Three of my closest friends are in AA.

Our relationship began when I visited the editor of a local paper. I wanted to place an ad in his paper for our church.

He and I became friends. We coached Little League on the Boston common for seven years. I discovered he was in “recovery.” My introduction to “the program” had begun.

Soon after our first visit, he wanted to start a men’s discussion group.

Alcoholics Anonymous believes in the idea of “god” as a higher power and a god “of our own understanding.”

He wanted our gathering to know and understand the one God, as the God of love and power, who revealed himself on earth in the man Jesus Christ.

Our men’s breakfast group grew. Many came and went. Some remained for our 10 years of weekly meetings. Local and national Baptist clergy and laymen attended the breakfast. He spoke in our church and at other meetings.

My friend developed cancer and passed away at home watching a Sox game. However, he left me a legacy: three close Christian friends.

These three friends and I have all known each other since 1995. We have helped each other through divorce, family deaths, “slips” in AA and financial difficulties. Our openness has grown in trust and transparency.

I could wish that you knew my three friends. I hope you have three close, trusted friends like me.

At one of our particularly honest meetings, we spoke of the tragic things that had happened in our lives. They included divorce, business betrayal and many others. Several mentioned being molested as children.

I decided to speak. With no fear of rejection or judgment, I described my molestation as a child by a church staff person. I had never experienced this kind of openness. I had never been taught or known that it was OK for a man to share his weaknesses and feelings.

All listened, then the next guy shared. What a relief I felt. The inner peace of revealing a long-held secret was liberating. This group of men helped me grow as a man, husband, father and pastor.

My friendship with believers and those outside the faith was affected by this group. It has also caused me to unashamedly and discreetly share my fears, faults and failures with friends and church members who might not be used to speaking so frankly. Maybe it could help them to face themselves and grow in our Lord.

Some years ago, I attended a New England-wide Baptist student conference. One of the speakers commented that we are all “hypocrites under reconstruction.” I took it to mean renewal in Christ or sanctification.

As Christians, we are being conformed to the image of his Son. In other words, we are recovering sinners: “I once was lost but now am found.”

Christians still sin and battle “the flesh,” our old nature. Perhaps we are not all recovering alcoholics, but we do battle our personal temptations and dark, daily thoughts.

What unifies Christians and those in 12-step programs is a trust in God who would free us from personal bondage. Let us see our own plight, remove the log from our own eyes and assist other strugglers on the way.

Are you sharing yourself, your whole self, with those you trust and love?

If so, wonderful.

If not, begin slowly. Open your life. Share a deeper, personal prayer request. Take the first step. We need others, and they need us.

A chaplain friend commented on coping with personal tragedy. He said, “Healing starts when the talking begins.”

Christians, start talking. Heal and be healed.

David Draper pastors Beacon Hill Baptist Church in Boston.

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