Beginning With Amends

Step 9

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,

except when to do so would injure them or others”

Happy New Year, dear reader! New Years Day is perfect for starting fresh, perfect for beginning to make our Step 9 amends.

Step 9 Meme

“Step 9 completes what I started in step 8. I make amends to those that I have harmed. I pay back debts I owe. I apologize. I write letters. I find time to do and say things that would help heal the damage that I have done. I try to bring goodness where previously I had brought discord and destruction. It takes insight, courage and dedication to make such amends, but now I have the help of my God to know what to do and how to do it. I learn to earnestly seek the right way to go about this process from my God. I start to live the kind of life that my God has meant for me to live all along.” 12Step.org (http://12step.org/the-12-steps/step-9.html)

As we think of the list we made in Step 8 and begin to ask God how to go about making amends with those we’ve harmed in our struggle to control our own out of control lives, we may begin to feel overwhelmed. We may have a mountain of amends looming before us. The enemy of our souls will attempt to heap fear, guilt, or shame on us as we prepare to contact those we’ve harmed. We do not need to accept his lies.

Although the New Year is a good place to begin with human beings, we never have to wait a whole year to start fresh with God. The Bible has great news for those of us struggling with addiction in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. It is found in Lamentations 3:22-24: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!” (NKJV)

With each new morning, God’s “mercy,” “loving-kindness,” and “tender compassions” (see the Amplified Bible) are fresh for each of us. We never have to wallow in yesteryear with God. He does not hold shame over our heads, waiting to douse us in a fresh dose whenever we mess up. God accepts our humble acknowledgement and confession of sin. He moves us forward each day with fresh mercy.

I wish I could say the same for the humans we deal with. Unfortunately, they are a mixed bag. Sometimes we will find mercy and compassion as we navigate Step 9. Sometimes we will run headlong into someone else’s unhealthy rage, retaliation, or indifference.

Claudette Wassil-Grimm says, “We need to be open to any response we get from the people we’ve injured, and be ready to accept their responses without becoming angry. We are not there to manipulate them into forgiving us. In order to have this come off smoothly, we should make every effort to purge our bad feelings toward the person or incident before we meet to speak. This will help us resist the temptation to point out to them what we felt they did to provoke us. We are only there to talk about our own behavior.The Twelve Step Journal, p. 224-225

When I took Step 9 again a few months ago, I experienced a not-so-great response from someone I reached out to. She wasn’t unkind, but her words stung like a slap in the face. It had been more than seven years since my actions had hurt her. She seemed shocked that I would reach so far back to make amends. Then she basically told me that she had forgiven me because that’s what God commands. She said she would say it to me if that’s what I needed to hear from her to make myself feel better. Ouch. Yeah, that’s what can happen when you reach out to make amends.

But you know what? It’s okay. I had deeply wronged her and I needed to let her know that I knew I had and that I am sorry. However she responded was her choice. I’m not sure I would be very gracious, either – to someone who had done to her what I had done. Sometimes we just have to move forward, doing our part and releasing all of the persons we’ve hurt, to our God, who IS merciful, gracious and understanding of why we acted how we acted in our wounded and/or addicted state.Colorful Couple

As we welcome 2015 today, let’s move into it with open hearts, open minds, and courage to make our amends. If you have any amends stories of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments section, or even email me with them at info@julietvanheerden.com. I would love to hear from you and share your stories with others.

Happy New Year!

Making A List, Checking It Twice…

Step 8

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed,

and became willing to make amends to them all”

 Today is Christmas Eve. For many of us, that means getting together with family we don’t often mingle with. Sometimes the mix creates a Molotov cocktail, with one incendiary whose mission is to pit family members against one another. (Wikipedia says these particular cocktails are “primarily intended to set targets ablaze rather than instantly destroy them.”) Perhaps you can even name that person in your family who moves from conversation to conversation setting everyone off. Perhaps you are or have been that person.

My Honey often repeats the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” When wounded families come together for the holidays, they don’t leave their hurts at home. Often the pain of mingling with abusive or intrusive family members is exacerbated by secret sins that have never been made right. With the just-right mix of people, ghosts of Christmas’ past, and often, booze, many families have a less than “holly jolly Christmas.”

