(continued from previous post "When Work of Ministry Just Isn't Working"
Some of you may know, I began "working the program" of Al-anon about twenty years ago. I started this work as a result of finding my life and ministry in a pretty bad place. On a regular basis, I read my One Day At A Time, went to meetings, got a sponsor (God blessed me with a good one!) and started working the Twelve Steps.
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
I breezed through this step. That was easy enough and true and apparent. I got it, and I got it immediately. I thought, "This program is pretty good. I can do this."
Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than our-selves could restore us to sanity.
This was a little harder. I could get that God was greater than me, but I wasn't thinking clearly at all; I had been trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results, and I wasn't so sure I couldn't take care of things based on my own power of reasoning. I worked at it until I came to realize the crux of my dilemma: either I really, truly believed that God had the power to do this for me or I didn't. I decided God had the power to restore me. After all, isn't that the meaning of redemption? It took me several hard weeks of work to fully accept this truth.
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Now here was an embarrassing problem. I'm an ordained priest! I could do theology, talk theology, preach the Gospel, read Holy Scripture, lead the Eucharist, and do all manner of priestly things. But I wasn't sure I was ready to turn my "will and my life over to the care of God." Especially, I wasn't sure I wanted to submit to the God that I understood at this particular time of my life.
And so here it came: the dark night of the soul. Here was that moment when a man decides what he is made of. Here is the moment when he decides what he really believes. As any good procrastinator will tell you, you can stretch some things out pretty far. My avoidance of this step, led to my whining about the step, which led to my deepest sorrow over seeking God who seemed to have abandoned me. My sponsor listened to me. My sponsor talked with me. My sponsor allowed me to really work this step, to wrestle with it and didn't try to fix it for me.
One night after a particularly difficult meeting followed by one-on-one time with my sponsor, I went home, sat on the red couch and poured out my trouble to my wife, JoAnne. JoAnne said, "You need to get out of this house and its distractions. You need to leave the comfort of this couch and go up to the church. You need to pray and sit with God until you get this soul work done." So I said, "Ok." I couldn't really argue, and it was a good idea. I went to the Church. I entered this holy space and I prayed. I prayed on my knees. I prayed sitting down. I cried. I talked to God. I yelled. I was quiet. I was quiet, some more.
Coming Up: After the Darkness ...