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Practicing Resurrection Step Three....Made a Decision.... E-mail

October 26, 2014

Practicing Resurrection

Step Three:  We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

"I'm not sure I can do this!" I said to my Twelve Step Sponsor.

I had more than willingly expressed my eagerness to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him -- in general terms.  Coming to this specific issue that I needed to surrender to God was another thing.

Looking back on that early, innocent eagerness, I recall now my childhood experience of inviting Jesus into my heart.  With what childlike trust I had in my parents and with my eagerness to please them and Jesus, I had no problem accepting him as my personal savior, an act that I was told would guarantee me protection from hell and a glorious entrance into heaven.

With all that I knew of myself and all that I knew of God at that nine-year-old point in my life, I gladly gave my life to Jesus.

Now, as an adult with a lifetime of struggle with my own stubborn will, I don't question that childlike trust, but I do know that I didn't have a clue on what it was to "follow Jesus" at that time except to do what I had seen my peers do before me and to do what my parents wanted me to do.

Now, sitting with my Twelve Step sponsor, I was pressed to the wall with the need to surrender what I wanted, what I thought I had to have and perhaps could not even live without, I wasn't so sure about that surrender thing.

It turns out that surrendering to God would not be a one-time event for me, either at nine or at thirty-nine nor now.   I would have many opportunities to do that, some of them more willingly than others.

Nor was surrendering my will to God turning out to make everything nice and easy for me, no matter how sincere I was.   Sometimes I had to let go of the same thing over and over, I'd learned, and sometimes I had to let go of things that were mighty precious to my ego!

"I can't do it," I said again, trying to impress on my stubborn sponsor  the impossibility of doing what was being asked of me, which was handing over to God the very thing I valued most in life.

"All you have to do is be willing to be willing," she said, quietly.

Even now, years later, the memory of the tone of her voice makes me want to weep, for in her voice I heard nothing but tenderness, compassion and her desire for me to be free.   Her words to me were pure love.

I'd chosen well when I chose my sponsor.  She was as stubborn as I was.   She was tough and then, in a moment, the greatest tenderness possible would come from the same voice that, seconds before, had held firm to the program and the next step indicated.

It was from my sponsor that I first heard the words "my self-will run riot", and nobody had to explain to me what that meant.   I felt some better when I read that the great Christian writer Oswald Chambers had struggled with his own stubborn will.

When my three daughters were young, I lamented to my mother about how strong-willed my little girls were.  She chided me by saying, "Oh, Darling, you should be glad.  They will need  strong will to do whatever they are meant to do in life."

I had a sense that my parents had supported my own strength, but it was my confrontation with my own stubborn will run riot that had me up against a wall I could not move.

Perhaps it was then that I began to learn the difference between a stubborn will and a strong one, and, even more, I was to begin to learn the difference between a self-will and a surrendered will.

Therein would lie freedom, if only I could learn the important grace of letting go and letting God take over.

This Third Step starts with making a decision.   That decision lies at the crossroads between freedom and slavery.  It is at the crossroads of admitting our lives are in chaos, shambles, disarray and even insanity because of our powerlessness over a lifestyle, an addiction to a substance, persons or an activity and admitting that there is a Power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity and the willingness to do what needs to be done to cooperate with that Power and participate with that Power to move into the state of freedom and grace for which we were made.

Track back to the origin of the word decide and you find that it means to cut, to make the cut, so no wonder some of us tremble a bit when we come up to those moments when we have to make the cut between what has been and what could be or must be.  It is no wonder that making the decision creates fear and anxiety in us!

What if I cannot keep my commitment to my decision?

What if I make the wrong decision?

What if I make this decision and I learn something new that I don't know now?

What if other people don't approve of/like/support my decision?

What if I can't live with my decision?

I suppose it's when your back is up against the wall that to make a decision can be harder than it's ever been or easier than it's ever been.

*****

About 8 weeks ago, I knew that I needed to make another important change in my life.   For too long, I had lived as a compliant or a victim, depending on the situation, to what was going on in my outer world without putting some things that were extremely important to me first in my time management and daily life.

