I was not a Christian for the first 23 years of my daughter’s life. Despite being brought up in an intact home and attending church several times a week, I left that faith to pursue my own definition of happiness. That decision, while an unconscious one, took me places I never imagined in my worst nightmares. It also meant I did not create the loving, safe, and secure environment my kids deserved.
Thankfully, God waited patiently for me to come to the end of myself, but much damage had been done in the process. My daughter had fled to Florida to pursue her idea of happiness, far from her now (overly) enthusiastic, Jesus-loving mother. Just because God had forgiven my sins didn’t mean she would. I had been attending a 12-step program for a couple of years when I decided to apply those same steps to my relationship with her.
For those who have previously listened to me talk about my story, you may recall how passionate I am about it. It’s my belief that many could take advantage of the perspective working through the 12 Steps can bring. For those unfamiliar with the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, you can easily Google them. Steps 1-3 are about acknowledging our need for God to help us change our behavior. Step 4 requires that we take a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. I needed to take a look at my past and write down the ways I had participated in hurting and alienating my daughter. Step 5 instructs us to share that list with God and someone else—how humiliating but necessary!
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Step 6 says we are entirely ready to ask God to remove these defects of character, while in Step 7, we humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings. Now to the nitty gritty! Step 8 required me to make a list of all the persons I had harmed and be willing to make amends. In Step 9, we make those amends, unless doing so could injure someone.
Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then offer your gift.
Over a period of years, my daughter and I began to establish trust again. We talked about the harm and injury that were done. I took responsibility for my neglect and my selfishness. I apologized for the hurt I caused her. I communicated my love for her and my desire to restore our relationship—with Jesus at the center.
After 14 years of praying, talking, not talking, and the misunderstandings and clarifications that go with restoring a relationship, my daughter came to know the Lord. She experienced the forgiveness and love Jesus offers us all. Through that mutual love and focus on Jesus—and his forgiveness of us—we restored our relationship. The sweetest words she has said to me are, “Mom, I love you. You did the best you could at the time.”
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Steps 10-12 are maintenance and opportunities for on-going repentance, restoration, and telling others about God’s goodness! My daughter and I are committed to working these steps and proclaiming God’s goodness in our lives!
This weekend, Dr. Jason Brauer shared a few key steps to repairing broken relationships. He encouraged us to put things in perspective, acknowledge the fault, and apologize. By using the 12 Steps, I was able to put things in perspective and not only acknowledge my responsibility but also what hadn’t been my responsibility. I apologized for my part in our dysfunctional relationship and received the forgiveness my daughter offered! I didn’t blow it after all—all thanks be to God!
Have you ever thought about making a list of people you have harmed through your words or actions? Who in your life needs to hear you say, “I’m sorry”? Can you say it without a “but” where you try to justify your actions based on something they did?
Look up the 12 Steps of AA or the steps of Celebrate Recovery. Take a personal and searching moral inventory of yourself. Share your inventory with a trusted friend, and prayerfully consider what God might want you to do with it.
For more information on Celebrate Recovery click here.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen (Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr).
This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.
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