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It was an amazing meeting…
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Our Heavenly Father and our elder brother Jesus Christ love us all–more than we can possibly imagine. We are told that God is no respecter of persons…in other words: He loves ALL of His children equally. And we all are equally entitled to His grace (which is His unconditional love given to us freely–whether we think we deserve it or not).
I didn’t fully buy-in to this concept until somewhat recently (say… oh… about four months ago!!). I assumed that since I was not obeying His commandments PERFECTLY, that I was not entitled to feel of His spirit on the same level as the “elite” members of His Kingdom. So… what happened four months ago that changed my opinion on this? I started attending the Church’s 12-step meetings. Every Tuesday night, I gather with a small group of my brothers and sisters in the gospel.
At this meeting, all of us have one thing in common:
We have made some very serious mistakes in our lives. For months, years, or (in my case) even DECADES, we have allowed these mistakes to compound to the point where our lives “…have become unmanageable.” (ARP Step 1)
We are addicts.
If there is anybody in this world that does not deserve the love of our Heavenly Father and our fellow men, it is us.
But guess what…? I have only been one other place where I feel the power of God’s spirit and the Light of Christ like I do at LDS Addiction Recovery meetings… and that is within the walls of God’s holy temples. And why is this? The power of Christ’s Atonement is actively at work here–just as it is in the Temple.
Confidentiality is the hallmark of LDS Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) meetings. Just as when dealing with sacred things in the Temple, I will not divulge any details about what I hear in an ARP meeting: “…Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.“
That being said, I’m not at all shy about sharing my own personal stories of addiction and recovery. God has turned my affliction (alcoholism) into a strength to be shared with others, so I’d like to share a couple of things with you that I shared with the group last night. In our meeting, we were discussing “Step 12”
I started last night’s “Sharing Time” with a story (if you’re a regular ChangeOfHeart.LIFE reader, you’ll recognize this story, previously shared in my post “Serving Others…in the Twilight Zone“):
By God’s Grace, my recovery began with an inadvertent act of service.
One night, just a couple of days before Christmas 2007, I pulled off the highway on my way home to grab a Big Gulp and to stock up on some liquor for the holidays.
While at 7-Eleven, I introduced myself (this is totally out of character for me!) to a stranger (we’ll call her “Suzy”) who, as it turned out, was stranded miles away from her apartment and desperately needed a ride home.
On the way to Suzy’s apartment, she shared a story of how she had changed her life, beat a drug addiction problem, found a new job, and moved out of the apartment she shared with an abusive boyfriend. That very day, Suzy had been inspired to do something that was very difficult for her; something that required a great deal of humility. It miraculously provided her enough survival money to get through to her first paycheck at the new job.
Suzy testified to me of many miraculous events as she was going through her process of self-improvement. She told me with tears in her eyes that I had showed up to get her safely home almost immediately after a desperate prayer she had offered for help. By her own admission, Suzy was not a religious person, but I felt the power of the Holy Ghost so much as she told her story that I skipped the trip to the liquor store and chose to celebrate my first completely sober holiday season in over 15 years.
This brief attempt at sobriety ended with yet another relapse, but the seed was planted. I couldn’t get Suzy’s story out of my head. Within a matter of weeks, I initiated the steps that began my detox. From there I experienced my first sustained period of sobriety, and began the long path to recovery.
Service Changes Lives
Although I was providing service to Suzy by giving her a ride home, the greater service was that which she gave to me.
And what WAS that greater service?
Suzy simply bore her testimony to me…which changed my life.
The True Power of Step 12
President Deiter F. Uchtdorf said the following:
I feel ashamed and guilty. I am not like others in my family or in my ward.”
To all who feel defective in some way, may I tell you a secret?
We are all defective. You. Me. Everyone.
“But,” you say, “I am a special case. I think I make too many mistakes, too often.”
Yes, you are mortal. And mortals fall short. Time and again.
Mistakes are events on the timeline of your life. But they don’t define your life.
They don’t define you as a person or as a child of God. However, what you do about your mistakes by using the gifts given to us by Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ will go a long way in defining the person you will yet become.
Who was President Uchtdorf’s audience as he said this? Was it just a little group of down-trodden addicts? No! This was spoken in the recent January 15, 2019 BYU devotional, offered up to literally thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints…from all walks of life.
