Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
“Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
On each Sabbath Day, we are invited to the table of the Lord to offer our gifts as we partake of the Sacrament. The gifts the Lord requires are a broken heart and a contrite spirit. What does that mean? One meaning is to come repenting of our sins, recognizing where we have fallen short, asking forgiveness, and resolving to do better.
How can I approach the alter of the Lord with my gift and be sure that there is nothing unresolved in my life that would interfere with my communion with the Lord? How can I be sure that my heart is truly broken and my Spirit contrite? How do I develop the self-awareness to recognize my faults, ask forgiveness or make amends, and come to the Lord’s table with nothing to prevent feeling a full measure of his Spirit?
Step Four has taught me how to develop that required self-awareness, as I have walked through the process of making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. I didn’t approach this step with enthusiasm—the first few times we discussed this step, I recoiled from it. I was afraid of it. It was overwhelming and distasteful to me. But when the time was right, as we read the step materials in Healing Through Christ I kept seeing reassurances of compassion, love, gentleness, and the Lord’s willingness to accompany me on this process. I was encouraged to see myself with “honesty and gentleness.” I was reassured that “without shame or self-contempt, we become willing to be changed through the revealing illumination of the spirit of truth. This reflective journey will become a joyful transforming experience for each of us.”
My heart became ready for this reflective journey, and for the first time I read the Working the Steps section, committed to doing the painful inventory that I still somewhat dreaded. The manual encouraged me to start with two topics that were much less dreadful than I expected:
- Remembering God’s Help in Our Lives
- Listing Our Positive Traits
Those two topics were the perfect way to start! Remembering God’s help in my life helped me to see the many tender mercies in my life, reassured me that God had been with me even in tough times of my own making, and gave me hope for his continued sustaining love through this next journey.
Listing my positive traits kept me from going right to a list of everything that is wrong with me. It helped me to start from a place of hope and balance. I was able to see a more complete and honest picture of myself.
I have done a long inventory by breaking up my life into small sections. But I also do small inventories now; if I have a difficult experience with someone, I inventory that experience or relationship. I try to stay balanced by starting with the two topics of recognizing God’s help in this situation and the positive traits I brought to it. I also don’t shy away from recognizing my part in the problem. I invite the Lord to help me see more clearly and objectively what I have done well and what I need to change.
If I discover a relationship which is uncomfortable, I know there is an opportunity there for me to discover my part in it. I search for what I need to do to come unto the Lord unencumbered by clutter that will block the Spirit and the joy that my Father wants me to feel. On a daily basis, I can become open to recognizing what is interfering with God’s promise that I will always have His Spirit to be with me.
Repentance can be a joyful process, as the Lord helps me to see and change my thoughts and behavior so that I can welcome the Spirit more fully into my life.