Friday, June 13, 2014

The Fifth Step

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Last week our administrator Carol said that a fellow she didn't recognize had been in, wondered if I was familiar with the Fifth Step, and could he meet with me? She was a bit puzzled until I explained that he was referring to one of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which is essentially a form of confession for past sins. He was insistent that it needed to be the male minister, so I joked that he must have really messed up and women were involved. I was correct actually. We did meet and he laid out his story of a life misspent in many respects, beginning in his teens when alcohol made a shy, insecure boy feel like a confident man -- for a while.

While he had always worked through the years, he had been a deadbeat husband and father in many respects. The lousy husband schtick he had managed twice, a fact he wasn't proud of at all. Fortunately his two adult sons have been forgiving beyond what he deserves.

I have done this before and have been surprised at the raw honesty of the people --always guys-- who have poured out their stories. With few exceptions, the only other period of my life when people have been as honest about their failings was when I worked as a chaplain intern at Kingston Penitentiary. Maybe "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..." (thank you Janice, thank you Kris), and we can throw honesty in with freedom. When we are scraping around near the bottom telling the truth for a change can be liberating, as this fellow admitted to me. He is three months sober, going to meetings, attempting to make amends with those he has wronged. It's a start, but this isn't an easy road. It seemed that we made a good connection but I have no idea if I will see him again. He might feel more at home at his AA meeting than in church.

I sometimes wonder if this is part of what is ailing mainline churches. We are too nice, wary of admitting we are sinners, even though Jesus supposed came for the sinners. We love leaning into Amazing Grace, although the "wretch" who is lost and found is probably somebody else, not us!

I need regular reminders that I am forgiven and loved in Christ, and while my sins may not be show-stoppers, they are real.

Do you know much about 12 Steps Groups? Are you more "I'm Okay, You're Okay" than "Amazing Grace?"

Remember that my Groundling blog is only a click away!

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