All my friends are sinners.

Which is a relief, because so am I.

It isn’t something we get to choose. It is in our nature to want what we can’t have, and to have the audacity to think we deserve it anyways.

Way back in the beginning, Adam and Eve could eat from everything in the Garden of Eden except one tree. So what do you suppose they ended up doing? You bet. They decided, with some well-placed rationalizations by Satan in a serpent disguise, that they deserved to be like God, and they ate the fruit they believed would give them god-like qualities.

That didn’t work out so well for them. Or for us as a result.

Yet don’t we keep doing the same thing?

People don’t use the word sin as much as they used to. I think it’s a perfectly fine word, a sobering one that tells it like it is.

One that affects every single person who ever lived.

I used to have no mercy towards people who I saw reaping the consequences of the way they chose to live their lives. After all, don’t we all freely choose to do good or bad? It was as simple as that in my mind. And I felt my superior attitude was fine, because of course I wasn’t doing those things I found so objectionable in others.

That was back when I was still hiding so much of my own past, even from myself. It was easy to excuse my sins, but not those of others.

Then I walked into my first Celebrate Recovery meeting, and I met people who were sinners and weren’t afraid to admit it. Most of them openly admitted that they had all kinds of things they were struggling with.

You might think at a recovery meeting that most of those there would be dealing with an addiction of some kind, but I found then and know now that only about three out of ten people at a CR meeting have struggled with an addiction.

At my first few meetings I listened as others shared about all kinds of hurts, habits and hang-ups they were facing and finding healing from, and it gave me the courage to start facing my own issues.

My own sins.

I’m a person who has some really strong spiritual gifts. Over the last twenty years or so I’ve taken spiritual gifts inventories and consistently score very high in several areas.

And very low in one.

Yep, mercy.

One of the last times I took an inventory we discussed how the different spiritual gifts look in action, and we were challenged to develop the ones we were weak in, to ask God to help us become stronger in the qualities he’d like us to have.

I really didn’t want to improve my mercy score. I felt fine in my smugness.

Not only did I start attending CR, I also joined a Step Study right away. Like four days later.

And within a couple of weeks I was ruined for regular Bible studies.

I know it’s important and necessary to read and study the Bible, but after the experience of reaching down inside myself and pulling out wrong attitudes and actions I’d engaged in, as well as revealing the things done to me as the result of other people’s sin, I can’t stick to the surface and not go deep any more.

Life is too short to just smooth over the things God wants me to wrestle with and conquer.

In the nine months that Step Study took, everyone heard my junk and I heard everyone else’s.

And against the old me’s better judgment, I loved those sisters more than I could have imagined, even knowing their faults and failings.

Because, well, mercy blossomed. Like it was just waiting for the right conditions to grow.

We are none of us perfect, but we are being perfected by this process of recovery.

By the time my first Step Study was finished I realized I wasn’t the same person anymore. I was more real, more honest, and because of the things I’d had to face, humbled.

And I looked at other people differently. When I walked in to CR the first night, my thinking may have gone something like, “Man, these are a bunch of messed up people! I’m glad I’m not as bad as any of them. They must have really weak character to have gotten themselves into so many bad situations.”

But somewhere in the process, God did something miraculous in me. He replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh, and I found that I no longer thought of people as what they had done, but as how much I wanted them to fall in love with God so he could heal their hurts and give them hope that they could change with his strength.

So week after week you will find me at CR on Friday nights, because I’m a sinner and I need God’s help to place his nature in me more and more so that I no longer have any desire to try to have what I can’t. Because I am letting him show me what I need.

I want to be clear that I’m not excusing the bad things I chose to do as if they can be made right. They can’t be.

But they have been forgiven.

By God, and by me. And hopefully by those I’ve hurt.

And so now when I see the sin in others, I look at them in a different way.

I no longer see only the expected consequences of their bad choices. I see so much potential for healing. I see people who have tried to treat their own hurts by doing everything but going to the only one who can help them.

And I know that if they spend some time around people who are actively letting Jesus take the lead, they will be on their way to getting what they really need.

Which is so much better than getting what you want.

The beauty of CR is that I’m not going through this alone. I am surrounded by my forever family, people who I love deeply, who I admire and am constantly awed by, who I learn from every time I’m with them.

Because of all the ways they are letting God change them, they are some of the genuinely best people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

Yes, I’m a sinner. But I’m no longer stuck in my sin.