If your family holidays are not Norman Rockwell worthy, and the above paragraphs ring true in any way, you are far from alone. Many people in recovery survive facing their families at holiday time. They even manage to look at these get-togethers as litmus tests of their own recovery. There’s nothing like “Uncle Joe’s” inappropriate comments that can bring the truth of where we are in our own recovery racing to the surface.

Do we react or respond? Do we get sucked into an argument, or walk away? Can we remember who we are now, not allowing ourselves to be placed into the ill-fitting boxes from yesteryear?

Or are the tables turned? Am I the one forgetting to allow another to grow out of their family straitjacket? Do I hold someone hostage with my jokes or innuendos? Are there amends I haven’t yet made or been made aware of?

One popular Santa song says:

“He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice”

Step Eight speaks of a different list, one that requires some serious introspection.FullSizeRender-1 In A Hunger For Healing, we see that, “Step Eight is a social housecleaning, just as Step Four was our personal housecleaning. In Step Eight we’re setting out to clean up all the bruised relationships and the pockets of guilt, pain, fear, resentment, and sadness that are stored inside, stuck to our shameful past deeds. For this undealt-with material blocks us from loving other people, ourselves, and God in the present.

It’s as if God were saying, “Okay, now you want me to take all of your character defects, fine. Then you can be free and serene and the person I want you to be. But first you must see that almost all your troubles involve other people. You’ve tried to control them one way or the other or fix them; you have guilty or resentful feelings about them; or you have been so preoccupied with yourself and your feelings, dreams, and plans that you have ignored them emotionally and caused them to experience some of their worst fears of being deserted. Now I want you to face what you have done and own your part in hurting each person in your life so you can move into the future I have for you unencumbered by the past and beginning to understand how not to keep repeating the mistakes of that past.”
– A Hunger for Healing, p. 135-136

The Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 8 reminds us that “The Eighth Step starts the procedure of forgiving others and possibly being forgiven by them, forgiving ourselves, and learning how to live in the world.”

As we celebrate the holidays with our families, we can remember that, although they may be far from perfect, so are we. Only with the true Spirit of Christmas in our hearts, can God restore the brokenness of our pasts and use our story to bring hope to loved ones who are still stuck in unhealthy places.

So, here’s the Christmas challenge for all of us, as we interact with others over the holidays: Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to make us aware of ourselves, and any amends we need to make. And then, let’s make our lists, check them twice, and pray for Spirit-led opportunities to follow through with Step 9.

Happy, emotionally-healthy holidays to all! And to all a good night!

 

 

Love Rescued Me

He offers a piggyback ride out of the mess I created. Shards of glass glisten on the tile as morning sunlight spills into our kitchen. I stand barefoot in the middle of broken glass, afraid to take a step in any direction.

It’s all my fault. In my usual hurry, I hadn’t taken time to thoroughly dry my hands. When I lifted a full quart-sized glass mug, it slipped from my grasp, shattering on the edge of my cast iron skillet Glass and water splashed across the stove and counter top. Larger pieces shattered again when they met the tile floor. Within seconds, it was over.

Are you okay?” Honey’s voice beats him to the doorway.

Yes.”

Don’t move. Let me get you out of here.”

He rescues me and cleans up the disaster. It takes almost an hour to restore our kitchen to its normal safe-to-walk-barefoot status. His voice and mannerisms remain calm. Not once does he scold or chide. His only concern is for my safety.

It is me who huffs and puffs on the inside. I am the one spewing and blaming myself for being a klutz.

This is the first of three broken-glass dramas within the span of a few days.

The next time, in a hurry to get out the door, I knock my Voss water bottle into the corner of a thick piece of glass that covers an antique sideboard in our entryway. The moment the sound of glass on glass hits my ears I know that I have cracked something. Closer inspection reveals it’s not the water bottle. Voss

Frustrated and disappointed, I’m quick to glance at my husband’s face for condemnation. Finding none, I continue to beat myself up about it as we head for the car. Through the maze of our neighborhood, I berate myself for being so careless. He holds my hand as always, acting as if nothing has happened.

