My husband’s death has caused me to re-examine my life in large and small ways. One part of me wants to hole up and focus on my quilting, birds, plants.

Another part is beginning to seek ways to get out and about, to become a better person and practice kindness and courtesy in all my relationships.

As the fog of grief begins to lift, I am sensing something waiting to be born in me.

While I find praying important, it also seems meaningless unless I am willing to put hands and feet to my prayers and requests.

If I’ve learned anything in my 30-plus years in The 12 Step Program, it’s that positive change requires courage and effort.

A lot of courage and effort. One of the most difficult aspects of working for positive change is accepting the absolute necessity of wandering in the wilderness of grief, suffering, and confusion as necessary preludes to meaningful insight and change.

Change cannot happen, you see, until we are willing to let go of the past and the status quo.

Step 11 tells us to pray for one thing only: God’s will for our lives and the courage to carry that out.

And, while we may long for positive change, (getting clean, eating better, exercising, coming together for the common good, for instance) it also means we have to be willing to let go, adapt, and unlearn much of what we thought and assumed to be true and important.

There’s something about Step Five that just naturally makes one feel uneasy.

If we found taking a fearless moral inventory of ourselves (Step Four) difficult, doing a Step Five can seem almost impossible because that means sharing uncomfortable information about ourselves.

Allow someone else to see who I really am?

Openly reveal my struggles, my fragile ego and broken self?

Let them see how confused, selfish, and judgmental I tend to be?

Yet, taking Step Five is critically important if I am to grow in grace and humility.

Exposing my ego to the light, revealing my true self requires great courage , even when I know that letting it all hang out has the power to free and heal me.

The reason I find prayer to be difficult is because praying demands honesty.

Praying requires owning my true self.

To pray “thy will be done” absolutely opens me to risk as it places control in God’s hands, not mine.

What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?

What if He wants me to help someone I fear and dislike?

What if He asks me to forgive someone who hurt me or to step into difficult situations?

What if he wants me to make amends and ask for forgiveness?

Admitted to God, myself, and a trusted other the exact nature of my wrongs so I can be prepared to come before my Higher Power in prayer and supplication ready to pray for knowledge of His will for my life and the power and courage to carry that out.

Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church and author of the blog, Steps to Hope.

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