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Step 6

Hi, my name is Katie and I am working through the sixth step of my program: I am ready to have God remove my character defects.

Step 5 was both terrifying and amazing. It felt transformative. Mountain peak and depths of hell all in one. Yet coming to Step 6 felt like every doubt and question of worth rolled up and filled with exhaustion, quarrels, and an extra dollop of ‘give up.’ Step five looked at who I was… step six is looking at who I am becoming.

But upon actually beginning this step, it felt more like acceptance. Actually that isn’t correct. It felt like recovering. Not recovery— but recovering. The first five steps helped me to break down and really see much of the brokenness around/in/of my faith and the spirituality I had engrained into my soul. This step was a break from that as I took a moment to recover. To absorb the change… and begin to believe it.

If I go about my usual work out routine. Scratch that. Let’s imagine, for a moment, I have a regular workout routine: walk two miles, jog two miles, half hour of light weight lifting. That is fairly simple, it will take maybe 24 hours to provide the muscles adequate time to rest and grow. Now if I decide to suddenly run 22 miles and weight lift for two hours, both things my body and brain are completely unprepared to do… it will take a couple weeks for my body to recover.

This, what I am doing, is both doubling the. mileage and weight achieved the day before and continuing on. And it is hard and it feels incredibly lonely and like I am fucking it up. So this month is recovering. Giving my head time to breathe, my soul time to process, my spirit time to actually believe the changes I am challenging myself with are possible. That means laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. Sitting by the river. Listening to a song on repeat and crying each time. Spending time taking deep breathes. Finding a safe massage therapist and getting a massage… or three. Visiting some of the people that are necessary for my soul.

But how does that connect with God removing character defects? Maybe it doesn’t or maybe it goes back thousands years to one of the greatest defects of all time: our unwillingness to recognize that God leads us into places and seasons of rest— physically, emotionally, spiritually—for the simple purpose of rest.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures…

He leads me beside still waters…

He restores my soul…

You prepare a table before me…

You anoint my head with oil…

Excerpts from Psalm 23 (ESV)

There is something interesting in the 23 Psalm which I think shows a transition in the author which in turn illustrates an opportunity for us. The first three verses the author is talking to us, but in the next two verses we disappear as the author shifts their attention to God. To me it illustrates the difference between knowing about what has been prepared for us and participating in that very thing.


Here are couple songs have meant a lot to me the past couple of weeks.

Tea With a Brother

The intimacy of sitting in little chairs,
with your brother
at a little table set for two.
Having a little tea or cocoa,
in little tiny cups.
Imagining, 
…imagining what it is like
to be another,
to be you at a different time.

Here, sitting with your brother
with just a taste
of orange, 
and just a taste of apple,
and just a taste 
of an older life.
Pretending
…and being real,
being both silly
and  grown up.

Then looking out the window,
seeing the horizon in the distance,
the edge that is yet to be explored.
Sitting there with  your  older self,
tucked safely deep inside.
This communion, always with you
at a table set for two.
You are living now, as you will be living then.
Though, your view is sheltered,
this is who you are.

The courage it will take to leave,
But, the delight in coming back…
to this shelter,
to this tea,
to this brother, and
to this your centered self.

This poem came from seeing a picture of two grandsons having “tea”, a small snack to provide some nourishment but also to occupy them for a “little” while. It is a beautiful picture of two brothers having fun…the older looking out the window that he faced, past the younger. While the younger seemed to be chatting and engrossed in the setting.

Just Beyond Myself

“So, I thought writing out my moral inventory was ugly hard,” I said as I finished contemplating my fourth step.

“Oh? Why is that?” asked the 12 Step Program.

“Well, because I have done some really horrible… I am so ashamed,” I quietly replied.

“Now take that list—“

“And burn it? Absolutely!” I said enthusiastically.

The Program gave me the side eye, “Nope, share it.”

“Great idea— Wait! WHAT?”

Hello. My name is Katie and I am a recovering Evangelical Christian. I am working out my Fifth Step: Share with God, yourself, and another person the exact nature of your wrongs.

I have done some stuff for which I am ashamed. Anyone else? Anyone at all? Sigh. That is the way it feels. Or that I have worn my masks so well, that people weren’t able to see the hurt and scared human being… it feels that way too.

Last month, I listened to Dr. Edith Eger on a podcast say, “There is no freedom without responsibility— that’s anarchy.” Part of taking responsibility for my actions was bringing them into the light. So I treated this as a time for confession. Part of me was excited to experience a rich part of a religious tradition that was absolutely lost in the evangelical movement. The other part… mortified.