Finally it’s Friday morning. I’m making a quick breakfast so Honey can head out to a meeting when I knock a Mason jar, filled with homemade spaghetti sauce off the refrigerator’s top shelf. “NO!” I holler as it heads for the tile. Instantly our kitchen looks like a slaughterhouse.Sauce

Lord, what is going on here? A roll of paper towels later, I’m still waiting for His answer. It comes quietly as I sit alone in the house, reflecting on my husband’s responses to my bull-in-a-china-shop ways.

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” I continue reading from the open Bible on our kitchen table. “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)

I realize that I have had false expectations of God and my husband. When I repeatedly mess up, I’m waiting for someone to shout at me, blame me, or remind me of the other times I’ve failed.

In retrospect, I’m the only one doing that. I’m the one insisting, “I made this mess I need to clean it up.” I’m the one remembering how many times I’ve already failed. I’m the one pointing spaghetti-sauce-covered fingers at myself.

During a moment of quiet introspection I ask, Why must I insist on doing something to help, even after someone who loves me has gently removed me from the danger of broken glass on bare feet? Is it a way to alleviate guilt? Why am I the only one remembering how many times I’ve already failed, when 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells me “Love keeps no record of wrongs?”

When we have suffered neglect or abuse in our past, lack of trust can haunt our present. If humans have made statements like, “You’ve made your bed, now you must lie in it,” we may subconsciously begin to believe that’s what God says, too. He doesn’t.

If we stop for a moment, like the woman caught in adultery and dragged before Jesus, and allow ourselves to look up into LOVE’s face, we will hear these precious words: “Where are your accusers?”

Sometimes we make repeated mistakes. Sometimes we break glass. Sometimes we break hearts. Whatever it is that’s broken in our lives today, we have Someone who wants to rescue us from our mess, clean it up and let it go. We can continue to beat ourselves up because we’ve made poor choices in the past, or we can move forward with a redeemed and forgiven future. The choice is ours.

I choose LOVE.

Hands Up Don’t Shoot

“The measure of your compassion lies not in your service of those on the margins, but in your willingness to see yourself in kinship with them.” Gregory Boyle

1 John 318Us and them. It happens in every stage of life.

First grade girls giggle behind tiny hands as the new girl enters the playground. How do they instinctively know that she’s somehow different? Is it her clothing? Her way of speaking? Her downcast eyes? Whatever it is, the new girl instantly becomes one of “them” while the “us” group sticks together like Legos.

Us and them. High school’s unwritten rules keep cliques from crossing over. Decade after decade, teens separate themselves into social groups – jocks and cheerleaders, punks and nerds, this gang and that one – whatever the new trends or groups. No one wants to be a “them” so every Freshman hustles to find an “us” to identify with.

Adult versions of “us” and “them” perpetuate through generations, eating the heart out of a tiny but powerful thing called unity.

I grew up in the South in the 1970’s, where train tracks separated “us” from “them” in almost every town. I cringe to recall the wall-building words that flowed so freely from the otherwise loving lips of church-going relatives. Words used to alienate “them” from “us.” Words so ingrained in our Southern culture that they came out of mouths that simultaneously proclaimed the love and grace of God.

How can God accept worship from hearts segregated by the railroad tracks of skin color, language, income or education levels? Does He really sit quietly on His throne while His children derail one another with hatred? Or does He passionately love us – one and all the same, commanding us to do likewise?

Can we truly love one another while something ugly boils beneath our churchy facades? Ferguson is just one tragedy among millions that take place daily upon our planet. The heart of God is pierced by Every. Single. One. Were we more like Him, our hearts would be pierced as well.

I wept through a deeply touching film last week. It’s the story of a Jesuit priest who moves into Latino gang territory and becomes a conduit of God’s love to effect lasting change in the lives of those who are touched by that love. Father Gregory Boyle not only says, “The measure of your compassion lies not in your service of those on the margins, but in your willingness to see yourself in kinship with them” – he lives it.

In my former life, as the wife of a crack-addicted spouse, I came face to face with my own issues with the “us” and “them” mentality. I was part of the “us” who choose not to snort, shoot up or smoke illegal substances. He rode the fence. Sometimes he was like us – clean-shaven, church going, hard working, and tax paying. When he fell off that fence, he instantly (in my mind) became a “them.”

