In 12-step groups, the community rejoices over each sign of progress, no matter how small. One day of sobriety is better than no days. One week of acknowledging powerlessness is better than one day. The testimony of one who has tried and failed is as valuable as that of one who carries a twenty-five-year chip. Community solidarity is part of the program’s success and the hope it offers. One who asks for help will never walk alone.
Outside the program, though, consequences and mistrust often remain. Those who have not struggled with addiction and have not been in a relationship with someone who does, usually misunderstand the steps, the process, and the language.
People who grapple with addiction have a story to tell about the relief of sobriety. They also often need to confess their pain, their mistakes, their failures, and their history. In their grief, they talk more than most people are willing to listen.
Confession, though, is a communal activity. It takes strength and hope to tell someone else the truth about the past. If it is safe for us physically, spiritually, and psychologically to hear another person’s unburdening, we should consider it a privilege to do so. Equipped by grace, we can listen with love and assure the other person of God’s love and power for them and in them.
If we are capable of hearing another’s confession but refuse to do so, we become like the stubborn horses and mules of the psalm. We have rejected the opportunity to share another’s burdens. We have left them to carry on alone. Friends, there is great peace in confession and the assurance of God’s pardon. Let us share that peace with one another.
God of love, I am willing to be an instrument of your consolation and mercy. Open my heart to opportunities to listen to others and assure them of your forgiveness. Amen.
Lent is a time for focusing on our need for God and for remembering God’s abundant resources for filling that need. When the Israelites finally pass into Canaan, they observe the Passover as a reminder of God’s deliverance of them from Egypt. The psalmist, traditionally David, rejoices in the fact that God does not count his sins against him. Paul declares that through Christ, God has made everything new. God no longer holds our sins against us, and we in turn appeal to others to accept this free gift. Jesus eats with sinners and tells the story of the prodigal son to demonstrate that no matter how far we stray, God will always welcome us home with open arms. God never stops pursuing us, even if we feel unloved or unworthy.
Read Joshua 5:9-12. What stories do you tell about your faith? What do these stories help you remember?
Read Psalm 32. When have you hidden from God? When has God been your hiding place?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. We are ambassadors for Christ. How does your life display for others that life in Christ eliminates worldly identity labels?
Read Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. Do you identify with the prodigal son, the elder son, or the father in the parable? Are you ready to rejoin God’s household on God’s terms? Are you ready to welcome everyone home?
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