I could have gone on forever, letting other peoples' schedules and agendas run my life, fitting in what was most important to me as I could.

While this particular decision was not especially of the importance as turning my will and my life over to God, it was something I needed to do if I was going to live out this particular part of my life in the way I knew was best for me.   It wasn't a moral or ethical decision I needed to make, but a time management decision, and it was that decision that would make the rest of my life work better.   Simply put, my decision was to break an old habit and form a new one, a new one based on putting first things first.

I didn't have a great deal of confidence in myself, but I did some research on what it takes to form new habits.    I researched on the internet about forming new habits and breaking old ones, and I read The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.  I thought and thought about how I would set myself up for success because I really, really wanted to form a habit that was really important to me, and then I discovered this "movement" called "The Hundred Day Challenge", and I knew I had found the key for myself.

I had no intentions of telling anyone what I had decided because I was so afraid I would fail and break my commitment to myself, but on the first day I went to my yoga lesson after I had made my decision, I blurted out my decision before I had even unrolled my mat.

It doesn't matter to me that what I needed to do is easy for some people.  It doesn't matter to me that I should have made this decision long ago. What mattered to me was that a part of my life was out-of-control and I knew that bringing it back in line was going to make a huge difference in my daily life.  What matters is that keeping my commitment to this 100 Day Challenge is an important piece in my recovery from codependence.

"I'm going to do yoga first thing every morning for 100 Days, " I told my teacher, and then I added, "and I am going to do my Centering Prayer right afterwards."

The words literally fell out of my mouth, and I was terrified that I had told her.

Before I could give in to the fear, however, my teacher responded with such a positive affirmation of my decision that for the first time in this process, I felt confidence that I could do what I had set out to do.

Tomorrow is Day Fifty, and I have been amazed, surprised, encouraged and deeply moved by the Power greater than myself that has come from within to help me, energize me and keep me inspired one day at a time.

What I have learned about myself in just these fifty days has amazed me, but more than anything, the help I've received just from making the decision brings me to my knees every morning with gratitude and a sense of awe.

It may seem like a little thing, but it isn't.

This decision and this process follows a lifetime of struggling with my stubborn will to do things my way and on my own timetable.

For the record, I have a list of other parts of my life that I still need to decide to turn over to God, but what I'm learning is the power of taking first things first and keeping it simple.

* * * * *

My friend, mentor, teacher and longtime guide in matters of the soul and heart Father Keith Hosey listened to an update of my life and my struggles on his annual trip to lead a retreat at the Cenacle Retreat Center, here in Houston where I live.

"Learn to say Yes sooner, " he said to me, and I looked at him with what was surely a puzzled face.

"When God is leading you, say Yes sooner," he repeated, and then he chuckled.

"You take too long to decide whether it's going to be God who leads or your own will. Say Yes sooner."

Wow!

I'm glad I decided to choose such wise teachers!

What about you?

What decisions are hardest for you to make?

Do you put off making decisions that you know would be good for you or might even save your life?   What are the reasons you give yourself for doing that?

When is a time when you made a decision that you felt was empowered by God, working within you?   What was that like?

When was a time when you made a decision that was against your best interest, against what you believed God was asking of you, out of defiance, out of fear, out of rebellion?   How did that work for you?

In your life, how are deciding, trusting and obeying connected?

What do you fear most about making the wrong decisions?

Do you fear defying God's guidance, especially when it is a guidance toward sobriety, serenity, courage and peace?

My favorite verse from Deuteronomy 30:19 in  the Old Testament is this:

I have set before you today life and death,

blessing and curse.

Therefore, choose life.

Make a list of the things you choose/decide that bring blessing and life.

Make a list of the things you choose/decide that bring curse and death.

May we all choose well -- and choose blessing and life.

Grace to you --

Jeanie

 
Practicing Resurrection 7: Step Two: Restoring My Sanity E-mail

July 14, 2014

Step Two:  We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


So, what is sanity?

And why does this step say that the Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity?

Does restoration imply that there was a time when we were sane?

Is it easier to define insanity than it is to recognize sanity?