I could not identify with the lifestyle that accompanied his binges. Nor could I accept his almost pleading statement that his druggie girlfriend was “just like us.” In my mind, she wasn’t like me at all. She was (insert any number of ungodly words that a wounded wife might use), but definitely not like me.

In the drafting of my personal memoir on addiction and redemption, I struggled with some of these thoughts as I processed the truth of God’s healing mercy and redemption of all things lost. Although at the time, the fence-rider’s words caused a scream-and-throw-things reaction, hindsight proves him right. She is just like me – a broken sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. I am no more deserving of that than she.

I can no longer sit in my high and mighty seat looking down on her, or “them.” Whether they are different from me because of genetic makeup or lifestyle choices, we are still kin. The blood of Jesus turns us all the same color. His sacrifice makes no distinction between drug addiction or food addiction. All can be forgiven and restored.

May I invite you to join me in laying down our arms (pointing fingers, judgmental thoughts, words and actions) and holding up our palms in “don’t shoot” solidarity with humanity’s masses? Will we serve the marginalized from a place of compassion because each human being is part of the human clique called “us.”

Jesus shed His blood for each one. Can we be like Him and love without condition? Can we be like our brother, Father Boyle, and see ourselves in kinship with those who differ for whatever reason?

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (KJV)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you, Father Boyle (a.k.a. G-Dog), for your example:

If you’d like to see the movie trailer, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mYEAwtdsYo

You can find his book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion here: http://www.amazon.com/Tattoos-Heart-Power-Boundless-Compassion/dp/1439153159

 

 

 

 

Jesus Became My Home

On Wednesday, I sat across the table from Misty Collett as she confessed, “I cannot live without Jesus.” When Jesus transforms a life, it shows. Misty glows. She can’t help it. Because I love sharing stories of how God redeems the things we thought were lost, I’ve asked Misty to share her story with our blog community. I pray that you are blessed. Juliet~

No matter the situation, Jesus will love you through it.

He whispers, “Trust me my dear child, and I will straighten your path. My grace abounds in you, my love comforts you and my blood covers it all.”

When I was ten, my mother shot and killed my father. I was only twelve when she died of cancer. From ten to thirty-one years old, I was a full-blown drug addicted mess. For years, I was in and out of institutions and behind bars. Most of all, I was locked up inside the hell I called myself.Church Window

In the winter of 2011, I gave my life fully to the one main love of my life today, JESUS CHRIST, but that is not all… I also gave Him the drugs, the hate, the hurt and the habits that I fought since I was a kid.

Today, I stand here IN LOVE with my savior, ON FIRE to do the work of the Lord ! Not only do I have the Holy Spirit in my ole bones, but I also have HOPE that binds up my wounds. I am living proof that the words of Jesus Christ do not come back void, they are living water my friends, LIVING WATER!

Jesus became my home when so many gave me away. He promised that if I came to Him, He would be my strength and I would not grow weary. When I saw myself as a lost, hopeless drug addicted junkie, a failure full of sin and poison – JESUS CHRIST saw me as a KING’S DAUGHTER, A VESSEL with a BLOOD COVERED TESTIMONY, A RIGHTEOUS CHILD OF THE LIVING GOD.

He is the Father to the fatherless, the one Hope to the hopeless, and when you utter, even utter the name JESUS CHRIST, situations change, chains are snapped, foundations shake!

There is only one true God. When we accept His Love, it is in that very moment that He gives us a new name. Once you invite Jesus into your heart, He will never stop pursuing you with His amazing love. He stands at the door and knocks, but I tell you the truth, if you open the door and give him a chance, your life will be made new. No demon in hell can change that. There is nothing that can compare to the LOVE of my Father in Heaven. I can guarantee you that!

Misty Headshot

My name is Misty Collett. I am 33 yrs old and I am married to a wonderful man, Preston. We have an amazing son, Payton, who is twelve years old. Misty & PaytonWe live simply and do not take one day for granted. It wasn’t always this way. My son had two addicted parents and his whole life was full of chaos.God healed our family and we now help others as God gives us the eyes to see them as He saw us….As His.

