We welcome guest blogger Joelle Chase, who writes about Steps 5 and 6 of the Twelve Steps which Richard Rohr discusses in his just-released book, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Breathing Under Water is available with a free online study guide.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
I had written my confession—to God and self—a hundred times in my journal over the years, asking forgiveness, promising to stop, that this was the last time.
Of course, as with any other addiction, stopping wasn’t that simple. From age 11 to the summer of my 25th year, I carried guilt and shame. I had been told God could not approve (and “approve” I interpreted as “love”) of me if I did this horrible thing (of which no one knew). I couldn’t dare tell anyone, afraid of judgment and rejection.
Yet, as Richard Rohr affirms: “You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge, and what you do not consciously acknowledge will remain in control of you from within.”
So it continued.
Somehow I knew that if I didn’t “bring forth,” as Jesus says in the Gospel of Thomas, that which was within, it would destroy me. So one muggy summer day I worked up the courage to speak to my spiritual director. Her response shocked me. She spoke words of grace, acceptance, healing, and liberation.
Just as Richard predicts, “When human beings ‘admit’ to one another ‘the exact nature of their wrongs,’ they invariably have a human and humanizing encounter that deeply enriches both sides—and even changes lives—often forever! It is no longer an exercise to achieve moral purity, or regain God’s love, but in fact a direct encounter with God’s love.”
With my spiritual director’s expression and embodiment of God’s love, I felt over two decades of fear melt away, taking with them the strength of my habit.
As Richard writes wisely, “Sin and failure, are in fact, the setting and opportunity for the transformation and enlightenment of the offender.”
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.
In that moment of gracious listening, I was finally able to fully own my addiction while simultaneously let go, realizing there was nothing to be done about it. I had tried every way I could think of without any success.
Now it was time, in Richard’s words, to “undergo God.” Repressing (or trying to repress) my obsession had locked away loads of energy that were suddenly released in bursts of creativity and joy or “flow.” I stood back and let the healing happen.
Joelle Chase, just married to Peter Knipper on September 17, invests her energy in care for the earth as part of the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Sustainability Team.
Franciscan priest Richard Rohr is founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He considers the proclamation of the Gospel to be his primary call, and some related themes he addresses include eco-spirituality, Scripture as liberation, non-dual thought, the integration of action and contemplation, peace and justice issues, and male spirituality. Author of numerous books, including Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality. Preparing for Christmas With Richard Rohr: Daily Meditations for Advent, and Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent, he gives retreats and lectures internationally. He is a regular contributing writer for Sojourners and Tikkun magazines. He spoke about Breathing Under Water on a live webcast on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011.
Featured photo © Petro Feketa