(If you’re just now tuning in for this series, click here to start at the beginning: Marriage Recovery – The 12 Steps)
Step 6: We are trusting and ready to have God forgive and remove from us these flaws, individually and collectively.
One of my favorite art exhibits that I have personally seen is in Florence, Italy. Outside of the exhibit room was a carpeted path you had to take to enter. On either side of the path were several human sized stone carvings of angels that were all in various stages of completion. For some you could barely make out what the end result was going to be. For others, it was like the artist needed another couple of hours to finish.
When you entered the exhibit room, there in the center of the room was one of Michaelangelo’s completed marble masterpieces. There was a tremendous amount of appreciation for the completed sculpture because you’d just walked through several others that were incomplete.
He was once asked how he knew what to carve when he was working on a sculpture. His response: “I just remove what doesn’t belong.”
Step 6 is a process of trust God to remove and willingly letting go of what doesn’t belong in your life. ‘Letting go” is a great idea and it promises some sort of freedom for the participant, but by no means is it an easy process.
We humans were created for relationships. We have relationship with objects and with subjects. Every where we go, we are relating to the world around us. We are all asking a few core questions about ourselves that are aimed at answering a bigger question: Were my parents right, or were they wrong?
Read this excellent insight into the impact a parent has on their child by Dr. Hiam Ginott. “If a child lives with criticism, he does not learn responsibility, he learns to condemn and find fault in others. He learns to doubt his own judgement, to disparage his own ability and to distrust the intentions of others (especially those in authority) above all, he learns to live with the continual expectation of impending doom.”
I’ve also seen the inverse of this be true. When a child is raised with constant praise and admiration, he cannot deal with failure or a lack of success. He will seek out others that will continue to prop him up a celebrate him, regardless if it is worth celebrating or not. He learns to dismiss any and all faults within himself, and lives in such a way to avoid any possibility of failure.
Generally speaking, all of us are raised in one of those environments. Either you can do no wrong, or you can do no good. Both environments leave the child asking significant questions about themselves, and of the world. But I think the question of “were my parents right or wrong about me?” is one that we are all asking.
Sometimes letting go of what we know about ourselves, or the attachment we have to a feeling about ourselves, is ontologically terrifying. Someone said that home is where life makes up its mind. If you let go of how you see yourself in the world (I’m good, I’m bad), how will you make sense of life? What will you rely on as your foundation?
The answer is in step 2. “We admit there is a God, that is neither ourself or our spouse, and that God can restore us and our marriage to sanity.” Our parents are our first understanding of God and until we remove them from the place that God needs to hold in our lives, we’re going to be stuck living like a ping pong ball between the question of “Am I good, or am I bad?”
Our relationship to the flaws and wrongdoings will determine how sane we can become. Are we willing to let go of the comfort and control of our flaws? That’s right. There is comfort in being flawed. Glory is God made; Flaws are man made. We get to determine how big the flaws become in our life, and this is comfort. There is tremendous comfort feeling in control of our destiny. The only way we can control our destiny is to stick with what we know, what we can sustain in and of ourselves.
There are two really important words in step 6: Trust and Ready. The word vulnerability is defined as a willingness to be wounded. It’s the essence of trust. When we trust someone, we give them the ability to make decisions and choices that will impact us, potentially wounding us. So when we’re talking about trusting God, we’re confronting a tremendous amount of story in our lives about how others have handled our trust, and how we have handled our trust being broken. (Here’s a little secret: People will fail you. They will break your trust. They will let you down and not do right by you. If you’re stature is dependent upon never being failed, you will have to live in isolation.)
The second word that is important to note is Ready. Many people call me for counseling because they are in desperate need of help. Some of those people are not yet ready for help. All of us want to feel better about our lives, but not all of us are willing to do what it takes to get better. To be made well requires loads of hard work, and does not come quickly.
When we trust and are ready, we are walking back through steps 1, 2, and 3. We are surrendering control of our life and of our marriage. Surrendering it to God’s care and attention.
Taking the Step
This step is often done in pretty quick succession with step 7.
Don’t rush this. Give yourself at least 24 hours to consider, think, and address what it means for you to trust and be ready. What will you have to give up in order to let God remove these flaws from you and your marriage? List each flaw and shortcoming that you are both facing, and specifically ask God for each individual item on your list.
Journal Reflection Questions:
- Who has done right by you with your trust?
- How will you know if you are ready to let go?
- What are you letting go of?
- Are you noticing any changes in what you’re feeling about or with your spouse?
- Is there something between you and this step?
- What have you discovered about yourself thus far in the process?