"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."
A few weeks ago I carved out some time to sit alone in a wooden pew in an empty church and asked God to remove my shortcomings. I didn't feel anything happen. Not a single thing. In fact, I was distracted by my thoughts and didn't sense His presence at all.
Nonetheless, I knew that something very powerful was at work in this step. I couldn't seem to 'get it' and I didn't want to rush the process. So, I just set my step work aside and got on with the business of life, every so often coming back to it and wondering when I would sense it was time to move ahead. Today I can confidently share that I've come to understand this step in a very real, intimate way.
You see, until recently I couldn't really grasp that it is God, not me, who must remove my shortcomings. I felt that I could and should be able to pull myself up by the bootstraps. Deep down, I truly believed that if I tried hard enough I could be perfect. I wasn't entirely conscious of this mistaken belief, but the unrealistic expectations I placed on myself and the abusive inner dialogue I maintained betrayed my true feelings.
Perfectionism and self-sufficiency were lies I wholeheartedly subscribed to. Although I was aware that I had these shortcomings, I hadn't really contemplated the absurdity of the wrong beliefs that created them.
I can do it by myself. I don't need help. This doesn't need to be discussed. I will make myself better. I know everything that I need to do; I just need to do it! Mistakes are unacceptable. I can be and do better. Anything less than perfect is a complete failure.
It took a minor emotional breakdown and a little spiritual counseling to expose the fantasy life I was living. Any time I did, said or thought something that didn't jibe with my fantastic, perfect self had been grounds for guilt, shame and general self-loathing. The process of taking a moral inventory and becoming aware of my character defects left me with an overwhelming sense of disgust and inadequacy. All of my shortcomings were on display right in front of me and I couldn't seem to fix myself. At this point, not so long ago, I felt more spiritually sick and helpless than at any other point in my recovery thus far.
Why can't I get it right? What is wrong with me? Why am I always struggling? Shouldn't I be healthier by now? I'm always screwing up. I'm useless. I'm a fraud. I hate myself. Stupid, mean, ugly, ignorant bitch!
I played tapes like these over and over, making myself sicker and sicker, until I got the nerve to start opening up about it. I didn't know where to start and had no sense of being led by God, but in coming out the other side of this mess I can now see that God was bringing me through Step Seven. My driven, perfectionist ways and frequent disappointments were taking a toll. I had become too tired to bandage my wounds. My brokenness was exposed and I was left feeling vulnerable and damaged beyond repair. I realized that my own best efforts were failing miserably. At this point, I became receptive to teachings and healing. I started to internalize the powerful truth of the matter: I will never fix me.
God will direct us if we are but willing to surrender. My surrender was born of exhaustion not cheerful willingness, but that didn't matter to Him. Over the course of the next few weeks I kept hearing the same messages from different sources. Readings, songs, conversations, dreams and insights gently guided me to a new place. A place in which I not only understood but actually came to believe that I am not perfect and I cannot make myself perfect. That was God doing for me what I could not do for myself. That was Him removing my shortcomings of perfectionism and self-sufficiency.
I had to do the footwork. I had to open up to others about my fears and failures and demonstrate a willingness to be engaged in the process. I had to give God room to work. He gives us the opportunities and we choose whether or not we will receive them.
I'm not saying that these shortcomings are gone for good. I still consider perfectionism and self-sufficiency to be a part of my default settings, but every moment is an opportunity for me to turn these shortcomings over to God's care. I can humbly ask Him to help whenever I become aware of a character defect manifesting in my life. How He answers that prayer will always be a mystery until it happens. Perhaps it will happen quickly, like a flash of insight, or perhaps it will be a series of events that come together over time.
The seventh step must be practiced daily. It is a series of surrenders in which we admit defeat in all our battles and ask God to lead us out of the war we have waged. I still have a firm grasp on several weapons but God is patient with me. And thank goodness for that!
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."