24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I remember the first few days of my stay in a rehab center. To say the least, I was overwhelmed. “What am I doing in this place with all these losers.” How could I possibly benefit from being ‘exposed to them’.” Didn’t take me long to realize that these “losers” had truck-loads of wisdom to share with me if I would just listen. Their stories--their amazing experiences, their heart-breaking lives--were amazing. I was so “blown away” to realize that in spite of their struggles, they survived. After peeling back their stories and getting to the core I found me. Yes, I had found my story in their stories. We may not look the same, talk the same, or dress the same; but at the core of our being, we are brothers and sisters whose hearts were the same, our pain was the same, our desires were the same, our longings were the same. It was then that I began to understand what this 12-step program was trying to teach me when it spoke of community.
I pastored a church for over 30 years before retiring. In one of my last sermons to my church family I shared insight into what church should look like. I told them that if they wanted to know what church should look like, they should attend a 12-step meeting. A place where everyone is accepted just as they are. A place where there is no one at the door with “registration forms” which will determine whether they qualify to become members. A place where no one asks: “What do you do for living?” “What’s your yearly income?” etc., etc. A place where everyone is equal and the newest member is just as much a part of the community as those who have been present for multiple years. That is what church should be like. The 12-step program has given me a new perspective on what family is all about. After 33 years of clean time, thanks to my God and this ongoing experience, I look at people in a different way. If I look at them through the eyes of my God, I always see someone who is a survivor, someone whose story I will be blessed to hear, someone who is a warrior. And yes, in the midst of all these beautiful broken losers --- I found me.