I have a sense of completion this morning.
Yesterday was my final sermon on the series on the 12 steps and we also had our last meeting of the small group that has met on Sunday evenings.
It has been a really good experience - both the preparation for the preaching, the sermons and the small group. I have watched several people have real AHA moments as they have begun to live into the grace of God. A spiritual awakening for some, I suppose.
The last step of the 12 steps is:
"Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message (to alcoholics) and to practice these principles in all our affairs."
What struck me about this was the realization that the great spiritual awakening are not from a small group discussion, a book or a worship service. They tend to come from experiences of failure and suffering. It all reminds me of Richard Rohr's great book - Falling Upward - about the second half of life. You have to live long enough to know that you are powerless and then experience the presence of the Holy One to have a spiritual awakening.
Step 12 is really about being alive. Keith Miller wrote:
“One of the paradoxical bedrock truths of the 12 step program - and the Christian message - is that we stay spiritually alive only by giving away what we are receiving."
Richard Rohr talks about our need to breathe out and breath in.
Inhalation and exhalation - a person will suffocate if she just keeps breathing in. I hear people's resistance to going deeper in their spiritual journey because they name it "Navel Gazing" and then they stop there. But the message is really to look inward and to see what you need to see - and eventually when we go deep enough we experience the unconditional grace of God. And then give that to others. Breathing in and Out! And it is not first one and then the other - because it is in giving the message of grace to others that we understand and appreciate it ourselves. It is "Both And"
But finally Step 12 reminds us that it is all a process - a journey and it all takes time as we continue to work the steps. Spirituality and spiritual awakening is not magic, or technique or formula- it is miracle and it is mystery. It is a life of gradually giving up control and trusting our God.
As we finished the book - "Breathing Under Water" the group wants to keep meeting. I think in Advent I am going to put together a group for contemplation and creativity for the season. There is definitely a hunger within us all for meaning, purpose and authentic community.
I have certainly been blessed this fall by this study together.
God is good - All the time.