Early on, our weekly meeting for discipleship bands did not have a question about secrets. Along the way, we have been indebted to our friends Kevin Watson and Scott Kisker who have been involved with bands much longer than we have. In fact, they still use the exact original five questions that John Wesley drafted in 1739:
Once over lunch, Kevin and Scott described that in all their experience in bands it was question five, “Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?” that always broke open significant transformation in someone’s life. It is the game-changer.
I have often pondered the unique genius in Wesley to include such a question. He knew that our biggest struggles feel complicated and induce shame, and for that reason we tend to be secretive about them. But he also recognized that healing could often be found in shining light on those secrets in a safe community, even if those persons were not skilled to deal with all of it. In the light, God’s grace could freely flow and sin-sick people like you and me could become well.
Question 5 may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in some band groups. It may feel too personal or presumptive and cause some people to run fast and far from these formative relationships. That is certainly a risk. But it’s a risk worth taking, because the reward is spiritual transformation—a true breakthrough in our pursuit of the love of God in our lives.
In 1935, a meeting between a New York stockbroker named Bill and a surgeon named Dr. Bob resulted in what would become Alcoholics Anonymous. The subsequent formation of the twelve steps would be the foundation of a process that has helped countless millions of men and women become sober. The following are numbers four and five of the steps:
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Many believe that steps 4 and 5 are the most challenging aspect of the recovery process. In fact, most people have a sponsor and dive more deeply into a focused “Step Study” before they really put this into practice and live it out. Participants are encouraged to spend as long as it takes to write down on paper all their short-comings, failures, resentments, and fears, as well as things they have done and things that have been done to them. No matter how potentially embarrassing, they are encouraged to be completely honest. They are then encouraged to share the exact nature of the wrongs with another human being. Many duck out of recovery before they get through this process, but the ones that do are well on their way to healing and recovery.
The reality is that someone who subjects him or herself to this level of honesty really desires to become well. While recovery communities might have more people stick with the program if they removed steps 4 and 5, the lifelong results would be less impactful. In keeping the steps, AA is essentially saying, “When you are ready, this step will be here.” The same is true of the band meeting. When you are ready, questions 4 and 5 will be there. No pressure and no rush. You have to want and be ready for this level of honesty.
I am so grateful that you have made it this far. If you did not believe there was a chance you could become more whole, more holy, more loving in this process, you would likely not be here. So way to go! High five!
Jesus, you know me through and through. There is no shadow you cannot light up, no wall you cannot break down. Search me and know me God. Reveal to me places where I myself may not be aware that I am stuck. Give me the courage to be known in the places you shine your light on. Amen.
I want to leave you with three questions on which to meditate. I learned them from J. D. Walt, whose mentor Maxie Dunnam taught them to him long ago:
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