We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
There is nothing like being asked to admit the exact nature of your wrongs that is more likely to slam you into a confrontation with your very own God-concept and your beliefs about forgiveness, mercy and grace, all of which may be largely unconscious to you.
Believing that God is a benevolent grandfather-type who looks the other way when you do something stupid or wrong doesn’t do much for helping you take seriously the nature of your wrongs. Imaging God as a jolly old Santa Claus or a Sugar Daddy will always sabotage an authentic relationship with the Holy One.
Believing that God is a cruel judge who keeps a ledger of your sins in a big book, marking each infraction with a big, black marker can make you tremble when it comes time to face the inventory you have written. Seeing God as the county sheriff, always coming after you can prevent you from taking seriously the path to freedom and forgiveness.
How many are the ways we conjure our God-images to suit our personal philosophies of life and how many are the paths we find to run away from ourselves and from God, often repeating our lifelong scripts of self-sabotage over and over.
This Step can be terrifying, and the truth is that many people stop here.
For whatever reasons, by the time I got to this Step, I was eager for the process. I wanted to make confession; I wanted the burdens of guilt and shame off my back. Since the first four Steps had already been so beneficial, I moved into this Fifth Step with both eagerness and terror.
Since that time, I have found that facing the truth about myself and telling the truth to another human being has been so liberating that I have made these Steps part of my on-going spiritual practice. I found what my mother said was true: Confession is good for the soul.
At first, I did have to stumble over my own God-image. I had to do some thinking to separate the man behind the pulpit (my father and then my husband) and my mother from the nature and character of God. I had to work at identifying the ways I had learned to project rejecting and disapproving humans onto God. It took time to separate the condemning words I had heard as a child or adolescent from the compassionate words of God.
I had to get clear about who was not-God, and then, steeped in the biblical stories about forgiveness, mercy and grace, I a deep inner freedom began to grow in me, little by little, and it was that growing awareness of the true nature of God that made it possible for me to offer my wrong-doings, my sins of action and my bigger, deeper and more pervasive Sins that motivated me to do the things I did that caused separation between myself and God and myself and other people.
Hiding those afflictive feelings, attitudes, actions and habits caused me to do the things I didn’t want to do and prevented me from doing the things I wanted to do, but I found that it was revolutionary to come out into the light, beam the light of truth on my defects and flaws, tell the truth about my life and join the human race.
Instead of the judgment passages in the Bible, I chose to read and underline the many verses about God’s forgiveness and compassion, his grace and his mercy that are new every morning, extending as far as east is from west. Instead of focusing on Judgment Day and my fears of having God read aloud all my sins in front of my mother and the rest of humanity, I soaked my mind in Luke’s account of the Waiting Father who met his wayward son with open arms and threw a party, welcoming him home.
And then there was the day that I heard one of my heroes, Frank Pool, tell me about his mother’s words to him. “The goodness and grace of God is greater than all of the badness in the worst of us.” Coming from a man whose faith I admired deeply, those words were full of grace for me.
Next week is Ash Wednesday, and for the Christian church, the season of Lent is upon us– yes, already. In my religious tradition, we did not observe Lent, but I have embraced this season with gladness, relief, expectation and hope since my first experience with this these Steps.
This coming weekend, I am facilitating a retreat for Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, as they prepare for the Lenten season. When planning the retreat, it came to me that Lent can be seen as a call of redemptive love from God and an opportunity within the Christian church to examine ourselves to see where we are out of step with God’s love. More and more, I understand those places in me that are not yet in harmony with my True Self and with love are the very places God wants to restore my soul, heal me, forgive me and set me free to live more fully in the wider places of his unconditional love and mercy.
Instead of seeing Lent as a time to point out all of my badness, I am proposing that this call to Love is an opportunity to identify the places in our lives where Love is blocked or thwarted, allowing the healing balm of God’s great love for us to flow in us, for us and through us, transforming, liberating and empowering us to live more fully in a state of grace.
About that hiding my character defects from God? How silly is that? If there is nowhere I can go where God is not –if God knows my thoughts before they are conscious to me — it seems to me it’s time for me to stop hiding from myself and come clean to God one day at a time.
I think God knows, anyway — and that is a very good thing.
What about you?
Is it fear of God that keeps you from taking this Fifth Step?
Or, do you take God seriously enough to see the importance of admitting your sins and your Sins to him?
If you are resisting admitting your wrong-doings to God, what excuses are you using?
What does your resistance reveal about your God-concept?
Do you really believe — do you trust — that this Step that has proven to be life-changing for countless others might also be beneficial and perhaps even life-saving for you? — Even you???
My life experience is that the longer I avoid coming clean, the harder it gets, and the truth is that what I resist really does persist.
It’s just so much easier to say Yes to God’s love sooner.
And it’s so true that the hard way is the easy way.
Just do it. Dare to fall into the compassion of God…..
Grace to you —