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!

Reflections

IMG_6772If history were a diner menu and you could order anything you wanted, what would it be? Would you ask for two days of childhood – over easy with a side of laughter? Or a short stack of teenage glory days and a shot of puppy love? Maybe you’d long for a rerun of those crazy family reunions, “hold the Uncle Joe please,” or a lunch portion of one on one time with Grandma, when she still had that uncanny ability to see right through you and love you anyway. The possibilities seem endless, kind of like the menu at Cheesecake Factory. (I’m so overwhelmed by the choices I can hardly make up my mind when we go there!) But perhaps you crave something that just isn’t on the menu. Something that has left a nameless hunger that nothing in your past can fill.

Sometimes I crave things. Then I go to the refrigerator and stand there holding the door open, staring at the stuff I eyeballed just a few minutes ago. Nothing has moved. No new items have appeared. I’m disappointed. Then I’ll check the pantry, hoping to find the thing I long for, but I don’t know what it is. Occasionally I’ll just have a bowl of cereal and the craving will subside. But in my heart of hearts, I know it’s not cereal that I really wanted.

This is happening to me now. I’m craving something. And I know that if I go into the kitchen, the same foods I saw at breakfast time will greet me. But I’m bored with those. And I’m not really hungry anyway. I’ve avoiding.

Avoidance is a great vehicle for getting nowhere. I’ve been riding it for several days now. January does this to me sometimes. I always begin the year with reflections and resolutions. I write them down. I compare them with other years. And I can become depressed because they are generally the same. Year after year my flaws appear unchanged. When will I get this right, God? What happens between January and January that keeps me from being the overcomer I long to be? So, this year I’ve managed to avoid the reflections and resolutions so far. Can you believe it’s already the 12th of January? Nor can I. Time flies when you fill your life with everything you can think of in order to avoid doing the thing you are called to do.

You see, I believe God calls me to reflect. But I resist because I feel that I’ve failed somehow. If I don’t think about it, it never happened, right? WRONG! If I don’t think about it, I’m in denial. Denial (as they say in AA) can be a very dangerous river.

Have you noticed how God’s timing is perfection? At this moment, our 12 Step group is working Step 4, which says, “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Writing that inventory is my “homework” for this month. As part of that group, as a leader, in fact, I’m expected to participate in working the program. And I even preached a whole sermon on Step 4 yesterday. (You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1Xb7NHIUC0) So why am I avoiding the writing? And what am I hungry for?

In my search for answers, I landed upon a blog post by Bob Kelleman on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website.  He says, “Reflecting on our past is our admission to ourselves and God that we can’t handle our past on our own, that we desperately need Christ.” The rest of the post, entitled “Should I Try To Forget My Past?” can be found here: http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/blogs/2011/08/22/should-i-try-to-forget-my-past/

Writing this book has been both cathartic and painful. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the distant past. These next chapters are tough ones. I know I’ve been avoiding them. Putting them off. Making excuses. But doing an inventory of 2013 shouldn’t be that hard. Things have been good. So why am I stalling? I don’t know yet. But through prayerful reflection, I will find out. I will write. And God will fill the nameless hunger, just like he always does. It will be kind of like when I discover that one last square of dark salted caramel chocolate hidden in the basket on top of our refrigerator. I will say, “Ahhhhh, that’s just what I was looking for!” And be satisfied.

p.s. If you’d like to do your own New Year reflecting by conducting a 4th step inventory, you may want to check out this website: http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/steps/4?lang=eng. I happened upon it in preparation for our group and have found it very helpful.

*Self-portrait by my very talented sister, Ami Novak. You can see more of her amazing work at http://twenty20.com/winter_can_wait