You will be deeply impacted if you take 30 minutes to watch Misty’s full testimony here: http://youtu.be/FqBSAYeEoPg

 

Broken And Restored

It’s a privilege to introduce you to my friend Bridget Edwards, who writes this week’s guest post. Bridget is a private person, so I consider it an honor that she allows us into her afternoon reverie. Many of us may have asked ourselves a similar question, “What would I do differently in hindsight?” Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t pigeonhole us in our pasts. He offers us new identities as he takes the giant eraser of His love to our life histories. Thank you, Bridget, for this honest reflection. ~Juliet~

While sitting here on my patio enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the thought ran through my mind, “If I had life to live all over again what I would do differently?” The question was followed by a flood of memories, emotions, resentments and regrets. But I quickly push the thoughts out of my head. “You cannot live life over again, that’s foolish.” Unfortunately, I have to live with my bad decisions; I have to suffer the consequences of my behavior; I have to endure the shame of my sinful choices.

Image courtesy of Winter_can_wait

Image courtesy of Winter_can_wait

You see, the devil offered me an alternative life style to that which God offered. And NOT consciously choosing it, I took it – pushing aside all the sermons I had heard, all the bible studies attended, blocking out the many family worships and ignoring all the prayers prayed on my behalf. I sought to numb the pains of life with the pleasures of sin, not realizing at the time that this behavior would only cause more pain.

You see I wasn’t sure of what I was running from or what I was running to for that matter. It was years later that I even realized I was running. But then it was too late. Sin was so deeply embedded in my life that all felt hopelessly lost. Stains of sin started to alter my appearance, my judgment, my compassion and my will.

Every time I looked at myself, all I could see was a life of sin. The results of my sinful behavior appeared in my marriage, in my children, in my work and in my play, preventing me from having a relationship with God. After looking over my life and realizing that there was no escape from the clutches of Satan, I cried out to the Lord, “I am unworthy Lord, please save me.” It was my cry of desperation, but I was not desperate enough to totally surrender to God’s leading.

You see, I struggle with surrender, I struggle with giving up total control, and I struggle with trusting another person, being, and thing. Nevertheless, my awesome God knows this about me, and in His infinite wisdom He uses kid gloves to deal with me. Nudging me ever so gently, offering me forgiveness and reminding me of His promises.

I cling to the promise found in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I breathe the promise of Hebrews 13:5, “For He Himself has said, I will never leave nor forsake you” and Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;” I pray daily “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalms 51:10-12).

I wasted many years of my life doing foolish sinful things, but because of God’s goodness, those experiences are now testimonies of how God will leave the ninety-nine to go look for, retrieve and restore the one lost sheep. I am that lost sheep, safe at home in the fold with the Father. God redeems broken lives and restores identities that we thought were lost.

Bridget Edwards is a wife, mother, friend and born leader. Upon completing her Bachelor’s Degree she was called by God to work with children instead of pursuing her passion for law. B on beachObedient to God’s call, Bridget has changed the lives of young people in and outside of the classroom. When not working with children or assisting in church she enjoys camping, bike riding and avoiding cooking. Bridget is striving to have a Christ-like character. Her motto is “In God I Trust, live and breathe”.

Ghirardelli & Geography

I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend, and this week’s guest blogger, Sheri Wall. I’ve been dishing chapters of my manuscript off to a few friends and family members for initial editing and feedback. I’m so glad her review of Chapter 15 brought this insightful truth to light! (Thank you, Sheri, for this version of how God redeems the forgiveness we thought we lost.) Enjoy! Juliet

My email inbox is usually fairly predictable: 40% savings here; BOGO now; Here’s your school newsletter; Invitation to write for my blog as a guest. Wait. What? Better inspect that one more closely. Blogging isn’t completely foreign to me. I currently compile short entries for a successful photographer. But, you only have to dig so deep to pen phrases about hairstyles and various fru-fru subjects. No one’s soul is on the line. Even though I’m honored and horrified, I told my dear friend Juliet I’d give it a go. She told me not to worry, “The Holy Spirit will tell you what to say.” She was right.

