I spent a long time thinking about starting this blog. Not procrastinating, just thinking. But the longer I’ve thought about it, the harder it’s been to get started, because whilst I have had plenty of ideas for content, my planning about how it will develop has lacked a coherent shape or sense of direction. I was also waiting for a name that would say it all, preferably one that was witty and clever too. It didn’t come.
And then I remembered. Nothing’s perfect. So, note to self, acknowledge that this isn’t going to be perfect or that I’ll know where it’s going to lead. And accept it. Because this is going to be about the journey rather than the destination or the outcome of it all. Which is appropriate really because the blog has arisen because of things that have happened on my spiritual journey and in particular the collision of two worlds – Christianity and 12 step recovery, the result of which is still sprinkling me with liberal quantities of stardust and for which I will be forever grateful.
It shouldn’t have been a collision really, because they share the same DNA, the founders of AA basing their programme on most of the key beliefs of the 19th century evangelical Oxford Group, which in turn was influenced by celebrated Christian thinkers such as John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. Through Bill W and Dr Bob, their understanding helped to shine a light into the nature of addiction and provide a way of living substance free. Because the beauty and the strength of 12 step fellowships is not just that they help people to get clean and sober but that they offer a way of living that works for everyone, addict or not, because it deals with the rubbish in our lives that many of us would prefer to bury deep in our internal landfills. So amazingly, 12 Step Recovery can now shine a light into the lives of individual Christians and the church community, providing a way of living that is honest, open and accountable, stripping Christianity back to the basic teachings of Jesus, whilst helping to shed the trappings of organisational self-preservation along the way.
This blog will explore the common themes, stories and narratives that 12 step spirituality has to teach Christians and what Christian teaching, or at least the way of Jesus has to share with those in recovery. This is the Golden Thread, the truth within the teachings of Jesus which offers to set us free and transform us. Because both of these ways of living are about transformation. About leaving behind the old ways of living, which didn’t work and which brought us unhappiness and pain, entering into a new way of living, a journey which enables us to grow into the people we were truly meant to be.
Recently I was privileged to attend an exhibition in Newcastle’s Anglican Cathedral held by Artists in Recovery. This was not a display of well-meaning artwork as a sort of therapy which helped addicts to get well. It was high quality, skilled and deeply moving artwork produced by people in recovery who were well, and their wellness allowed them to be the creative people they were always meant to be. Their recovery not only allows them to become those people but weaves into the creative processes the pain and struggle of their lives, adding to the depth, intensity and beauty of their work. This is part of what I believe Jesus talks about when he says that he came to give us life in all its fullness. Many, many times I’ve heard people in recovery say they didn’t think life could be this good. Abundant life. That is what is on offer. It’s what Christianity is about too, but so often it can get lost in the line of duty, going to church, contributing, doing your best, earning merit, being okay (even if you’re not), keeping the show on the road. Its not empty and its not without value but all too often its not abundant living and its not what the way of Jesus taught. So join me on this journey of discovery and growth, contribute to it too by sharing your stories and experiences. And see how the Golden Thread can transform our lives.
“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” Brennan Manning