Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [others], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I resent dirty dishes. It doesn’t matter how many times I clean them, there they are again, sitting like little sassholes in the sink all dirty and expectant. What, pray tell, do you want from me? 

My parents have an arrangement that began when my brother and I were wee tots. My dad would clean up after dinner; my mom would bathe the babies. What a team. Even though my brother and I presently bathe ourselves, the tradition of my dad washing dishes persists. I love cooking. But being single means that I also have to be the one to clean the dishes. If you grew up in a home where you had to do household chores, this possibly hasn’t been a rude awakening for you. However, as I grew up doing farm chores and manual labor, I find the monotony of standing over a sink night after night wearisome. After I cook and eat, I set my bowl in the sink, miffed at the injustice of the fact that I must also clean. 

To be clear, washing dishes is not a difficult task, nor is it particularly time consuming, particularly the dishes created by one human. And even more particularly when that one human has a dishwasher. 

I am told that this tension of reality meeting our idea of how things “should” be is common in marriage. Each person brings their own customs and ideas of how a marriage works into their new life. If each party grew up in vastly different households, this can cause a lot of friction as they are confronted with these deeply ingrained “rules.” Each party likely thinks that their upbringing is the normal and right one. My indignation at the dirty dishes I made makes me think that it is not only married people who run into this issue. I don’t have roommates or a spouse, so there is no division of labor. If I don’t do them, they won’t get done. Unless I hire someone to do them, but what am I, made of money? No, no I am not. 

One of the beautiful things about the Twelve Steps is that they are never done. Another is the community aspect. The supposition of AA is that sobriety is impossible in isolation. I think spirituality works the same way. Heck, almost all of life works the same way. We need support in order to continually come back to work that is never done. And unless you’re a straight up narcissist, you will find that there is joy in being part of someone else’s support system as well. Mutuality in relationship keeps them healthy, aka the presence of both give and take from each party, or an equal interest in the well-being of each other and the relationship. 

There’s this idea of transformation all up in the Bible, especially in the New Testament where there’s talk of baptism, death to life, and being born again. Based on stories I heard from Christians, I thought I was supposed to have had this big, dramatic moment of transformation. I thought it meant that, once that happened, I would never struggle with doubts and I would magically become this sunny, bubbly person. But I don’t think it works like that most of the time. I was working off of a perfectionist’s assumption: that faith is something to be achieved. I didn’t take into account the habits and expectations that we bring into our faith, which as we have previously discussed don’t die easily. 

There’s a phrase I love in 2 Corinthians 3:18, that we are being transformed “from one degree of glory to another.” I know that glory is a really religious word and I try to steer clear of exclusive lingo here. But basically, the idea is that it is a continual process. Like the 12 Steps suppose, the implication of spiritual awakening is a new radiance that comes from having our wounds slowly healed and our missteps constantly forgiven. 

When I get overwhelmed by the monotonous slog life can be, and more specifically, a life of faith, is it generally because I forget that I do not have to do any of this alone. I have a God who has promised to never leave me. I have a group of humans who care about me. What if there, in the unglamorous moments of washing dishes, writing blogs, and ordinary catch-up chats, that is where the miraculous happens? What if in the small moments of our lives we are transformed the most deeply? 

I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have. It’s been humbling to wade into the 12 steps and wrestle with them on the pages of this blog each week. I’m going to leave y’all with the serenity prayer, which is said at the end of each AA meeting.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, check out the resources on the Alcoholics Anonymous website, or call this National Helpline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health. 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

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