As you dear readers know, Juliet is in the process of writing part of her life story. I’ve been privileged to proofread some chapters for her. It’s a powerful memoir that will touch many lives. I already know women that are asking tough questions and grasping at straws that Juliet, as a daughter of the King, has already answered and grabbed. I cannot wait to share her pages. One of the reasons my eyes have seen her raw words is that I lived alongside Juliet during a portion of the production, if you will. Endless nights, painful phone calls, tears, knowing glances and even vomiting – I had a front row seat for a good part of the show. And yet as I reaChoc-PBd the most recent chapter, my jaw, which while reading is usually busy with a spoon covered in peanut butter and rolled in Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (it’s a bad snacking habit, don’t judge me), ever so slowly dropped. I honestly had completely forgotten that these particular events had even happened in her life. I mean, once I scanned the pages, it came back to me – a little. Some of the details were new to me, but the core of the story I should have retained.

Ugh! My head fell forward and the sadly still familiar voice began; “You are a horrible person! You should have remembered this happened to her. How can you call yourself a friend?”   Satan loves to berate me with guilt over my shortcomings toward the people I love. If I hadn’t already been eating chocolate, I would have sprung from my chair to grab some regret-soothing confections. But then Satan slipped up and said, “Who doesn’t recall such a significant, painful, even ugly time in a person’s life?” And my Lord answered, “Me”.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12 (KJV)

Boom. Seems simple enough; pretty cut-and-dry. And yet here’s another verse:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.”    Psalm 103:12 (GNB)East-West - Version 2

I’m ashamed to admit that during my high school World Geography class, I did not grasp the whole traveling east/west thing. It wasn’t until years later during a church sermon that a wonderful Texas pastor explained that there is never a finite distance between the east and the west. If you start to travel east, and keep traveling east around the world, 10 miles, 100, miles, 1000 miles – it doesn’t matter, you will never actually travel west. The same holds true if you start westward. So, our sins are infinitely being removed from us. Sins are going to keep happening and the forgetting never stops.

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25 (NIV)

The above tasty morsel was a gift from God and Google. While checking the verbiage of other Bible versions, I came across this article by Sam O’Neal, Does God Really Forget Our Sins?, showcasing the above verse that I had, umm, forgotten about. I love how the Lord says “for my own sake” in verse 25. He doesn’t “forgive and forget” just to help us feel better, he does it for Himself. Even with the ability to number stars, sort sand grains, and count hair follicles, the Lord decided he didn’t need to commit our sins to memory even though he obviously has the mental capacity to do so. Sweet!

You know what? After writing this, I’m not slouching in my seat anymore, and I don’t feel the need to reload my spoon. I am filled with gratitude and humbled that this exchange in my own mind was used to remind me, and now remind each of you, that our Maker loves us unconditionally and we should never forget the simplicity of His plan for salvation.

Sheri Wall has lived all but 6 months of her life in the great state of Texas. When she’s not Sherispinning or running to allow for more cooking and eating, she’s engaging in some type of largely masculine hobby that either her husband of 30 years, 23-year-old son, or 15 year-old-son enjoy. Sheri is also a part-time nanny, writer, and bargain hunter and is thankful for the blessings of a simple but full life.

The Bridge of Vulnerability

How deep The Father’s love for us… His timing is impeccable. He sees us. He knows what we need, even when we aren’t sure. May I share with you my most recent revelation of His love?

So, I’m simultaneously reading Daring Greatly, Brené Brown’s bestseller, subtitled, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and working Step 8 in my Twelve Step group. If you’re unfamiliar with the 8th Step, it goes like this: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” There’s a lot that is scary in “working” Step 8. It’s definitely an opportunity to prepare for the risk of being vulnerable with those who may or may not receive my attempts at amend-making or be interested reciprocation.

I’ve got my list made. I’ve asked God’s Spirit to reveal to me whether anyone else should be on it. One of the questions in my Step work this week asks, “What people have I injured by withholding response or relationship?” Ouch. Isn’t it so much easier to just remain silent? To allow years and decades to pass without responding to or engaging in relationship with someone who has crossed our life’s path and gotten injured in the crossfire of our own pain and the ways we’ve numbed it? If you’ve ever worked a 12 Step program, you know that the one who ends up injured most when “I” refuse to face truth is “myself.”

