body to put down their defenses, their false programs for happiness, and their many forms of resistance to what is right in front of them. This is the meat and the muscle of the whole conversion process (20).

As you younger brother types are hopefully marching home, let’s take a moment and consider the older sibling in this family.  As you can easily discern from the older brother’s reaction, he may have been living in his father’s house, but he was as far away from home as he could get.  If you do not relate to the younger brother’s story at all, you are not off the hook. True, we are dealing with extreme examples here – one who can no longer deny his powerlessness and one who is in complete denial – but you probably fall toward one side or the other.  The older brother type is on autopilot, unreflective and unaware of that which controls him (and has his entire life).  He is unfortunate in that he apparently has not had his heart broken until near the very end of the story.  Brokenness seems to be a prerequisite to transformation, the one step that we must get 100% right.  As Rohr states, I think your heart needs to be broken, and broken open, at least once to have a heart at all or to have a heart for others (23).  But we don’t like heartbreak, do we?  In fact, we work hard to avoid it, the very thing that keeps us real.  Because when we are honest about life – our life, Life itself – it is never “all good”.  We may be in denial, but there are times when we tip our hand and those around us realize there’s some brokenness lurking in us.

In my PraXis groups this week, we wondered aloud about how to recognize our addiction when it’s not alcohol or drugs.  What are we trying to quit?  Our Enneagram is helpful in this regard as it directs our attention to how we think about ourselves and the world around us.  I have found this question quite challenging, and yet I have found God to be quite faithful in bringing some insight.

I am a Type 3 on the Enneagram.  I have been wanting to call myself a 7 – in part because it ranked #2 and is often mistyped as 3, but also because there are parts of Type 3 that I don’t want to be true of me.  Turns out this is often a clue for what type we are – we don’t want to be that type!  Each type has it’s own tendencies and coping mechanisms.  Type 3’s are usually driven, successful, and efficient.  We usually perform well, get along well with people, and are high achievers.  And we also don’t want anybody to know about our failures and struggles because we deeply value what other people think about us.  Success is really important, and if people don’t think highly of us (we often assume it to be predicated on our achievement) or think we are unsuccessful, it kills us.  So we mask it, deny it, disguise it, and are occasionally deceptive about it.  We’re always fine even if we’re not.  We might even believe the lie we tell about how good we’re doing even if our pain is catching up with us.  Can Type 3’s become older brothers?  Absolutely!  That stupid younger brother totally blew his role costing everyone around him dearly!  What a failure!  And now we’re celebrating him?  For what?  That he somehow survived the pigsty?  It’s like celebrating Preschool, or 5th Grade, or 8th Grade Graduation – is this really a significant accomplishment?  Threes can get pretty judgmental of others’ not playing their role to their satisfaction.  When left unaddressed, threes can secretly writhe in pain as they wonder if they will ever be good enough to deserve love.  If people really knew them – especially apart from their performance – would they still love them?  This can lead Type 3’s to deep insecurity and a perpetual identity crisis as they shift their role playing as the scene dictates.  It is a miserable, pigsty kind of place to live.  But on the surface, everything looks great (because we try to look good).  And, as stated before, we may even believe it.

The amazing thing about this story is that the Father sought out his older lost son, too, and made it clear why they were celebrating: there was death, and now there is resurrection.  God is all about resurrection.  The Father also made it clear for the older son that he was invited to not just live in the house – he was invited to come home.

The story ends hanging.  We don’t know what the older brother does next.  A real cliffhanger.  A cliffhanger that we choose.

To come home means to wake up to what has held power over us for so long, to name it and something we are obviously powerless against, and look to God to save our lives.  Slowly and surely, that is what God works toward.  We actually see progress when we work with God toward it, too.  But that’s future step stuff.  For now, let’s just get out of the pigsty.  For now, let’s discover, like Dorothy, that heading home is just a few easy clicks away.

     When all of you is there, you will know.

When all of you is present, the banquet will begin (Rohr, 20).

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with.

audio Block
Double-click here to upload or link to a .mp3. Learn more