Threads and Pennies



For years I watched the thread of hope dangling above my head—the hope that recovery could happen for me. I tried repeatedly to grab it and hold on for dear life (literally) only to grow weary of my white knuckle grip and fall. After a few hundred falls I dared not attempt to hold on anymore. I was too afraid of more heartbreak and disappointment. This time around, however, feels different.

Tomorrow will mark one hundred days of sobriety for me. The 12 Steps are working!

  1. Honesty: I admitted that I, of myself, am powerless to overcome my addictions and that my life has become unmanageable.
  2. Hope: I came to believe that the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual health.
  3. Trust in God: I decided to turn my will and my life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  4. Truth: I made a searching and fearless written moral inventory of myself.
  5. Confession: I admitted to myself, to my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of my wrongs.
  6. Change of Heart: I became entirely ready to have God remove all my character weaknesses.
  7. Humility: I humbly asked Heavenly Father to remove my shortcomings.
  8. Seeking Forgiveness: I made a written list of all persons I have harmed and became willing to make restitution to them.
  9. Restitution and Reconciliation: Wherever possible, I am making direct restitution to all persons I have harmed.

(Obviously, I’m on Step 9. You can read the rest of the steps here.)

I read through these steps and their simplicity floors me. Make no mistake—I have done nothing to earn the precious gift of recovery! It is a gift. I don’t deserve recovery. I thank my God I don’t get what I deserve!

How could these steps possibly yield sobriety and recovery? I don’t know how, but they do. Not because I’m doing them, but because my Savior paid the price. To say my recovery is real because of what I’ve done feels like saying the earth rotates at one thousand miles per hour (~1600 km per hour) because I walk on it. It’s not a direct and balanced relationship, as if God gives me amounts of recovery in direct proportion to the amount of work I put into it. No, it’s not balanced like that at all.

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 31:19).

To borrow an analogy from Robinson’s Believing Christ, it’s more like I put two pennies toward my recovery, and my recovery costs 100 googol tons of gold. The Savior accepts my two pennies and says, “I accept your offering because I know your remorse is sincere and you’re willing to do anything to make up for your choices, and because I love you. Know, however, that your Heavenly Father never intended for you to pay for this gift of recovery. You’re not putting this on layaway and paying me back for the next hundred millennia. I paid for it so that you wouldn’t have to.”

There’s no gift receipt for my recovery. Whether I accept it or not, it’s already been purchased; there is no reversal of payment. In fact, it’s not even a gift I could white elephant gift to anyone else. My God has a recovery gift wrapped up perfectly and beautifully for every single addict. It’s already bought and paid for. I can’t earn it, but I can gratefully accept it by simply doing what He wants instead of doing what I want. I’m learning to accept it in everything and in every moment of every minute of every hour of every day. Just 24 hours at a time. I can make it through 24 hours with my Savior’s strength. I can do that through and because of Him.

“Life by the yard is hard; by the inch it’s a cinch.” Thomas S. Monson

15 May 2014 EDIT: In the analogy I gave my Savior two pennies and He contributed 100 googol tons of gold, not 100 googol tons of gold minus two pennies. He paid the full price. I paid two pennies because that’s all I could give. That’s all I had. It doesn’t foot the bill, but it does satisfy His merciful requirement of my all. That’s my understanding of it, anyway. Furthermore, He gave me those two pennies in the first place! “Therefore, of what have (I) to boast?” (See Mosiah 2:20-25)

9 thoughts on “Threads and Pennies

  1. Oh, Michael, I am so proud of you. I am unable to express in the poverty of words how grateful I am for the Lord’s mercy on your behalf. You two make a great team! What a blessing your sweet posts of faith are to all who read them. Thank you for sharing your large and humble heart with us. I love you.


    1. Oh I hear ya, brother! This notion of my own nothingness is just beginning to make sense to me. I will never be a profitable servant, and that’s okay! I’m content with being a saved and eternally indebted one instead.

      Come to think of it, I’m especially grateful that I won’t ever have to pay it back. Based on the Savior’s experience, that’s not a payment I want to make.


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