Nearing the end of a year on Celebrate Recovery, you get a sheet on 'How to write your testimony'.
It suggests you start by describing how life was unmanageable before you began ... but ... my old life was great; christian parents, who I knew loved me,
great church with good friends, lovely family, a job I got without trying but enjoyed ... all neatly managed.
Then God said "You've seen what Celebrate Recovery has done for Alistair, Jayne, Paul and others, you have no excuse, the kids can be left without a sitter -
now it is your turn."
So, I did as I was told. I had no idea what I might have to deal with and was probably a little smug because I had heard a lot of the teaching already second hand. It couldn't be that hard ... could it?
Each week we began by reading through the 12 steps and already I was in trouble. Step 1 says "We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviours, that our lives were unmanageable." "But it's not unmanageable!" was my reply; so God had to show me some of my compulsive behaviours that I had not faced before Celebrate.
I was a compulsive fixer. Rather than face my own issues I would rather sort someone else out.
I could think of lots of ways of solving other people's problems adding anecdotes from past experience. That was issue number one for me and
God's solution; "Don't say anything in the small groups for at least three weeks." It nearly killed me and I did have to warn Val or she might have been in shock for weeks.
It was amazing what I actually learnt about myself when I really stopped and listened to others.
Thinking about me, my attitudes and reactions was not something I was in the habit of doing. God had really grabbed my attention.
I realised that 'worry about it' was not a strategy I used to face problems. I had already begun to see the wisdom of 'accepting things I cannot change'. Slowly I understood that it was God who had made my life manageable, but there was more to life than just managing. If I let God be the Manager and kicked pride into touch; then life could be even better.
It was as if I had accepted free tickets to a theme park and only tried out a few of the rides; so much more was available.
God's challenge for that - think outside the box, go on a team to Sierra Leone.
The next phase of Recovery is to find a sponsor, someone to discuss your inventory, your list of issues God has identified for you to begin to sort. This was hard, I knew that one reason I tried to be a 'good girl' was because I hated being told off. God led me to a great passage in Proverbs:
"If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home with the wise.
If you reject criticism you will only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction you will grow in understanding."
The key for ame was the word 'constructive'; you can weigh the value of the criticism and the criticiser.
If God says it is valid, go for it; if not, dump it. God also showed me that my greatest critic was me; his answer to that was from
Galatians 5:6 (The Message) "That means we will not compare ourselves with ieach other, as if one were better and another worse.
We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original."
I could set realistic targets for reading and praying, which God blessed. I could write in my journal things that helped me. It was ok to pray with a pen in my hand to write ideas down and keep my focus on the job in hand.
Finally, God had plans for an area I had accepted as something I could not change. Through others he showed me a link between several relationships I had where I placated, allowing myself to be manipulated just to keep the peace.
I became aware that I felt responsible for the reactions of these particular people and in one case had done so for most of my life.
With these women I was not sure that my opinion counted for anything, my only goal was to appease.
It was so insidious that even close friends had not seen the connections but had noticed the different way I was with these people.
It seems obvious now that though I cannot change the things they say and do, I am not responsible for their happiness.
I could not make them happy even if I gave them what they think they want. They are not my problem.
So, I am now able to step out into new things; God prompted me to pray for healing for a colleague of mine, a radical step for me and I am just waiting for the opportunity to tell him what I am doing, maybe soon, but I did mention Celebrate Recovery to him. It is not a course that you graduate from, it is a new style of working to live your life by. It is for everyone, no one can say they would not benefit from it. If God is challenging you then I say go for it!