Working the Twelve Steps … Again

Al-Anon saved me. Time and time again – I have stumbled, with little strength left, into a meeting to find someone’s experience, strength, and hope giving me what I needed to keep going. That’s the beautiful mystery of recovery – it’s about me and it’s not about me, it’s about us.

I have found myself – as a fairly new minister – in need of working the steps again.

I worked them once before, with a kickass sponsor, when I first ran to Al-Anon on August 12, 2003. She and I worked through the book Paths to Recovery over the course of about 11 months. That story is for another day. Needless to say, I am familiar with what it takes to work the twelve steps.

Two weeks ago, wrapped up in all kinds of negative emotions and thoughts, I cried out the 11th step prayer to my Higher Power (whom I choose to call God but not “him”). The answer came back crystal clear – work a step per week with “church’ as what I am powerless over. Write about it each day.

That’s a powderkeg – as I have a passionate love/hate relationship with the Church. If not for being a pastor’s spouse and now a pastor myself, I would have walked away from institutionalized Christianity. And yet – the Church (well, one particular church) held me through the first 4 years of recovering from my abusive ex.

It’s complicated.

When I say “Church,” I am referring to the broad expanse of my lived experience in multiple congregations in multiple states and a few denominations. Occasionally, I will consider the global Church as well – making note and distinction between the two. Never will I name or otherwise locate a particular group – keeping with Al-Anon’s practice of anonymity.

This 12 week practice of working the steps isn’t about dragging the Church through the mud. It’s about me working on me – cleaning my side of the street, growing spiritually, and owning my part of the mess.

So – when I hear my Higher Power say “do this,” and I have prayed for the knowledge of what I am to do next and the power to do it – I might not like it, but I will surrender. For in surrender of my weakness, God’s power enables me to do what I cannot always do for myself as a recovering person – see clearly what is mine to change and what is not.

Today – I say yes to working the twelve steps through the lens of my relationship with the Church. Tomorrow, I begin the work.

May it be so.

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