* * * * *

The truth seems to be that our dysfunctional, disabling patterns are so much a part of our daily lives that they feel normal to us, even when we are in deep pain.

That young children will choose to return to an abusive home and even cry for the abusive mommy and daddy is a fact that makes perfect sense because we all long for homeostasis.

We all like, prefer and seek out that state of being which is familiar to us, and for some of us, chaos is familiar.

For others, drunken stupors or highs are the norms.  For workaholics, "home base" is working until you cannot go another step.  Some people don't feel "right" until they are consumed with fear.  Increasingly, rage, hate and anger are commonplace among persons, so common that those addicted to those feelings states aren't comfortable until they are whipped up into a state of anger.

I've seen a person "loose her mind" when she needs the approval of another person and cannot get it.  I've even seen persons who are addicted to being abused, used, mistreated and shamed.

I have allowed other peoples' opinions, needs, preferences, behaviors and manipulations to take up too much space in my head, so that they are running my life.

I've seen people who don't feel OK if they aren't running on fumes.  I've known people who get high on the adrenalin rush and almost can't work unless they are "flying high", pushing themselves harder and faster and longer than anyone else.  I know those who cannot stand not to have a romantic partner (or three) in their lives, and the need is so controlling that anyone will do.

Addiction to any person or persons, activities, feeling states or substances creates insanity, and for those who have lived in those states long enough, sanity is threatening.  Change itself often creates stress, but when you're sick and tired of being sick and tired of whatever is causing you pain, you'll do what it takes to restore your sanity.

"Sanity may look different for you than for me," a friend told me, and I had to agree.  Perhaps, too, chaos that is intolerable for one is tolerable for another.  Many of the words found in the Steps describe conditions that might be on a continuum, or at least they mean different things to different persons:  unmanageable, powerless, coming to believe, Power greater than ourselves, and others.

In the terminology of Carl Jung, who helped Bill W. formulate these Twelve Steps of recovery, "being in a complex", a term Jung coined to indicate being taken over by some personality characteristics that have their origins in the past, generally around a trauma.  Being in a complex is a kind of insanity.

* * * * *

So it is that I've thought a lot about what sanity is, in the context of these Steps and related to what it means to recover from an addiction.

This isn't a textbook definition, and it isn't the definitive definition of sanity, but a reflection on what sanity may be, gleaned from my experience, study and on-going recovery from codependency.

It seems to me that sanity is the answer to the Serenity Prayer.  Sanity is serenity, courage and wisdom, at work in everyday life.

Sanity is living from your own center, from the inside out, instead of being tossed about by whatever is going on in the outer world.

Sanity is peace, and it is living in the moment, fully present to what is.  It is being here and it is being here now.

Sanity is being organized around activities, processes, people and things that create health and wholeness, and not controlled by those factors that disturb, disorient, destroy or keep us attached to our addiction.

Sanity isn't the absence of conflict, either inner or outer conflict, but it is choosing to be peaceful and serene in the midst of conflict.

Sanity is being able to make healthy choices instead of being in chains to old, unhealthy patterns and choices, victimized by my own inability to choose health over sickness.

Sanity is not passivity, and it certainly isn't denial.  In fact, authentic recovery leads us to be actively involved in life, our own lives and in our relationships.

Sanity isn't about avoiding  the truth; instead, it is radical honesty about what we are feeling, thinking, wanting and doing.    That honesty may be spoken, or it may be acknowledged in the privacy of one's own inner thoughts, but self-honesty is a basic requirement of sanity.

Sanity is a state of being in which what you do matches what you say.   It is a state of inner harmony and integrity, so that what you do in your daily life reflects what is true for you.

Sanity is knowing the True Self that is at your core, and living from that source.

Sanity is being who you are and not who someone else wants you to be.   It is living authentically and in congruence with your natural temperament, gifts and values.

Sanity may or may not cause you to look like, act like, talk like and vote like your peers, but conforming and adapting to your peers isn't the point of a sane, sober and healthy life.   In fact, sanity may cause you to make your own kind of music, live your own unique life and become who you were created to be in the beginning!