Honestly, I’m scared of Step 9. I know it’s coming. Making a list is one thing. Making “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others” is quite something else. I’m nervous about what “they” might do or say, or worse yet, what they may not do or say. I’ve tried this before, with an ex-boyfriend whom I left in a hurtful situation. He didn’t acknowledge my angst. Didn’t accept my apology. I’ve not forgotten the aftermath. But I want to.

Guess what Our Loving Father did for me? Right in the thick middle of Step 8 and reading all about how vulnerability is (according to Dr. Brené Brown) “the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences,” He gave me the opportunity to know how it feels to be on the receiving end of “making amends.” He allowed me to hold the vulnerability of another person in my hands and to recognize the truth of what Brené Brown shares in her powerful book: vulnerability is not weakness. Instead, it is “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Brené says, “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” (p. 34) After last weekend, I am in full agreement.Vulnerability

Here’s the short version of how it happened: My biological father, whom I have not seen in four years, bought me a plane ticket to come for a visit to Colorado, where he lives with his wife and two teenaged sons. My husband came, too. We had a great time hiking in the Garden of the Gods and enjoying the beauty of a crisp Colorado spring. Then the blizzard came. (I can call it a blizzard – we were visiting from Florida, where it was 92 degrees Fahrenheit when we left home.) The chill forced us to sit by the fire one evening and talk. Talking can be pretty terrifying when it’s something you and your father have spent a lifetime avoiding.

The backstory may sound all too familiar to you (or to your children): My parents separated when I was 5. Divorced by the time I was 6. By the age of 7, I had a new stepdad and lived on the opposite side of the United States from my father. We rarely saw one another for most of my life. I was in high school before I made an internal decision to be intentional about getting to know him. We tried, but it was difficult because we lived in different worlds and connecting often felt awkward.

So, here I am last weekend, freshly turned 44, sitting in my father’s living room reading Brené Brown’s book on vulnerability, when he does one of the most outrageous, courageous, vulnerable things I’ve witnessed. He starts sharing his heart. With me. I will honor his privacy by not disclosing the contents of that conversation, but it was sealed with tears of anguish for the years of regret, and a passionate apology from a father who wished he had been able to be more of a daddy to my sister and me. I was dumfounded, frozen and staring. Then moved by compassion to embrace him with love.

As I lay in bed later, reflecting on the things my father shared, I was reminded of the way they parallel so many of our God stories. We may wander through life feeling abandoned, alone, and unloved, never realizing that Our Father agonizes over us. Unaware that He loved us from the very beginning and never once stopped, no matter how far away we were. He’s spent eternity longing for relationship with us: forever allowing us the freedom to choose to be “found,” always aware that true intimacy can never be forced, even by the Creator of those He longs to be intimate with.

I thought about the fact that my relationship with my earthly father shifted when I made a conscious effort to reach out to him as a teenager. That is when the walls began to slowly come down, brick by brick. Unfortunately, many partitions remained intact…until last weekend, when, with one giant leap of vulnerability, he bravely knocked down all remaining barriers, opening a way for healing to take place. It was a rare and beautiful thing to observe. He did Step 9 without even realizing it!

Being on the recipient end of “making direct amends” revolutionized my looming Step 9 and made it seem not so scary after all. I now understand how burden-relieving it is to witness the courageous vulnerability of a person seeking to make things right. I can only pray that I will be that brave.

Our earthly fathers are important. Whatever the status of our bond, it’s a relationship that matters. Unfortunately for so many of us, the fraying of fatherhood has deeply impacted our view of God and our perception of His view of us.

My Father's Bible

My Father’s Bible

Perhaps we can learn something from my experience with my father. Maybe it will be simply this, “For God so loved___________(put your name right here) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). God longs for an eternal relationship with us. He has done everything within His power to provide for that. He has loved us from the beginning. Unconditionally. Even when we didn’t know it. The choice is ours. Do we accept His gift, or do we reject it? Will we take His ministry of reconciliation and spread it to those whom we, in our broken humanity, have injured? Will we dare to be that vulnerable…with Him and with others? I pray so. There is abundant life waiting on the other side of the bridge of vulnerability. Just ask my father.

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7fGEOH2XiY