"Tammy" grew up in an abusive home. Her father disappeared and her alcoholic mom brought home a succession of violent men. She dropped out of school at 15 and ran off with the first man that smiled at her. Tammy drank and drugged her way through five husbands and countless dysfunctional relationships. "I was a manipulator who'd steal your wallet, steal your boyfriend, and whatever else I could get my hands on." Today Tammy has an advanced degree and she counsels other women.
"People saw me coming and they crossed to the other side of the street." "Rae" said, "I stunk of booze and I was homeless. Today I pay rent, utilities; I own a car, and I am a productive member of society."
And there are so many more of them! They are women of dignity and grace who have walked through fire and been reborn. Former hookers, former inmates, former children who hid in dark closets fearing for their lives—they all gather now to support each other, and to celebrate in the rooms of recovery.
This past weekend I attended a women's recovery conference and was honored to hear their stories, and to share in their laughter and tears. As I listened to the women talk about how blessed they were it occurred to me that I had been given the opportunity to see them through the eyes of Jesus!
Luke 15:1-2 "Now all the tax-gatherers and sinners were coming near to Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
Jesus saw something in these folks that no one else did. He saw in them their true divine value. In John 4:7-9 Jesus asked for water from the woman that no one else would speak to. In Luke 7 Jesus hung out with an "immoral" woman. There are many other examples in the bible. Jesus didn't just forgive them he loved them! He didn't just save them, he appreciated them, he cherished them!
That is what we in recovery get to do. Because we have opened ourselves up to each other, and to God, we get a loving Christ-like insight.
Jesus doesn't need to wait for the story to unfold. He sees it before it happens. He sees it when we can't.
I have to remember that when I struggle with that selfish family member who just doesn't get it or when I walk by that hard-scrabble pan handler. I don't see what God sees in them.
But because I have met the "Lauras, the "Tammys", the "Raes, and because I have been transformed myself, I have been given a precious new vantage point, through the eyes of Jesus.
The twelfth step reminds us that we have had a spiritual awakening as the result of the steps. For Christians that means we get to see each other like Jesus does. How cool is that? The love and the fellowship we enjoy is beyond anything we could have imagined in our drinking and drugging days. I think that is why some folks at meetings identify as "grateful" alcoholics.
Step 12 also instructs us to "...practice these principals in all of our affairs." For me that is the hardest part. It means I have to focus my new Christ-like eyes outside of the meetings towards my family, my workplace, in traffic, and yes, even behind the lady in the ten items or less line who has 19 things in her cart! I know because I counted them.
There is a saying for people like me, "Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly." While it is still easier for me to feel love and empathy for those in the fellowship of recovery I have a responsibility as a sober Christian to strive to gaze at all folks through His eyes.