This past weekend I attended an awesome women’s conference that was run by some very special ladies. The name of the conference was SHE – Becoming and these conferences are presented by Total Woman U. I’ve been to three of these events now, and they have all met me right where I was at in my journey at that particular moment.
Last year around this time was the first time I attended one of these events. I was new to my church and a lot (but not all) of the women on the faculty at Total Woman U attend my church. One of these ladies (the lovely Jenny) approached me last year and asked me if I wanted to come. Me being a great big ball of hurt said: “are you going to be telling me that my marriage problems are all my fault because I’m not submissive enough, and that I’m a rebellious woman because I work outside the home and am therefore out of God’s will for my life, and that I need to quit college and focus on being a homemaker? Because if that’s the crap you’re peddling, I ain’t coming! I’ve heard more than enough of that in my time.” Yes, I was rude. But Jenny recovered well and smiled and said that that wasn’t their message at all, their message that “you are a unique creation with a God-given identity and purpose.”
In the end I decided to attend the event mostly because I wanted to make friends so bad. But that first event was amazing and they talked a lot about writing which of course really spoke to me. Writing is my craft, my language, the thing that I was born to do and the thing I understand. That first event that I attended made me realize that there was so much more to life, and that I was writing a story with my life, and that if I was writing a story with my life, I wanted it to be a good one.
So, let’s get to the week before this year’s conference. I was struggling a lot with anger and bitterness and unforgiveness. I was on my knees begging God to take it away and telling him that I wanted it gone. I was horrible to a friend because my feelings had gotten hurt in the course of a conversation and I was afraid that she might decide she didn’t like me anymore, and I had already been dumped by almost all of my old friends because I changed beliefs. So instead of taking my friends criticism to heart and learning from it, I decided that I was going to attack before she could. After doing so, I was mad at myself for treating a friend like crap, and I felt unworthy of her friendship. So then I was afraid that I was going to lose her friendship because I deserved to lose her friendship. That just made the situation worse. The anger and bitterness I had towards others, and hurts I had about things other friends had said, festered inside of me.
I was then I realized that this situation was ridiculous and insane and that I was powerless. (Is this sounding familiar to anyone but me yet?) And finally that lead to that first step of admitting I was powerless over this situation and that my life in this area had become unmanageable. So then I came very quickly to the second step, where I came to believe that God (a power greater than myself) could restore me to sanity. Which lead to step number three where I made the decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understood him. Then I got to step four, where I had to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself and this situation, and I had to admit that the incident that hurt my feelings was nothing compared to what I had done, and I specifically listed the ways in which I had done wrong, and then I admitted to God, and to myself, and to someone else, the exact nature of my wrong. (In this case, I admitted it to the people I had sinned against). Then I got to the sixth step where I was entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character. This was a huge deal for me, until this point in time I had been guarding my bitterness like a prized possession, thinking that if I let it go, I was going to lose something valuable to me. I thought that I was going to lose a part of who I was, since all these incidents had shaped me.
The seventh step is to humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings. Well, I don’t know if it was humbly or not. I was on my face begging God to remove them. I then made a list of the people that I had wronged in this specific situation, and became willing to make amends to them. Then I got to step nine and made amends as best I could, although I could not take back my words and my actions, I could apologize. I could ask for forgiveness, which was the most humiliating of all since I was asking forgiveness from a friend who knew I had issues with unforgiveness myself. That was the hardest thing for me. I tried to justify apologizing to her without asking for her forgiveness, but in the end I just couldn’t do it.
The final three steps are ongoing; the tenth is to continue to take personal inventory and, when I am wrong, to promptly admit it. That is harder to do with some people than with others. The eleventh is to use prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, which is one that I am currently struggling to do. Step twelve is having a spiritual awakening as a result of taking the rest of the steps (and yes, it happens every time if I follow those steps) and to try to carry the message of the usefulness of these steps to personal healing to others (which is what I am doing when I write posts like this or encourage my struggling friends to come to a meeting with me and sharing how it has helped me) and to practice these principles in all of my affairs, which is why it was that I even thought to take this route in the first place.
And I just totally went off my original subject, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and so I am going to leave it like this. All of this is an important introduction to what I learned over the weekend at any rate, and it’s also a pretty good example of how to use the twelve steps as a spiritual discipline, how to use them in everyday life. These steps are not magic, and I know that it is Jesus who is the healer. But having some practical steps to follow so that I can recognize my situation and my need for God, and steps on how to repent and turn back to God, are very useful for me, and I know they can be useful for other people. It may not be the right thing for everyone, but for me it works very well, and sometimes when situations happen now, the steps start going through my head, or as it was in this case, I start working the steps without even realizing it.
In the next post I will actually take you to the conference itself. J