Over the next several weeks, Annette will be sharing her experience of applying the 12 Steps in an unexpected area of her life. The Twelve Steps of Healing Through Christ can help us meet and overcome many different challenges in our lives, including “unmanageable horses.”
On Tuesday I gave the prayer in my Healing Through Christ meeting and said, “Help us find something in our lives we can use the 12 step program to overcome, as we start again at the beginning of the steps.” This plea was indeed inspired, though I certainly didn’t want the answer the Lord would personally give to me.
It came later that morning as I went out to feed my horse Ally and her two sons Dusky and Tomie. I walked passed Ally eating peacefully in the lane and out to the pastures where I found Dusky and Tomie in a section that was fenced off to them. I quickly realized they had broken the fence line and gone into a section of pasture they thought contained better grass. I led them back out to where they belonged but then to my horror saw them just look around for another pasture with beautiful grass and break through another fence line. I was so angry—so out of control angry. There was nothing I could do to stop them. They had learned the fences were not hot and with their immense horse strength they could do whatever they wanted with no respect for me. In my anger I vowed right then and there to get rid of them both to the next Amish family that needed a buggy horse. I was done with this life in the country. I would sell my place and move to a condo where I would never have to do “outside” again.
I stormed into my house to tell my daughter what had happened and my decision. I raged about my feelings toward my two horses until I finally calmed down enough for the Lord’s spirit to add some insight to my situation. The words of Step One from our group meeting ran through my mind with a little variation. “Come to understand and accept that I am powerless over the actions, behavior and lack of control of my horses and that my life has become unmanageable.” I was shocked as I realized the Lord had already answered the prayer I gave earlier in the 12 Step meeting.
I indeed had an unmanageable situation and was ready to give up on my farm, my land, my home, the horses I love and the country life that is in my blood. Could there be another answer? Did God want to teach me that He not only cares about each hair of my head and each sparrow that falls, but that He cares about me and my out-of-control horses? I’ve used the 12 Steps to overcome addictions, co-dependency, a troubled marriage and difficult relationship with friends and family. I realized the Lord now wants to teach me that these eternal principles can apply even to my horses and my relationship with them. Over the next weeks and months I have felt impressed to write about this journey to discover God is the healer of all things, even a broken relationship with my horses.
Ten weeks ago I broke my toe, stopping all my ambitious plans for the summer. When I returned to my doctor last week I was certain I would be cleared to go back to my normal activities and finally begin my “to do” list from June. To my dismay my doctor handed me an x-ray of my foot with the break still clearly visible. He told me to continue buddy taping my injured toe to its strong neighboring toe, wear a shoe to protect it from re-injury and to listen carefully to how my toe, foot and leg felt as I “slowly” began using my foot again. My doctor then informed me it would be a year before the bone would be completely healed. I was devastated. This was not what I had hoped he would say. Frustrated I went home, called into my 12 Step meeting and reluctantly wrapped my injured toe to one next to it.
I sadly looked at my toes taped together as I listened to the people on the meeting. The participates shared of people whose examples of faith, courage and determination had helped them in their early days, weeks and months of learning a new way of life. They talked about the importance of paying attention to their feelings as they worked recovery to prevent relapse. They shared how healing takes time and the importance of being patient as we come to understand that healing is a process that requires time to “regain, reclaim, and regroup all that was lost while we tried on our own to cope.” Lastly they encouraged everyone on the meeting to stick with it because it’s worth it.
I stared at my injured toe and its buddy next to it. I realized my broken toe was in recovery just like the people in this meeting. It needed the strength of the neighboring toe to keep it straight and protected, just like the people starting the 12 Step journey. Though frustrated by the x-ray my doctor gave me, it revealed the invisible break that was still there. The truth was my toe was still in the beginning stages of healing. I realized the wounds many of us in 12 Step meetings carry are also completely invisible to ourselves and others as we struggle to keep up appearances that all is well and normal in our lives. And now I understood healing my toe would take a full year just like the emotional and spiritually healing can take a long time for the people in our group meetings. Healing does take time, a long time, sometimes a year or more.
But the most important thing I learned that day was though the doctor could show me pictures of my toe in recovery, give me advice on how to keep it protected and safe, and help me realize the length of time complete healing would take, my doctor could not heal it. Only God can heal my toe through the amazing body He has given me. Likewise, though I can attend 12 Step meetings, listen to stories that can encourage me to patiently walk the road of recovery, or work with a sponsor, I cannot heal myself. Whether it’s the miraculous healing of the bone in my foo,t or of my mind, heart and spirit, it’s God who heals me. “Christ is the healer of [my soul].” And Christ is also the healer of my broken toe.