by ProfDave, ©2021
(Dec. 16, 2021) — Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Actually, the unexamined life is a mess of denial. If you want to recover, examination is required. Examination begins in Step One, when we admit we are broken and need the help of a real Higher Power. Examination continues in Step Four where we take a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of our “stuff.” As life continues, we need to continue.
Step Ten: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. I Corinthians:10-12: So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
“We continued . . ..” The last three steps are sometimes called maintenance. At this point most of the guys in my step study have their 30 day, 60 day, 90 day and 6 month chips. They are clean and sober, in recovery lingo, “one day at a time.” Are you free of the hurt, habit, or hang-up that bound you? At least one of them? Are you reconciled to God, yourself and your relationships? OK. Congratulations! Celebrate! But how do we keep it that way? We can never let up. We keep on doing the things that set us free, one day at a time. We continue!
I Corinthians:10-12: So if you think you are standing firm . . .. In order to continue in recovery, we need to remain alert. Vigilance is the price of freedom. Watch out for relapse. Expect temptation and learn from your defeats. If you get ambushed, don’t go that way next time. “Moderation” will be a minefield for you. Have a battle plan. Know your triggers – the tempting circumstances and vulnerable moods – and avoid them, however innocent they might be in themselves. Stay close to God and your accountability people.
Inventory needs to become a habit. Not an elaborate document, but a continuous, a daily, and a periodic self assessment. This means a daily and quarterly quiet time alone, and journaling of some sort. How am I doing in my recovery today? What did I do right? What did I do wrong? How are my relationships? Do I need to make amends?
My father drilled it into me to start the day with God, but ending it with journaling, I confess, isn’t coming easy for me. And admitting I’m wrong? Most unpleasant! How about you?
“When we were wrong?!” You will be wrong sometimes. It is theoretically possible to bat 1000, be a 100% field goal shooter in basketball, or even score an 18 in golf (it would take me that many for one hole – not counting swings that didn’t connect with the ball). But don’t count on it. And do not torture yourself with attempting it. Aim at progress, not perfection.
Likewise, with our best intentions, things will sometimes go awry. There is no exemption from temptation, error, and human frailty. It is not the one who never falls who reaches the goal, but the one who always gets up again. Recovery is a gift, to be sure, but it is lived out in a process, one day at a time. Sometimes, it is two steps forward and one step back. I’m not the man I want to be, but thank God I’m not the man I was. This is what we track in our daily inventory, one day at a time. And as we reach one mile post, God will show us the next. But overconfidence – putting confidence in ourselves – is relapse waiting to happen. Been there, done that!
Again, this is Christian life 101. The final thing they tell you when you go forward at a Billy Graham rally and the last-but-not-least thing on every evangelist’s agenda: “Find a good church, read your Bible and pray every day.” No relationship, let alone a new life, will last unless you maintain it. The difference is that this does not depend on our will-power or goodness, but on an external Higher Power. So how do you expect to go on without recharging? How do you expect the baby to grow without feeding it? If you just lay there, the lion will come back to finish you off!
This doesn’t happen by accident. It has to be intentional – and usually a specific daily time and place – or it will not happen. You do not earn God’s approval by religious exercises, but you need to tap into your Higher Power and grow in your relationship with your Heavenly Father. And you will learn that He has instructions for you to live your life as it should be lived, in freedom, integrity and effectiveness. If you love Him, you will love His Word, thou shalt nots and all. And, unlike generic religion or ethical systems, a real Higher Power will give you the power to actually do it!
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.