In Celebrate Recovery small share groups and step study classes we read “Small Group Guidelines.”
There are five and one has resonated with my heart many times. It is number three.
“We are here to support one another, not “fix” [one] another.”
That means so much to me on different levels. First of all I used to totally be one of those people always ready to fix everyone. I always had the answer for everyone! I still remember exactly where I was in September of 2014 when I first heard the Lord say to me that I didn’t have to have the answer for everyone. It intrigued and surprised me. I felt a sense of relief even as I felt the gentle slap of reproof from the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t just letting me off the hook, He was letting all my friends off the hook – ha!
In Celebrate Recovery small groups we answer focus questions, and for me, guideline number three, gives permission to simply share my thoughts and feelings without feeling judgement or having someone trying to give me an answer. It gives me the freedom to admit where I’m stuck or open up about the negative things I’m struggling with. The surprising thing I’ve found is how much I work through so much of the challenge itself simply in opening up and admitting to the difficult things I’m feeling or experiencing. I also learn so much from the honest sharing of the other women in the group.
I’ve realized that many people aren’t comfortable to simply allow people to share their problems without wanting to fix them. I feel like I see it in the bible when the crowds shush people who called on Jesus for help. I have wondered at times why the crowds shushed those people. I wonder if the crowds, like so many of us today, wanted everything to seem good, wanted it to seem like there weren’t problems. Thankfully Jesus wasn’t frightened by people having needs. He was happy to come to people in the very midst of the ugliest parts of their problems. Today I think that many times the best “answers” we can often give people is to pray for them or simply to love them and support them right where they are and to admit that we don’t always have everything together ourselves and that that is okay. I also realize now that sometimes my haste in providing someone else an answer can be me finding a diversion from the struggles of my own that I don’t know how to handle.
My Celebrate Recovery step study lasted almost 14 months. At the beginning of each step study class we did a one-minute feeling check. Sixty seconds to say honestly how we are doing and where we are that day, that week. One of the women who struggled with debilitating depression began to receive some alternative treatment for depression the last months of the class. After several months of she shared about the relief she was receiving from this treatment and how it was the support of the women in the class that gave her the courage to try this treatment. That struck me deeply. It was very powerful to me that simply our love and acceptance for her week in and week out and many weeks where she missed because she was drowning in the depths of depression, just our being there and being her friend, and really nothing more, that provided her the courage to pursue this treatment that greatly aided her. It was a real testament to me of the power of love and support. I received her permission to share that part of her story as the things shared at Celebrate Recovery are to remain confidential and anonymous.
The last year I’ve faced a lot of challenges that no one has had answers for and it’s been difficult for some of my friends to watch me go through these things without the ability to solve my problems. Some have become really agitated and frustrated because they’ve felt they had to have the answer and I would simply have to say, God is the one responsible to provide my answers. I learned to try to let some of my friends understand that I was seeking their love, their validation of the difficult things I was facing, that I would feel encouraged to hear them say to me, “Hey, what you’re going through is tough, but God’s got you and He’ll bring you through!” I think it can be a test to friendship to stick with someone through something tough that we have no answer for, it can be uncomfortable to us, it can challenge us and how we think God and life should work.
I remember long ago when I was in a serious relationship with a guy who was trying to open up to me about some painful issues. I remember the night on a drive home when he began to open up to me about the pain he felt from a lack of support from his father. Being young and eager to fix, I jumped in encouraging him and telling him how he was okay and how God had taken care of him, because I didn’t yet understand the need to open up and share our hurts and our pain with each other. I remember how he said to me that sometimes he just needed me to listen to him. I remember how new and unfamiliar that idea was to me.
It was almost another twenty years before I began to understand the power and the need to share those things EVEN though God has delivered us and brought us to a better place. It took some time for me to understand that even though God has delivered us there can still be a need to work through former hurts that we haven’t fully processed or healed from. It took some time for me to realize that condemnation for still having the hurt, for still having the need doesn’t remove the hurt, doesn’t heal the wound. That type of thinking led me to stuffing so many of my emotions and feeling for years. It just seemed like I shouldn’t have these needs as a Christian and yet I did. So, I denied my feelings and I kept repeating the same behaviors because I never talked through and worked through the problems because I simply thought they weren’t even supposed to exist.
