A few years ago I had the opportunity to help oversee an addictions recovery program at our home church in Port Alberni. It was a huge privilege and learning curve all in one. Several of the staff and volunteers in the program were recovering addicts and worked the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with those entrusted to our care. And while I admired the process I never really learned very much about the 12 Steps for myself.
Fast forward a few years later and I meet someone soon after starting our work in Nanaimo who later becomes a good friend. He’s got several years of sobriety after God met him in his darkest hour and has been “working the steps” of A.A. and sharing his journey of recovery with others ever since. It’s a beautiful and powerful story … his to perhaps tell some other time.
One night over dinner with another buddy and I he starts talking about Steps 4 and 5…
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
As he shared about the thoroughness of this self-examination and the work of confessing his wrongs to another I was incredibly moved by his courage and honesty and the peace that came as a result. As one who promotes the discipline of confession in what we call ‘triads’ I was humbled at how much further and deeper this expression of confession was compared to my own. That night I said I’d like to explore this further with him…
It’s rather embarrassing to say that it’s well over a year since that initial conversation. It’s taken a long time to move from merely admiring the work of God in another through the process of walking out Steps 4 and 5 to actually practicing it. But over the last few weeks I’ve done the readings and the ‘searching and fearless moral inventory’ and I’m ready to confess every one of them to God, myself, and these two others.
But it wasn’t easy … in fact at times it was downright depressing.
I know the verses that would have prepared me for the dark discoveries – Jeremiah 17:9 for instance:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt …”
And I know the verses that assure that our sins don’t have the last word:
“… there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
But when you’re documenting each item in detail, from as far back as you can remember, and how they have hurt or dishonoured God, others and yourself, scriptures like these take on a whole new reality. Or maybe forcefulness is a better word. When I stop with only pen, paper, and a willingness to keep nothing hidden there’s no escaping the fact of how desperately wicked … and how desperately in need of a Saviour I am.
Yet as difficult and dark as some of these days of preparation have been, I’ve noticed that just completing the inventory has somehow lightened the load … and I trust that the confession of the same to others this day will continue to bring light and a renewed sense of the grace of God for me.
So if you are reading this on the Saturday morning it’s published, pray that my courage wouldn’t fade and my vulnerability would increase to match the limitless measure of God’s love and grace.