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For over the last 7 decades 12 step programs have enjoyed a certain amount of abstinence amongst those who “practice the principles” in support of countering the clutches of addiction. Some people who have encountered long term recovery have seen the return of life, family and faith because of their participation. At the center of any 12 step program is the essential principle of acceptance.
This is not a dour or legalistic acceptance of the abstract. It is the brutal reality of where the addict is located in their current moment. It is also the hope that through this acceptance the addict will begin to supplant already existing guilt and shame with a humility impelling real change.
Nor is this acceptance only negative, but one that says an addict is worth and worthy of salvation. Many whom have been witnessed their final rejection from society have found a home and love. This love has helped them to find something in the mirror that was indeed lovable.
Seemingly the acceptance of a supportive community can worm through an entrenched ego to allow real moments of clarity. Hearing a story amongst the stories that is too deja vu to ignore can cause cracks within protective denials. When there is a breakthrough it is then that there can be collective development toward incremental changes in not only addiction but character itself. Yet, none of this could happen without the humility that one must have when accepting the location one inhabits on the world.
Acceptance is at the core of the beginning of any authentic spiritual experiences with God. How many of us have carried before God the bundles of our unworthiness? We then find our worst suspicions realized because we are rejected, not by God, but by our overwhelming guilt and shame. They become an iconostasis filled with idealistic gold leafed pictures of the divine blocking our entrance into the emptiness of the tabernacle lying beyond. They could just as well be the vehicles that propel us into the activity of the beyond.
We are accepted. We are to love others because we are already truly loved. It is an intimate acceptance that turns our gaze from ourselves into love for all humankind. Yet, to know that one is accepted in the abstract is all together different from experiencing acceptance in reality.
On the banks of Jordan when everyone surrounding heard, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased” there was much more than divine validation of messianic ministry happening. It was praise not only for Jesus in the midst of that stream, but for all who strive to live out communion with Christ inside and outside humanity.
It benefits even the roughest personality to experience the tenderness of acceptance. Through the intense realization that every part we would prefer to remain hidden is of no consequence to the divine’s view. What a liberation! In those moments we have the shocking revelation that it is us and our communities that hold unnecessary judgment on the past. These histories are transformed and transformative. They can be the vehicles in creating redemptive creature able to accept others.
This, of course, is true equality. We are not unique in our ability to blot out the mercy offered by God. Our sins and finitude are shared in all humanity and are not counted against us in relationship with the divine. Neither are we special in access to the tender familiarity of God’s love. From our initial meeting with the divine we are reminded by the psalmist that it is God who thrusts us onto the creator’s bosom. Irresistibly our God’s love and mercy is given voice in the conversation, actions and lives of our neighbors we are given access to experience.
Acceptance can also have central place and greater meaning in a narcissism driven society. In Western cultures we have been tempted to over-estimate our agency within the salvation of society. Whether it is through market driven capitalism, technological triumphalism, scientific optimism, militaristic power and journeying to exploration’s extremes it is difficult to determine human limitation. This self-love gaze creates a distorted view of reality and hinders the ability for realistic change. So, it is accepting a realistic anthropology that knows humanity’s place in society where we find the possibility of salvation.
We find this amongst people of who lack eschatology. It is often amongst Christians who believe strongly in progress. It is in those moments of ordering life’s techniques that have overshadowed the hope in End. With 70 years of catastrophic humanly initiated atrocities it is difficult to bear the evolutionary belief in the timelessness of human existence. Eternal life enfolded into the divine’s timeless freedom has been supplanted by a saccharine optimism in human accomplishment. One should only rattle off the names Hiroshima, forced sterilization, Auschwitz, Rwanda, the trail of tears or Fukushima to hinder a utopian gaze toward time’s eventuality at the hands of human initiated progress.
Also, when global climate change looms toward burying islands and threatening population’s food sources of continents its seems absurd to herald human’s co-creative force for never ending continuance. Even more when natural resources like water and oil are shown all too finite is it hard to justify humanity’s exemption from limitation. This is especially true when scientists are increasingly revealing that human agency is the main causal relationship to our planet’s ecological change.
This is why it is imperative for people of faith to practice acceptance for not only our sinful participation in distortion of full being but also to gladly honor our finitude. The scriptures boldly tell us that humanity’s time will end. Will it end in apocalypse or New Earth? Even in the midst of our participation in death we are promised that God resides with us in death.
So, let us accept our mortal fate. It is limited, fragmented and to some extent beyond our control. In that finite, human and distorted story let us recognize the greater story of our acceptance. It is only when we begin to unfold the true nature of our story that we will be active participants in it’s salvation. We know that we will end, but until the ultimate End we will be continually offered the opportunities to generate life through the transformation of our communities and our worlds toward accepting the love of their true creator.
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