by Vinita Hampton Wright

 

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

When we’re having a hard time—grieving a loss, looking for a better situation, working to get sober—we’re tempted to believe that our pain is unique or that our flaws and failures are in a category all their own. Then we get brave and begin to talk to people—and we discover that we’re not alone, that there are a lot of people with struggles like ours. This sense of community can play a huge role in our healing and recovery.

Then, on the way to getting better, we discover the Higher Power. We learn how to pray, how to meditate, how to begin to see ourselves through God’s eyes of mercy. We will spend the rest of our lives experiencing God’s love and learning how to be fully human, truly alive. From time to time, a sense of joy will come over us or we’ll see something clearly that takes our breath away. And the more we do the simple work of learning to pray, learning to be in contact with God, learning to work alongside God to do wonderful things in this world—the more we do all that, the more we will discover ourselves changing. We’ll become more and more awake, more and more aware of what is happening inside us and around us.

We have been transformed. And God isn’t finished with us yet.

You and I are living proof of love and growth and healing and forgiveness. We live these realities every day. You might have a past full of damage and setbacks. I might have reached middle age without finishing high school. But we don’t need “success” and higher education to know the truth we have discovered.

Because of what we have experienced, we have honest-to-God credentials for helping others. Maybe we become sponsors to others in a 12-Step program. Maybe we begin talking to friends and family members about what we’re learning about God—not the God of some political party or a flashy megachurch, but the God Who Is, the God who sticks with us through everything and loves us so stubbornly that we begin to love ourselves.

Ignatius of Loyola never stopped working on his own spiritual life. He never stopped learning what God had to teach him. But he had barely experienced God’s love before he was out in the streets trying to introduce God to others. Ignatius did this by caring for people who were poor or sick. When his path took him to university, it wasn’t long before he had gathered a small group of young men who recognized that Ignatius was acquainted with God, and they wanted whatever it was that fueled his love and passion. The Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—were created because Ignatius couldn’t keep the good news to himself. He couldn’t help but look for every way possible to help others get acquainted with God and develop their own relationship and their own sacred story.

You and I have our own stories to tell, and they are meant to be told. Our lives are meant to be shared. So let’s encourage one another and not keep the good news to ourselves.