The 12 steps are NOT just the 12 steps to addiction recovery…
They are the 12 steps to the Atonement of Jesus Christ!
They are 12 steps that every “inquirer after truth” needs to follow to achieve our ultimate goal–Eternal Life with our Father in Heaven.
What should Step 12 look like in your life?
In the April 2018 General Conference of the Church, Elder Holland said this:
Here’s a term that I had never heard until 3 months ago: Peer Support.
Now I’m employed as a “Peer Support Specialist”. So…what is Peer Support? It’s somebody who feels deep compassion for their clients. Even more, it’s somebody who recognizes his/her own imperfections and is willing to admit them. Someone who can not only guide the client to a desired outcome, but who can MOTIVATE them to change their lives. And how does a “Peer” do this? By saying “You can do this difficult thing. I have struggled with the same problem. I know you can do it because I’ve done it, and if I can do it, you can too!” There is astonishing power in being a Peer.
“Ministering in the Lord’s Way” as President Russell M. Nelson says it, involves being a peer. You don’t just tell people that they can do it. Being a peer can be uncomfortable and a little daunting. You actually have to admit your imperfections and share how you’ve overcome your trials and weaknesses.
It requires you to show unconditional love, without being in any way judgmental. You don’t need to condone the person’s conduct, but you do need to show them that they are loved…in spite of their conduct. As you do this, the person you minister to realizes that they are not alone, and that is perhaps the most powerful knowledge of all.
Peer support looks something like this:
I LOVE that in the Church we teach even our little children some of the most profound eternal wisdom. When I was just a 3-year-old “Sunbeam” in Primary, I learned an important eternal truth…HOW TO BE A PEER! Most of you have learned it too. It goes something like this:
I testify to you that God loves us all. He wants the best for us. If he wanted, he could come down and show each of us the way. But he has a much better plan. I’ve heard it said “If we’re on earth to help others…what are the others supposed to do?” A fair question. What I’ve learned from Step 12 is that the others are supposed to do the exact same thing.
When I share my stories of failure and success in an ARP meeting, the “others” realize that they’re not alone. They draw comfort in the fact that they’re not the only person that’s made a particular mistake. And they gain HOPE that they can overcome that mistake because I have done it. In sharing my stories, I lift them up.
But that’s only half of the story. What comes next is that THEY share their stories of failure and success. I am comforted because I’m not alone in my errors. And MY hope for the future grows. In short, “I’ll lift you, so that you can lift me“.
It’s EXACTLY what the Savior did for us.
In ways that we can’t even begin to fathom, Jesus Christ suffered not only for our sins, but he suffered our individual weaknesses, pains, disappointments, fears, and sorrows.
Christ knows what my withdrawal pains felt like when I detoxed from alcohol. He knows the terror I felt when I was afraid to admit to my family that I’m an alcoholic. He knows what it feels like to crave a substance so bad that you will do anything to get it. And he knows the sorrow I felt when my addiction caused me to make poor choices and I lost a profitable and enjoyable career. And because he knows these things, he can credibly tell me “I know what you’re going through, and I know you can do it…because I’ve gone through what you’re going through.” Talk about Peer support!!
But here’s the best part: When I share my personal stories of failure and success, of addiction and recovery, of fear and faith, and of despair and hope with my peers, I get to see them improve their lives as they strive to do better. I get to experience the joy Christ feels when I make each baby-step back toward the Light of the gospel. And knowing the JOY of Christ accelerates my progress along the path of recovery.
I thank God that all of us do not have the personal lived-experience of fighting substance abuse and addiction. But the truth is that ALL of us have in one way or another fallen from grace. We are all in need of spiritual recovery. No matter how many times we fail, and no matter how many times we slip up and have to restart the process of recovery, I can testify as one imperfect person to another and one child of God to another, that our loving Father in Heaven has a vested interest in you and me. The more times we fail, the more he loves us and wants us to succeed.
As you strive to “Minister in the Lord’s Way”…be a Peer Support Specialist.
I have done it, and you can do it too! 😉
The 12 steps are for everybody! If you’re interested in learning what they are, click on the ARP banner below.
Questions? Concerns? Or stories of success and faith? Feel free to leave me a comment below, or drop me a private message at Kyle@ChangeOfHeart.LIFE.