I pondered going through it with my therapist. He canceled last minute. I very briefly considered my mom— sorry Mom, I couldn’t do it. I thought maybe I could anonymously throw myself at the mercy of the Catholic confessional. But I decided that I wanted to use this moment to attempt to be really brave, experience real vulnerability. So I approached a person that knew me (or the person thought they did… confession really lays a person out bare) and asked the pastor of the church I attend.

I will not lie and say it was easy or that I wasn’t a puffy, snotty mess or wasn’t scared about the pastor’s reaction. This was difficult. You know that nightmare where you are late for school, can’t get into your locker, surrounded by people then realize you are naked? This was nothing like that. This is the nightmare within the nightmare. The one where those things you have kept safe and secret, even though they are eating you alive with shame and guilt, are now being put on display by your very own hands. It was the nightmare where you wished you were just running around naked, because for someone reason… that might actually be easier.

So I started my story at the beginning and kept going until the very end, present day. And with tears running down my cheeks, I asked, “What kind of person does that make me?”

And the response I was given, “Human.”

Another person saw all of the shitty stuff I had done in the past 35 years and gave me the gift of acceptance. Neither one of us liked or were proud of my actions or thoughts, but, by sharing them and accepting that I did indeed do those things, I stopped fighting them i.e. acceptance does not equate approval. Which is what I think this step is actually about: not just making a list of all we regret and are guilty of, but accepting all we have been so we can move forward to become someone freer; allowing another person to catch us as we crumple so they can help us stand back up.

Here is the catch though: I believe we can only experience actual acceptance when we are willing to open ourselves up and put down the glamours for an hour or two. It means maybe not taking down the walls, but lowering the drawbridge and crossing the moat for one person to see how muddy, bloody and bruised we actually are.

While sitting there I embraced myself in the moment. I tried to be as fully present as I could. Checked in with my fidgeting thumbs, listened to the words coming out of my mouth, made as much eye contact as I could bear with Pastor, felt the roaring of my heart and when I took a breath, I listened for a still small voice. I never heard a voice— I can hear your sigh of relief from here everyone. But there was a fullness to that office that went beyond the two humans in it. A holy otherness.

I can’t say that this step is for everyone. I wish I could say that everyone that does this is going to find a safe person. I was only 67% sure that this would be safe for me, and the pastor is a human who I am sure have their own mess of stuff to work through. I won’t say that everything feels hunky-dory now or that it has solved any problems.

But I will confess this: It felt really good to feel sunshine in my spirit for a few hours. And that interior castle complete with moat? When I turned to go back in, I abruptly realized it was a lot more hovel-cave like than I would care to admit… so I left the door open.


Thoughts. Comments. Questions. All are welcome.


My Step 5 Playlist

Resources that I found beneficial:

Knitters

Tension transferred
from body to the yarn, 
as heartbeat paces
to the rhythm of needles,
knitting a rosary of sorts,
bead for stitch,   
   …by stitch,
knit one,purl one.
Allowing the mind
to weave its way gently,
through the skein 
of thoughts that come
…in the evenings.
Unraveling the day.
Unwinding.
Knit one,
…purl one,
…yarn over.
Settling.
Integrating,
   Stitch by stitch
making a garment,
…something to wear,
   …that will cover
      shoulders or head, hands or feet.
Yarn over, increase, the language of faith.
Knit two together, the language of unity.
Knit one, purl one,
a fingered prayer that covers a life.

Mary Herbert   2/2021

This poem was written after a discussion with my sister.  I have no idea how knitting became a part of that time, but we talked about what we have knitted, that we liked knitting with quality yarn and that my daughter had renewed my interest in knitting.  I mentioned that I had observed women knitting in a train station and they seemed so relaxed and that I’d noticed that just watching them knit was relaxing.  Then she began wondering what happened when knitters got “in the zone”.  It made me wonder as well.

Sacred Moment

Six and standing silent,
there beside my bed,
watching me sleep,
willing me to wake,
wanting me to see.

Startled by presence,
seeing him, I smile.
…Can I snuggle or
do I sneak back 
to sleep alone…
the question in the air.

I lift the covers like
the wing of a hen
and slowly gather
these pajamas close in.
And as his breathing slows
I wander in my mind
and wonder where we’ll go,
and wonder if he will lead me,
and where
we go
from here.

1/23/21

We went up to visit my daughter at the end of 2020.  We’d had recovered from Covid, and wanted to be around family.  One morning I woke to my grandson standing silently next to my bed with his “snuggly” in hand.  As I lifted the covers I had a sense of the sacredness of that moment.  As I have reflected back on the moment I had the desire to crawl under a divine wing and just be.  I thought about how the Scriptures say a “child shall lead them” and realized this child had led me to this sacred desire to draw in close to the divine and it made me think about how a child’s life changes a parent’s and grandparent’s life.  I was aware of the deep love I have for this child, for all my grandchildren, for my children.  They have each changed my life and led me to different places within myself.