“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8
For something to be deemed pure it must be free of anything that taints it. For a heart to be purified it has to be purged of sin and guilt. If that task was up to our own doing we’d be doomed. But we have Jesus Christ and, with Him abiding in us, anything is possible. He bore the sum of our unforgivable iniquities and suffered the inevitable penalty for them on the cross once and for all. He died there but he didn’t stay dead. Three days later He arose and walked out of the tomb. And, because He loves us so much, He made it possible for us to become “pure in heart.” While the act of being saved happens in a nanosecond, the work of “cleaning out the attic” can take months because, as I pointed out in the last chapter, we’ve done a stellar job of sticking the sources of our hurts, hang-ups and habits into tiny crevices of our subconscious minds where it takes a pickaxe to dislodge them. That process is what the fourth step in the Celebrate Recovery ministry talks about when it instructs us to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Unfortunately for many, that dirty job turns out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, causing them to abandon their recovery altogether and return to their old familiar ways. That’s why it’s emphasized that it’s not an endeavor to be attempted alone. At least three persons are involved. Principle 4 states, “Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.” The task of dragging out clutter from your brain cavity and examining it with sanctified eyes forces you to confront and own up to your past. Everything you’ve done so far in your recovery has been aimed at stopping the denial and admitting that you’re powerless to change without Christ’s help so the first person designated is obvious. It’s you. Confessing to God takes prayer, thanksgiving, worship, repentance and humility. Laying it all out in front of another person, however, can be the most terrifying prospect you’ve ever faced. That’s one of the main reasons Celebrate Recovery exists. We know how difficult the fourth principle is so we go to great lengths in training leaders to be trustworthy sponsors who’ll encourage you to complete your inventory.
At the risk of redundancy I’ll reiterate the importance of excavating and scouring the various items buried in our psyches. Digging deep can be painful and scary but it’s a necessary milestone to pass on the road to recovery. C.G. Jung said, “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Yet uncovering those things and doing something about them ain’t exactly the same deal. Veronica Roth wrote, “There is a difference between admitting and confessing. Admitting involves softening, making excuses for things that cannot be excused; confessing names the crimes at its full severity.” But this doesn’t have to be a brutal, gut-wrenching experience. Your Savior will provide you the strength and serenity to confront your past. Trust Him to be there with you. By tapping into His limitless power, you can do it. Pema Chodron said, “The most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” If anxiety strikes don’t forget what Psalm 23:4 assures us; “Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me.” Jesus will be beside you every step of the way.
Next you confess your faults to God. Figuring He’s already aware of them won’t do. My wife knows all too well that I’m lazy but it’s only when I agree with her assessment that I add it to my list of dubious traits to correct so our relationship can improve. Our walk with God can always get closer and His door is never locked. When my world was falling apart due to my porn addiction I went directly to God with my confession. I can relate to one of John Grisham’s fictional characters of which he wrote, “In one long glorious acknowledgement of failure, he laid himself bare before God.” To this day I’m ashamed that it took my habit placing my marriage in jeopardy for me to surrender my will to the Lord but I’m also extremely grateful that He came running down the road to embrace me when I did. C.S. Lewis said, “God allows us to experience the low points in life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” The act of confessing your sins to the great I AM is huge. It means exactly what it sounds like – getting on your knees and telling your Father in Heaven about all your shortcomings and character defects that cause you to sin on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Not out of guilt, necessarily, but out of the realization that the person you hurt most was none other than your creator. Don’t leave Him out. Vance Havner wrote, “We’re sometimes repentant because of the harm we’ve done ourselves and others in our transgressions but there’s little repentance toward God… We may regret what our sins do to our testimony and the evil effect on others but we are little concerned because the fellowship with God is broken. This makes for shallow and inadequate confession because we have not touched the heart of the trouble.” No one else can do this for you. You need to be just as truthful with Him as He’s been with you. In Isaiah 1:18 God elucidates His desire to be a participant in your recovery: “’Come, let’s consider your options,’ says the Lord. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool.’”
It’s ironic that for most of us it’s easier to confess our trespasses to God Almighty than to another human being but it’s often the case. The scriptures state the obvious, though. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more efficiently. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone… there is no one to help him… Two men can resist an attack that would defeat one man alone.” Perhaps you fear gossiping will result. At Celebrate Recovery we know how crucial confidentiality and anonymity is so we stress it repeatedly throughout the various aspects of our ministry. You must be able to trust the environment we create as well as your sponsor, the one person who’ll know everything about you once you’ve revealed your inventory to them. We do all we can to make this phase of your recovery as safe as possible. Because, as Charles Kingsley wrote, “A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend, one human soul whom we can trust utterly, who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of our faults.” At CR you’ll hook up with that person. One who intimately knows the battle you’re in because they struggle with the same affliction. No matter what your obsession is, I guarantee there’s someone there who’s been up on the front lines of that war. Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend” and Proverbs 20:5 says, “Though good advice lies deep within a counselor’s heart, the wise man will draw it out .” A major difference between Celebrate Recovery and AA is that in CR you’re invited to join a gender-specific group of folks to undergo an in-depth step study course together. Often this is when and where you’ll find your sponsor. Until then you’ll have weekly opportunities to open up and share your struggle, starting with your second visit. In small group settings you’ll acquire accountability partners who’ll listen to and support you on your journey to wellness. As John Bradshaw said, “Recovery begins with embracing our pain and taking the risk to share it with others. We do this by joining a group and talking about our pain.” The added bonus is you’ll form friendships the likes of which you may have never known before and establish bonds that’ll last a lifetime. I can’t tell you how many people have found through Celebrate Recovery the joy of being part of a loving family they’d always yearned for but never knew. Your sponsor will be a source of strength but never underestimate the power to be found in having allies behind you. Ecclesiastes 4:12 ends with “Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken” so imagine how strong a cord with twenty strands is!
