Step 10: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
One of the major doctrines of my religious tradition is the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved.” Frankly, I have seen that doctrine misinterpreted for my entire life to mean, “I can live any way I want to now, do anything I want to do, treat others and myself (my body or my mind) anyway I choose because I’m in with God and will go to heaven when I die.”
Others may feel that they because they practiced a particular religion, joined the “right” church, participated in the right rituals, said the right creeds — or were born into the “right” denomination, they can live any way they want to, and they are covered.
Have you ever been rocking along, working your program, but then said or did something that showed you hadn’t “arrived” at sainthood yet? Have you ever fallen from grace in your own eyes? Have you ever been caught when your walk doesn’t match your talk?
One of the most important things I know for sure is what Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 8:38: I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ our Lord”. (More about this in Step 11)
What I also believe is that Paul’s assurance is spoken about God’s perspective.
I believe that God is as near as my breath and that there is nowhere I can go where God is not.
As my father used to say, “The Bible says it. I believe it, and that settles it,” but along my journey, there have been times when I have felt that God was silent and far away from me. I have felt separated from God, and like many in my particular religious world, I have “rededicated my life” to tie myself back to God.
I have at times felt his absence so severely that I felt desperate. There have been times I have cried out to God,
“Where are you? Why don’t you do something?”
I know what it is like to have my own fear, anger, guilt, shame or insecurity to overwhelm me so greatly that those feelings feel that God has abandoned me. But the separation part is within me; it’s not about where God is.
And when I am consumed by any of those feelings, I say and do things that I regret.
I know what it is like to say in utter exasperation, “I thought I had gotten over that” or “I can’t believe I did that or said that!”
I know what it is like to slip off the rails of my devotion to God or my intention to work my program and subsequently face the humiliation of doing the things I don’t want to do and not doing the things I have declared or even vowed that I would do. (another pearl of wisdom and mercy from Paul.)
I understand what it is like to question my salvation. I know what the dark night of the soul feels like, and it feels awful.
With great sorrow, I have listened to beloved friends pour out their regret over something they have done. I have walked through deep and dark times with soul-friends/directees who are looking for the slightest glimmer of hope that God has not abandoned them.
I understand their despair and their feelings of guilt because I have had to face my own failures. I have had to wrestle to discover the true meaning of the “once saved/always saved” doctrine to others who, like I am, wrestle with actions and character defects that surely prevent the assurance of that doctrine.
However, there is another important thing I know for sure: Recovery is a lifelong process. And for those of us who want to continue to walk our own way, have our own way and do whatever we choose to do, that is a daunting reality. And I know this for sure, as well: Salvation is both an event (when I surrendered my life to Christ or, in recovery terms, took Step 1)) and a process (the one-day-at-a-time journey that has many starts and twists and turns), and it is a process that depends on the mutual love relationship between us and God. The journey of becoming whole and healthy (salvation) also involves other people who come along in our lives to show us the way and stand by us when we lose our way.
I also know that grace and freedom are gifts from God, freely given, but often misused by us mere humans. Unless a person is in complete denial, each of us stands in the need of prayer every day, 24/7. No living human is exempt.
And that is why we need Step 10!
I have learned many things about salvation — and what it really means, and how what is happening now and here is all a part of “eternal life”, but I don’t live the way I want to live or work my program so I can go to heaven when I die. I choose to work my program and practice my spiritual practices to have the quality of life I want now. I will entrust and leave the afterlife in God’s hands. Since none of us can speak with assurance about what will be going on after our physical bodies die, I confidently leave that to God; it is enough for me to keep my life aligned with his ways on this side.
I trust God with the afterlife; tend to the life I know, which is right now, and for me is all I can handle, and that is why working Step 10 is so important. I believe that eternal life is about quality of life., and I leave the quantity of life up to God.
This is good news, my friends: Recovery is a lifelong process.
And the other good news is that everybody — no matter how smart, broken or holy we maybe — gets to work this program one day at a time.
We get a new start every day. And the new day can start at any hour.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
His mercies are new every morning.
Great is his faithfulness.
Guess what: It’s morning somewhere at any time.
Step 10 has been called the graduate level of Step 4. Some have said that it is the way we put our recovery process in perpetual motion.
Bill W., the founder of AA wrote that “We can commence to put our AA way of living to practical use, day by day, in fair weather or foul.”
Pertinent to Step 10, he also said, “No one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular practice.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola’s great gift to the practice of spiritual growth is his Daily Examen.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Thomas Keating, one of the founding principle architects of the Centering Prayer practice and movement, Trappist monk, author and one of my favorite teachers in my own spiritual journey devoted much of his energies in his last years to prisoners and members of Twelve Step groups.
He was quoted as saying “This (Step 10) is a rather advanced stage of the spiritual life in any tradition. It means that one is ever mindful of one’s immediate experience. One is sensitive to responding to the needs of the present moment and also to the presence of God in every nanosecond of time.”
Do your inventory at the end of the day or as you go through the day. Your choice. Just do it.
If you need to report in with your sponsor or your group as a part of working Step 10, do it. There’s nothing shameful about that. Make repentance, confession and receiving forgiveness a habit. God’s mercy and grace are as close as your breath. Take it in big gulps.
Grace to you —