Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

The classic first Step of the traditional 12 Steps of AA. The First Step, because for so many, there’s no facing the need to change until all has crumbled around them. Men, the founders; accustomed to power, to authority, to control, to managing their own lives. Facing and admitting powerlessness was absolutely transformative for them; accepting help from others began to bring radical change to their lives.

Years ago I heard William White of Chestnut Health Systems speak on their addictions programs, and how they’d found the traditional 12 Steps seemed strangely ineffective for some populations – specifically, for low-income women, women who had experienced crushing poverty, abuse, possibly prostitution, the child welfare system. Addictions counselors would wait and wait for these women to “hit bottom”, astounded that the repeated insults to life and self did not bring them to a place of readiness to take that first Step. What the counselors were so slow to realize, is that these women did not “hit bottom”, because they lived at the bottom. Admitting powerlessness was not transformative for them, since they had never experienced power. Life had always meant powerlessness, and had been unmanageable from the beginning.

For women who lived in powerlessness, the transformative experience, the one thing which began to bring change into their lives, was Hope.

The chance to actually have a little power. The taste of choices, and the ability to act on those choices. A glimpse of vision that their lives could be different, could become better, could ever be manageable.

Matthew 16: 24-25: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

It’s horribly bold of me to reframe Jesus. Yet I am coming to think that to lose one’s life, one must first in fact have a life. One must be engaged in the world, share its pain, share its struggles. Have connections which endure, through trial, through testing, through pain and betrayal and difficulty and sickness and health. Through joy and concern. To minister to the world, one must be in the world. Not just watch it, from a comfortable safe distance.

How can I say I love, and yet go unscathed? Am I so willing to give, because I have nothing to lose? I skim on the surface, I pick and choose, I take the easy road. Forgive me.

God makes connections where there are no visible reasons to have connections, but God has a plan. God has reasons we cannot see. I need my life to be interwoven. With Deborah, with Andrew, with my sisters and brothers in Waverly and in Geneva and in Taurage and in Jarabacoa and in Bangkok and in Arbon and in places I do not know. My compadres. My co-parents, my family.

God has given me a flexible sense of family, all my life. This is part of who I am.

I do not know who else I am. I instigate gatherings. I create spaces and places and times for people to meet and connect and share stories and become intertwined. I watch the connections form, grow, lead to…something, or something unknown. I wash dishes. I knit, gifts and remembrances and well wishes and prayers. I listen.

And sometimes I hold back. Sometimes I push or pull or ask or nudge, and then listen and watch. I seek to shape, to open, to invite, to comfort, to accompany. Do I have a  journey of my own? or is it my path to accompany others?

“To deconstruct – to tear down, in order to rebuild.” This is not my path. I integrate. I shift. I reframe. Am I deceived?

How can I think I have the gift to lead, when I have nothing to share?

is it my gift to be hollow?

Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found; brought here together by Christ’s love, by love are we thus bound. Forgive we now each other’s faults as we our faults confess; and let us love each other well in Christian holiness.

Bill preached on being connected, on being part of a wave, on being unable to be ourselves if we are alone, not thinking we are the only marble in the pot – unchanged if we are separated. And afterward, Jack came and kissed me. How odd, that we are part of each other, he and I. I think only in God’s kingdom could this be so.

I need to regain hold of myself. In order to lose my life, I need to claim it. Not to be blown by the wind, nor to be distracted by others’ visions of me; not to fritter it away nor to sacrifice it without knowing what it is. I have let myself go – I need to reclaim myself – or to claim myself. To live inside my own skin. To know what it is that God can use – or, if not to know, at least to continue to train. To have something, to have a life, which can be used. To be more than only what others hope I might be. More than hollow. More than reflective. More than a moth.

Means of grace. Brokenness…being torn down in order to be built up. Deconstructed. O, God.

When the revenant came down, we couldn’t imagine what it was … Incarnation.