Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
I’ve been staring at this screen for about ten minutes, wondering which of the beginnings of this blog post I might use.
My thick notebook from the year I taught these important Steps to the women of my Thursday Morning Bible Study is opened to the notes from my teaching of Step Six and the questions I had prepared for this Step.
The books on this topic are on the shelf by my desk so that I can refer to them as I write, and yet I sit here stumped.
The first time I took this Step with my sponsor, I eagerly declared that indeed, I was entirely ready to have God remove all my defects of character. I was so proud to take that Step, so eager to have my defects removed and so convinced that with my taking that Step, it would all be done!
Years later, I bow before the enormity and power of the unconscious, the subtle ways of the forces that are within me, outside my conscious awareness. I surrender to the infinite ways my habits collude with the outer world, my routine, my schedule and the people who are used to my codependent ways. I admit that I want things like this to come easy; I want my willingness to be all it takes to activate the magic that moves me forward. I acknowledge that I want the quick fix, the instant relief and the full throttle forward movement.
The first time I took this Step, I was young and naive. Now, I have a lifetime of wrestling with the forces that are within me, but I also have a more sensitive and heightened awareness of how important it is to take this readiness issue one day at a time.
One day at a time, it is, and sometimes it’s an hour at a time. Sometimes it is one footstep, one breath at a time.
I come from a tradition that taught me that all I had to do to gain entrance to heaven was give a verbal assent to Jesus, asking him to come into my heart to stay. With that innocent and heartfelt child’s assent, I believed that I was saved from hell and saved for heaven, secure in the fold of those who were “saved”.
I look back on that child’s decision with great tenderness, for I believe now that I gave as much as I knew of myself to as much as I knew of God.
Later, I was to learn that salvation has a whole lot to do with wholeness and health, and that salvation was both event (the beginning point) and process, the lifelong path.
I was to learn that eternal life, as Jesus used it, had more to do with the quality of life than the quantity of life, and I was fascinated by the question of whether those condemned to hell forever also had eternal life. Those narrow, constricted and shallow understandings gave way to a fuller and more merciful understanding of the wideness of God’s grace as I grew up and grappled with both my life’s purpose, my assets and strengths, and my character defects.
Perhaps the biggest leap forward in my understanding of the complexity of those demons, my defects of character, came in the years I spent attending classes at the Jung Center, learning about the enormous power of the unconscious, and the years in depth analysis with a Jungian analyst.
To come to an intellectual understanding of those blasted complexes and the tyranny of my Nervous Nellie ego was one thing. To be in the grips of a complex, to struggle with the ego’s needs for predictability, status quo, familiarity and sameness and to face the truth about how comfortable I was in the prison chains of my own making has taken time, trouble, tears and anguish.
I so wanted my character defects to be gone and gone forever , and to acknowledge that I couldn’t just make it so by saying it so on a particular date I recorded carefully and sincerely has been one of my big learning curves.
I’m not saying that the “one time, fix all” never happens. I believe in radical transformation and dramatic conversions.
What I am saying is that for me, I work out my salvation and my recovery with fear and trembling, one day at a time, just like the Apostle Paul.
The other thing I am saying with all of the conviction and sincerity of my mind, heart and soul and with the willingness of my child’s heart that invited Jesus into my heart as a child is that regardless of the parts of me that prefer the old ways of my codependency, the conscious part of me — the adult part of me and the longing of my whole being — wants to be free of the oppression of my character defects.
I want to be free from the thoughts and behaviors that hold me back, sabotage and mess me up, and free for the joyful, spontaneous, abundant joy that is possible.
I want to be free from the old fears that still lurk in the dark and the new fears that jump up and scare me in this season of my life, and free for the rich, deep peace that helps me walk boldly and courageously into the future.
I want to be free from the constricting worries, the negative energies, the old prejudices and biases that feed my complexes, and free for the wide and expansive open heart and mind of confidence in the goodness of God.
I want to be free from the pain of old wounds, the raw places of regret and the broken relationships that I cannot ever recover or repair, and free for the love of place and person to fill my heart to overflowing.
I want to be free from the burden of my own self-will run riot and free to trust freely and completely in the guidance and good will of the infinitely gracious God whose love and mercy, forgiveness and patience are apparently as wide as east is from west.
Listen to me: I want to be free from the negative, critical voices of my childhood that told me it was a sin to dance, and free to dance not only to the beat of God’s heart, but to the beat of the music that thrills my soul and sets my feet to dancing!
I want to be freed from the role expectations of a lifetime and freed to live the one wild and precious life only I can life. Don’t you want that, too?
I do want to be freed from my character defect, and the sooner the better. But in this meantime, this time between now and when I shed my final resistance to being free, I rest in the amazing grace of the One who made me and knows how I am made.
And now, years later, I want that freedom enough to walk the walk and walk my talk one day at a time with the assurance that I am both free now and also in the process of becoming free. My on-going prayer is, “Here I am, God. Do for me what I cannot do for myself. I’m ready when you are.”
What about you?
Have you made your declaration and taken Step Six? How has it worked for you?
Did anyone introduce you to the important slogan, “One Day at a Time”? Are you able to take things that slowly?
Did you make the mistake of saying, “O.K., I’ve worked the Steps. I’m recovered. I’m running my victory lap?”
Do you know the hard truth of the pithy saying, “The higher they fly, the flatter they fall”?
Who has held your hand when you had to come back down to earth and face that same old defect, one more time? Who has been the face, the touch, the voice, the smile of God for you when you forgot humility and got all proud of yourself for getting to the Sixth Step?
Are you patient enough to work this program from now on, or do you want to get it done and move on?
Here’s the truth: Recovery takes as long as it takes.
Guess what: That is good news.
Guess what else: We have as long as we need.
Grace to you —