So now it’s time to write your inventory. It doesn’t matter if you use a pencil, a pen, a crayon or if you type it out in a Word document. Physically writing things down will help you maintain focus, organize your thoughts efficiently and better enable you to recall experiences repressed for years. If you have no idea where to begin, CR recommends you use their simple, five-column worksheet to get you going. The first heading is where you identify any person you’re harboring resentment for. Go back as far as you can and don’t leave anyone out. Remember, only you and one other person will see this so feel free to include even those who may still be a part of your life. Keep in mind that this is part of the heart-purifying process so, as Ephesians 4:31 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” The next column is where you express the cause of your conflict with that person. In other words, what happened? Was it alcohol, drug or sex addiction that made things go south? Were you bullied by a sibling or a peer? Was there a teacher or a role model that made you feel stupid or worthless? Were you betrayed by a loved one? Be specific about what occurred. In the next row write down the effect those events had on you both in the past and in the present. Don’t try to self-edit, either. Sometimes taking a closer look at what seems insignificant on the surface can lead to a major insight or breakthrough as you begin to see patterns develop. Roy Hession wrote, “Everything that comes as a barrier between us and another person, be it ever so small, comes as a barrier between us and God.” Take in the big picture. Zora Hurston quipped, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” The fourth heading is for assessing the damage done. Be honest about the emotional, psychological and physical wounds you suffered. Especially the ones that left scars. Your sponsor will remind you that God shares your pain and desperately yearns to comfort and restore you. God said in Ezekiel 34:16, “I will look for those that are lost, I will bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick.” Lastly is the space reserved for taking responsibility for your part in the issue. Now, it may be that you’re totally innocent of doing anything wrong. It’s okay to write “not guilty.” This especially applies to those sexually abused as a minor. It wasn’t your fault. But when it comes to other offenses it’s time to own up to how you reacted to an incident. Perhaps you’ll need to delve into how your hurt feelings and bruised ego caused you to respond in such a way that made the whole ugly situation take a disastrous turn for the worse. This could be the first time in your life that you’ve held yourself accountable for part (if not all) of the fallout that resulted.
While privately spelling out what people did to you can be liberating, documenting sinful things you did to others can be awful. But those deeds must be included, as well. Ask God for clarity in those matters. In Psalm 139:23-24 David prays, “Examine me, O God, and know my mind; test me, and discover if there is any evil in me and guide me in the everlasting way.” It’s time to step up to the plate and cease playing the victim card. Blaise Pascal said, “Truly it is an evil to be full of faults; but it is a still greater evil to be full of them and to be unwilling to recognize them, since that is to add the further fault of a voluntary illusion.” We need to punch through our self-protective shell in order to observe the naked truth about our base nature. Steve Maraboli wrote, “The victim mindset produces a delusion of fault and blame that blinds you from the simple truth of cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Foremost in your mind and heart should be the unimpeachable fact that because of Christ you’ve been forgiven for all the bad stuff you’ve done. You didn’t earn forgiveness, it was given to you freely. Erwin Lutzer wrote, “Forgiveness is always free. But that doesn’t mean that confession is always easy. Sometimes it is hard. Incredibly hard. It’s painful to admit our sins and entrust ourselves to God’s care.” I agree but this is your chance to get it out of your system by transferring it to a document. So continue until your hand cramps! Be encouraged by Joshua 1:9; “Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I and many others can attest that going through this part of your recovery is the most therapeutic thing we’ve ever done because it made us face the giants.
Mother Teresa once said, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” That’s the feeling you might get as you do your inventory. My advice is to allow yourself to be more sensitive and vulnerable than you’ve ever been before while never losing sight of the fact that the goal of finding God matters more than how we feel. It’s healthy to face the agony in our souls, to feel sad because others violated our dignity and to long to feel loved, valued and accepted just as we are. But in the midst of it all we must remind ourselves that the point is not us, but the God who loves us. Perspective is essential. We matter immensely to Him. Therefore how we feel, how we’ve been treated, what we do and why we do it is important to Him. However, in the final analysis, He matters more. God has a master plan to overthrow evil and bring all things together in Christ. God asks us to seek him and He’s let us know through His Word that in the process of finding Him, we’ll find ourselves. We’ve been assured that He’ll let us find Him. Jesus told the crowds that the pure in heart will see God. Humbly confessing the most profound passions of our heart is a big step towards purification. I quote Hession again: “Let a man begin to be absolutely honest about himself and his sins and he will begin to see more clearly than ever before where the redemption of Christ has got to be applied progressively to his life. This is the reason why James 5:16 tells us to put ourselves under the discipline of ‘confessing our faults to one another.’”
I met up with my sponsor midweek at church around 7pm. We found an unoccupied meeting room and sat on opposite sides of the table. After he said a prayer I opened my folder and started reading my inventory aloud. Somewhere around 9:30 I finished. He hadn’t said a word, he’d just quietly listened as I confessed every bad and good thing I’d done since I was a toddler. When I left I felt like a mountain had been lifted from my shoulders. Someone knew everything there was to know about me and still wanted to be my brother in Christ. The man I used to be didn’t leave that room with me. He’d been spilled out onto the table and swept onto the carpet to be vacuumed up and tossed into the dumpster by the cleaning crew the next day.