Jeremiah 6:14 says that you can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there! I was so shocked when I heard that verse in Celebrate Recovery. That verse described so much of my Christian walk. I thought saying all was well even when it wasn’t meant I was professing my faith. I thought of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4 who was on the way to the man of God for healing for her dead son and everyone she met on the way who asked her how things were, she said, “It is well.” I viewed that type of confession as a sign of faith, an evidence of confident believing that I wanted to emulate. And I absolutely think there is a place to say it is well when we have a need, and I believe in praising God in the storm and I believe there’s a place for the weak to say they are strong, and I realize there’s a place between complaining and professing faith, but I know now also that there is a place to discuss the hurts and the troubles and the difficulties to get ourselves more fully TO the place of faith and exuberant praising! I feel like some of my Christian friends think if I speak of being challenged that it means I’m not praising or confessing faith. I don’t think God is intimidated by me stating the challenge I feel from my circumstances.
I’m not saying that all our communication should be about our challenges or problems. Sharing in Celebrate Recovery small groups is typically three to five minutes. And for many of us, our friends, honestly, for the most part are not going to allow us to go on groaning and moaning for too long. A lot of people even today seem to condemn the amount of “complaining” it seems like David did in the Psalms. Yet, I personally wonder if it wasn’t that level of honest, open communication that allowed David to work through the challenges he felt to be able to STAY in communion with God and to DO the amazing things he did! I wonder if it wasn’t David’s level of honesty with the Lord that allowed the Lord to call David a man after his own heart. For me, when I feel unhappy and discontent, I can be tempted to withdraw from God because I think I’m not feeling like I’m supposed to feel, but that’s NOT what David did, that’s not what Job did. I believe it’s better to stay in it with God, to stay IN RELATIONSHIP with God IN our hurts, habits and hang ups and CRY out to the Lord in those very times. Even if the Lord needs to correct us, He can do it because we’re still in relationship with Him.
I think back to when I was doing cocaine and how I reached a point where I couldn’t justify my sin, but neither was I ready to change, so for the first and only time in my entire life since I accepted Jesus as a little girl, I intentionally withdrew my communication with God because I could not justify how I could come to God in an obvious state of sin. That decision hurt my heart so much because I always talked to God about everything all the time and to willfully determine to not speak to Him was so hard for me and emphasized my sin all the more. At times when I look back I weep for me then and think, oh poor girl, if only you HAD reached out to Him then, He loved you enough, you needed Him more then in the middle of the wrong behavior and He didn’t forsake you ever! However, I also think about how many other sinful behaviors I had found a way of justifying and excusing, so I’m glad that at least I hit a point in my behaviors that I could own the actual sinfulness of at least an aspect of my actions, not that withdrawing my communication from God was the proper response.
The further I go down my road to recovery, the more I’m able to recognize how poor so much of my lifestyle has been for so many years and how in denial I’ve been about how ungodly so many of my habits have been. I have heard many women recently out of incarceration say how it took prison for them to break out of denial, and of course, some people never do wake up to recognize the part they have played with destructive behaviors they have engaged in.
I remember talking with a gal who told me she had finally done the fourth step inventory sober. I started to laugh as soon as I heard her say she had done the fourth step sober, since the twelve steps are part of a program about sobriety. Thankfully, I caught myself before the laugh escaped because she was completely serious.
“Oh yeah,” she went on, “I’ve done the fourth step loads of time not sober.”
I remember thinking, well yeah, I was past the point of using alcohol, illegal drugs and misusing legal drugs by the time I came to Celebrate Recovery, but thinking back on my prior way of life I could quickly and easily imagine myself going through inventory and self-medicating the pain with chemical substances.
It’s challenging enough to face hard realities about our life and ourselves without feeling judged, condemned and having people tell us if we just did A, B and C we’d be set, or “you just need to ‘fill in the blank.’ ” Those kinds of quick fixes feel insulting to me mainly. It feels to me like, Really? That’s it? That’s all I need to do? Well, silly, stupid me, why haven’t I seen the light til you waltzed into my life with all that brilliance. Ah, well, I was that girl once and I still struggle with it sometimes. The guideline and the concept to support one another, not to fix one another is one of my favorite things about the Celebrate Recovery ministry. It’s more than just a small group share guideline, it’s a way of life. 🙂