My friend, Jim, often refers to being in a Christ-based 12-step recovery program as more a journey of basic “Spiritual Formation” than of a single act of miraculous healing from broken living. I like this point of view, because I think it definitely offers something for everyone – even those who don’t have (or admit to) hurts, habits, and hangups.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT
For myself, the growth I’ve experienced is both: While the big picture is a life completely transformed, the day-by-day process is an on-going baby-step-by-step migration from chaos to order.
The spiritual piece is, of course, divine. The formational part is simply learning and accepting what has heretofore been unknown or stubbornly unacceptable. Together, a divine paradigm shift. Actually, it’s one awesome adjustment after another, each of which is increasingly inspiring and amazing. Who’d have thunk it?!
Let me share some examples:
One of the first changes in attitude I received was regarding “P.T.” which can stand for ‘Present Tense’, ‘Positive Thinking’, and, later in my recovery from health issues, literally ‘Physical Therapy’. It began when I committed myself to stating, “I am” instead of “I was” or “I want to.” Keeping my plans present and positive made me more able (and likely) to carry them out.
Next, an absolutely huge revelation: acceptance. First, in my acknowledgement of God, the Great “I am“, and then in finding (being given?) the ability to embrace life – my own and the world’s, exactly as it is. This is what allows me to say, “I am a grateful child of God, in recovery, healing, and transformation from ____ (what I was).”
I am what I do today, not what I did in the past.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
Grant me the ability to accept the things I can not change…
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it…
The Serenity Prayer
Only when I was able to face the whole of “what is” was I able to identify what I could change, and then gain the courage to change it.
Grant me… the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference…
Then, there was The Law. At first, I focused on what I should not do, but, as I’ve said before, “Thinking about not thinking about something is, in effect, the same as thinking about it.”
Instead, I needed guidelines that directed me toward what to do.
Don’t Think, Don’t Look, Don’t Touch
All thoughts to praise
On Christ to Gaze
With hands a-raised
Heart and mind amazed (an added bonus!)
Now I was getting somewhere! I’ve heard that to be in recovery is to be in the process of letting my sinful urgings die from neglect, which doesn’t mean I won’t be tempted. I pass the test by not giving into temptation and by not dwelling on the temptation as something I must avoid. Am I dismissing the temptation? Perhaps, but I’ve begun to specifically ask for protection in my nightly prayers. (And it works!)
The most recent development is really exciting, and has made a big difference in decreasing how often I stumble and fall. Early in my journey, I looked upon my obsessive pursuit of things that physically felt good as my burden; my cross to bear. This weighed me down. I was heavily laden. But turn that around, to where that addiction is instead, a gift to offer; a sacrifice made by a living body, voluntarily given up in order to be kept whole, holy and pleasing to God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1 NIV
It might even be that I’m regifting right back to God. He gave me the gifts of the (sometimes beneficial) effects of a wee bit of alcohol, and of sex (and more!) But instead of selfishly hoarding them for myself, I offer them to Him as my way of remaining pure.
Giving of ourselves, especially those things we cherish, to others is a sign of love, is it not?