My sister and I are three years apart in age. My only vivid memory of Jane as a baby has to do with something I did that was naughty. Here’s what I remember, this is the scene of the crime. Little one-year-old “Janie Bird” as they called her, is standing in her crib. She has just woken up for the morning or from a nap. I don’t remember which. Next to her is a plant on a table or a stand of some kind. Enter, big sister Nannette (me). Then, for some four-year-old reason, which I cannot explain today, I walk over to the plant and proceed to pull off all of the leaves. The leaves are scattered all over the floor when my mother enters the room. Looking at the plant and the floor and the two of us she says something motherly like, “Oh dear, who did this to my plant?” Great embarrassment and fear of being in trouble griped me and I say, pointing to my sister who is innocently standing in her crib looking on, “She did it!” The scene in my mind ends with my mother giving my sister an appropriate pat on the hand and saying, “No, No!”
That’s it! That’s the beginning and the end of one of the first things I placed in my 4th Step Inventory. After praying one night before bed that the Lord would help me have a memory of my fourth year on earth, I got out my little steno pad. On the left side of a clean page I wrote “age four.” The page was divided lengthwise into two columns, by a line. At the top of the first column I wrote the word “Regrets.” At the top of the second column I wrote the word “Resentments.” The first entry under regrets reads, “Pulled all the leaves off mom’s plant. Lied and told mom Jane did it.” Finally the entry ends with the most important part. As a thirty seven year old woman looking back, I thought through and recorded the “exact nature of my wrong,” which as you will see is different from the thing I did. “I lied because I was scared of getting in trouble and I did not want to disappoint my mother.”
Step 4 is to, “Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.” It is the step of recording the truth, as we understand it. The 4th Step is the step many people put off indefinitely because of the fear of being honest, the enormity of the job, and resistance to thinking about unpleasant aspects of the past. When I first read through the steps I thought: “I’ll do Steps 1-3 and 10-12 but I’m not doing the stuff in the middle.”
Obviously, a 4th Step Inventory contains very serious memories of our past, times when we committed sin and times when sin was committee against us. So why do I bring up some silly, insignificant incident about the leaves on a plant and the little lie of a four-year-old girl?
Those who have taken these steps and experienced lasting recovery have learned that it is critical not to leave anything out. They refer to it as being “rigorously honest.” Apparently we are each related to that lovely young woman, of fairy tale fame, who underwent a test to see if she was indeed a princess. As you remember, she was required to sleep on a very tall bed made up of mattress upon mattress piled high. Underneath the bottom mattress was a pea. The story goes that no matter how many mattresses were placed on top of that pea she could not sleep, she could find not rest. Her inability to tolerate something even so small as a pea was the very proof that she was a princess.
The big things are critical, but the little things are also important. They matter. I had never apologized to my sister or my mother for this wrong. I had never even thought about bringing it up. But, as you can see, being the princess that I am, I had never forgotten it either.
Finally, this seemingly small beginning to my inventory is very important to my recovery today. Its peas size (or leaf size) is not important. It is important because remembering it and thinking about it allowed the Lord make me aware of two things about myself, things that are critical for me to understand in order to change and to live in recovery. First, in this incident I see the earliest signs of my very big fear of being in trouble. Second, I see a little girl who does not want to be a disappointment to anyone. As I read through my inventory I find that this is definitely not the only time these two reasons for doing wrong appear. On the contrary, they appear over and over again.
Our character weaknesses weave in and out of our story. As we fearlessly inventory the details of our lives, big and small, from the beginning to the present, we finally become aware of what we refer to as the “exact nature of our wrongs.” It’s hard to be honest about the big things and hard to believe the little things make a difference, but they do.
By Nannette W.
Posted Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All right reserved.
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