As I mentioned in an earlier post, Nadia Bolz-Weber has been one of my pastors-via-book lately. I just finished reading Accidental Saints, her latest book, and this quote jumps out at me again and again:
“Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting.”
I find that comforting as well, especially in regards to the 12th step and these blog posts.
The truth is, I stumbled into writing this whole series. I was feeling like a broken sinner, a cynic in an optimist’s clothing, a fake. I felt the need to hide from everyone around me, and instead I found myself writing about it. As much as I wanted to hide, I have battled depression long enough to know hiding is almost never the answer.
If you’re being chased by a serial killer, hiding might be the answer … if you have a really good hiding place. However, when you are facing mental demons, hiding will only make it worse. When you are facing mental demons, the serial killer is inside your head, so wherever you hide, he’s there.
As I poured out my fears and my anger and my disappointment with the church and myself, I realized I was confessing. I was reminded of the saying, “Admitting there’s a problem is the first step to solving a problem,” and suddenly I wondered, “What is the second step?”
So here we are on Step 12.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
This step is why that first quote means so much to me right now. Jesus sends out stumblers, and I have stumbled my way through these steps, falling down and getting back up and sometimes breaking bones.
Metaphorically, of course. But sometimes metaphorical bones take longer to heal.
Here we are at the end of the 12 steps and at the end of Advent. I can’t help but wonder how Mary made it though her insane pregnancy. How many times did she hide? How many times did she confess that she didn’t really understand it all either … but “Yes. I am a pregnant virgin and don’t you dare stone me, I am the mother of God.” It sounds humorous only because we haven’t seen someone stoned. It’s never been a real fear for us. It was a real fear for Mary.
But she let Joseph help her, and she journeyed to Bethlehem in obedience. She took the next step and the next step. She trusted God for the outcome, and, at long last, she held her newborn son, and all of the steps felt worth it.
Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe she felt lonely that first Christmas night. Maybe she cried herself to sleep, exhausted and missing her mother and not at all sure what tomorrow would bring.
The rest of Mary’s life was crazy as well. Her family had to flee to Egypt as refugees. Look around at our world. Being a refugee is terrifying. She had to figure out how to raise a child that was also God. I can’t even begin to fathom that. Sibling rivalry is difficult enough without one brother being Supreme Master of the Universe. Ya know?
ADVENT IS ALL ABOUT WAITING, EXPECTING, MOVING TOWARD THE BIRTH OF GRACE. AND ONCE GRACE IS BORN, IT IS OUR JOB TO SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD.
These 12 steps are similar. I have been working toward grace, grace for myself and the ability to share grace with others.
As I move forward with the 12th step, I am grateful that Jesus calls on stumblers and sinners, because I am both. Step by step, learning to walk and run and dance, I am always going to fall down again. I am always going to need help.
And He trusts me anyway.
Merry Christmas, Middlers. May you keep walking toward grace. May your steps be sure, and when your steps are not sure, remember to reach out your hand.
We were never meant to walk alone.
*originally published on Middle Places