Sanity is much more than this --and I am pretty sure that in recovery we are truly restored to the way we were meant to live in the first place -- free from addictions, true to ourselves and who we are intended to be, expressing our gifts and talents that are written into our being and

* * * * *

For years, a poster hung over my bathtub.   It depicted a young woman, dancing on a beach either at sunrise or sunset, with the inscription, "He restores my soul," from Psalm 23.

Over the years, I pondered that poster and thought a lot about that particular Psalm, one of my favorites from childhood.

More recently, I learned that the word for religion comes from the word religare, which means "to tie back together."

It seems that all of us need those practices, routines or rituals that will restore our souls and reconnect us to ourselves and to our Higher Power.

I've written about those spiritual practices in my book Dance Lessons:  Moving to the Beat of God's Heart.   I wrote about them because I have learned that the regular and habitual practice of particular disciplines is as necessary to my life as breath is to my physical body.

--I must have the daily practice of Centering Prayer or some other form of meditation.

--I must have regular Sabbath rest, a degree of solitude and enough silence to hear the still, small whispers of God's grace.

--It is necessary for me to have physical exercise, regular sleep and enough of it, good nutrition and plenty of hydration to keep my body healthy.

--I need to feed my mind nourishing and challenging intellectual food, and I take seriously the spiritual practice of friendship.

--Gathering with my family of faith, living fully within that community in such a way that we give support, nurture, comfort and care to each other is vital to my spiritual well-being.

--I take seriously the spiritual practice of having fun, laughing deeply and often and, when it is time to mourn, weeping for that which I've lost.   "Tears are the body's way of praying," my friend and teacher Keith Hosey told me, and I know he is right.

--In the last three years, walking the labyrinth has become a vital part of my life, my prayers and my efforts to live the Serenity Prayer.

You can't force a spiritual experience and you cannot manufacture sanity, serenity or peace, but with a consistent spiritual practice, you make yourself available for an encounter with God.

You cannot force recovery.  It seems to take longer for some of us than others, and for all of us, recovery is likely a lifetime project.

What matters seems to be a long, slow obedience in the same direction, and a ton of patience and persistence.

What about you?

What does sanity look like for you?

How do you put yourself in a position to receive restoration of your soul?

How long has it been since you have simply sat in the silence, being fully present to your breath and to the sounds of silence?

What keeps you from doing that?

What helps you stay centered?

Who gives you support to live the benefits of the Serenity Prayer?

Grace to you--

Jeanie

 
Practicing Resurrection Step Two: Coming to believe that a Power greater than myself E-mail

April 14, 2014

Practicing Resurrection.......Coming to believe in a power greater than ourselves

Step Two:  We came to believe that a Power Greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

So, what about this "Power" that is greater than myself?

And how does one come to believe in that power?

Are they talking about.....God?

I know that people in recovery groups often talk about "not-God", and I think I have an experiential understanding of just what it is to make what is not-God into a god.

Like most human beings, I know what it is like to put activities, people or substances in a position in my life that belongs only to God and wind up serving that which demands more and more of my attention, energy and finally, my life -- to my detriment.

Now and then, it is important for me to think about how much power I have given to things which are "not-God", also known as idols.

other people

other peoples' needs

other peoples' opinions

other peoples' feelings

other peoples' approval

other peoples' preferences

other peoples' bad moods

other peoples' schedules, agendas, etc.

It works like this:  Instead of consulting my own needs, wants, etc., I am more tuned in to what other people are needing or wanting, or what I think that they want or need, thereby giving other people authority over my life, which includes my choices, my feelings, my schedule.

Instead of following my own Inner Guidance System or following what I know of God,  I allow another's guidance to overtake mine, even if it means that I do something I know is wrong for me, go along with something I don't believe in or concede to a decision that is counter to my best interest.

When I do that, I'm in the throes (stranglehold, grips, iron bars) of codependency.  I'm not thinking clearly.  I'm not choosing wisely.  I am giving away my personal power, and I'm likely going to be full of resentment when I wake up out of my codependent fog and realize that "I've done that thing one more time" that I said I wasn't going to do.

 
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