But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. 1 John 1:9

How does this passage sit with you? Is it hopeful and freeing? Is it weighted down with shame and baggage? Does it resonate in the soul or simply come up blank with any meaning? Our past shapes our future. For those that grew up in heavy-handed, fiery Christianity, this passage may feel like a sword that was used to assault you. For those that have the fortitude to see that their living isn’t perfect (sinful), this is a passage of immense hope—God will cleanse, or heal, us from that which we have done!

Fr. Richard Rohr once made a bold statement about the 12 Steps of the recovery community. He said, in effect, that the greatest contribution to spirituality in the 20th century are the 12 steps. I would have to agree. Rooted firmly in the bible, the founders quickly realized that the principles worked, but too many were wounded or repellant of anything that sounded Christian. And so they made a simple model of how to awaken to God, free oneself from the past, make right that which you have wronged, and continue to maintain a healthy soul.

The 4th step is often daunting as we read, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” What does that mean? It means, we look into the mirror of the self. It means that we stop looking at the speck in another’s eye and deal with the plank in my own eye. It means to open the door to the moments of imperfection in order to release the residual residue of shame, guilt, remorse and pain.

Those who walk this daring road often speak of the pain that is first experienced followed closely by the profound freedom that is felt. There is a lightness to life, to memory and to the future. This is the equivalent of living reflectively and once the step is done, we don’t stay there. Instead, we move forward to true freedom. The next 3 steps are vital…

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

This has worked not only in the last 100 years or so through the 12 steps, but since the beginning of this way of Jesus. The goal isn’t to beat up on oneself or wallow in self-pity; instead, it is to heal the past, let go of its power, and become open to a new future. Could you be so daring?