In my vigil of waiting for renewal, I continued to work the 12 steps. While I was learning new skills in mindfulness and tolerance, my program pushed me into another area of growth. It was during this time that I gave considerable attention to the 6th and 7th steps.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
When I finally made it though the amends, I was felling good about my progress. I can remember looking at step 6 and thinking, “Check! Let’s keep rolling.” As good sponsors do, it was suggested that I sit still with this one. I falsely assumed that simply being ready and asking for removal was sufficient. That was like a 40 second prayer, right?
Fortunately, we do not sponsor ourselves or work the steps in on our own. Rather than proceeding, I joined a book study that meticulously worked on these two steps in a book called Drop The Rock. For weeks, I met with a group of women in a local coffee shop and read about the dangers of holding on to, and the freedom available when we let go of our character defects. I realized during this study that I had been working the steps. I had given many of them very honest attempts. However, there was a vital piece that I was missing. I had failed to make the all-important turn of humbly and honestly asking to be changed—in very specific, uniquely personal ways—by God.
While I knew that I didn’t like the results that I was getting from life, at least I knew what to expect from my defects of character. I had learned to manage many of them. I had even learned to twist some of my defects so that many in the world believed they were assets. But I knew differently. I knew the ways that my control and insanity were preventing peace in so many areas of my life. By opening the door to change, I was inviting the unknown.
If I were to place myself in line for a revamp, what kind of person would I become? Weak? Un-opinionated? Disinterested? Nope. Not a one of those things would be the case. But it took time for me to understand that truth. And this unknown place was once again asking me to be in the realm of new. There is nothing more terrifying to a person that has no grounding posts than new. But I watched the lessons that the women around me were learning. I listened as they bravely walked into seasons of new at 5, 17 and 24 years sober. And I knew that if they were still learning with that many days under their belt, it was vital for me to learn a critical lesson:
I don’t know everything.
This sounds like a stupid thing to say, but the most important character defect that I embraced in my first trip through the steps was that my arrogance and pride held me hostage. I spent the first decade of adulthood with the distinct position that I know and you probably don’t. I came at decisions and conversations and relationships with that as the entrance ramp. But the key to recognizing pride and ego is that you have to be humbled. There is nothing more humbling to someone who knows it all (especially in the spiritual sense) than to be told that they get to spend weeks looking at how they need to ask God to change them.
Those were long days. And in combination with the work I was doing in learning to be still and sit in emotional unrest, I was a new kind of crazy. These concepts flew in the face of all that was me. I was a hot head. I was impatient. I was right. And this new set of skills required silence and stillness and a non-anxious presence. Thank God for wonderful mentors and friends and pastors and family that let me grow. Growth is so painful, but the new branch, the new bud and the new fruit, all require pruning, time and nurture.