Step Two: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The story of the Prodigal Son pivots on the moment when the son who had wasted his inheritance on fast living and winds up in a pig pen, dirty, hungry and broke.
The biblical narrative states that he “came to his senses” with the disgust of his plight, realizes the servants in his father’s house are better off than he is and makes a decision to return home, but as a servant.*
It’s that “come to your senses” moment that is the same thing as “coming to believe” in the second step that is pivotal for any one of us who is caught in the grips of an addiction to a substance, a behavior or pattern of behaviors, or a person.
Coming to your senses is the beginning point of recovery. It is when you realize that you were intended for better or more than “this”, whatever “this might be.
It is that moment of waking up to yourself and the cry of your own heart for freedom from whatever is enslaving you and freedom for a life of love, joy and peace. Coming to your senses is a turning point which, later, you will look back on and mark as the time as a reference point for “before recovery” and “after recovery.”
I have learned, however, that while there may be one big turning point that towers over the rest of your life, there can be many moments in the process of growing toward wholeness when all of a sudden, out of the blue, you have yet another awakening that opens up another new process of discovery on the journey. In fact, every morning there is that moment when we pull up out of the night’s journey and come to our senses once again, and with that awakening is the choice to live the 24 hours that stretch before you one way or another.
When I was a child, I was taught that if I would “give my heart to Christ”, I would go to heaven when I died. In my tradition, that decision was called “being saved”, and with that decision, I must have assumed that
— the decision I’d made meant I should have an easier life than those who hadn’t given
their hearts to Christ
— if I followed the rules, as they were laid out to me by my parents, teachers and peer
group, I would be rewarded in proportion to my obedience to the rules.
— if, when things weren’t working like I expected, I would work harder, longer and more
fervently, I would finally get my reward as I expected.
I can’t blame my teachers for what my child’s mind assumed, though I have realized through the years that I’m not the only one who made that assumption. What I did not know at the time was that salvation is both event and process. Salvation is about becoming whole, which probably takes all a lifetime.
What I did not know when I was a child was that “being saved” might be about the afterlife, but it is also about the quality of life here and now. It is about relationships now. It is about personal love, joy and peace in the present moment. It is about how you treat your own body, your own life, other people and the earth while you’re living on this plane.
What I have learned since I was first introduced to the Twelve Steps is that “coming to believe” is about waking up to the one wild and precious life I have been given now and taking responsibility for my personal emotional, physical, intellectual, financial and relational well-being now.
From the vantage point of today’s challenges, I can look back on that moment when I first heard my sponsor speak the words “We came to believe….” and realize that in that moment, the quality of my life was about to change radically.
Coming to believe, for me, means an awakening to the reality of faith – faith, as a verb.
Coming to believe, for me, means that I wake up to the power of love.
Coming to believe means that I begin the journey of recovery, a journey that is a way of life for the rest of my life.
Coming to believe begins with the oft-repeated affirmation of radical hope: Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
Coming to believe is the activation of the life-force within me, a force that can lead me from within to the places, people, situations, teachers, books, experiences that will become the rich mix of resources that will shape my future.
Coming to believe is the beginning of growing up, no matter how old you are. It is the beginning of owning one’s own power. taking authority of your own life and beginning the laborious agony and ecstasy of becoming whole.
* * * * *
It amuses me greatly that there is debate about what it is that starts the process of labor and delivery for a human being, but it seems that there is some hormone that trips the switch to set the birth process in motion. Some people who know a lot about such things have told me that the suspicion is that it starts with the baby.
There seems to be something in us human beings that trips the switch of belief in a Power greater than ourselves, a belief that is strong enough to wake us up and propel us out onto a journey toward wholeness, sobriety, serenity, courage and wisdom.
It sometimes takes hitting a low bottom to activate the process of the new birth, but once it is activated, all kinds of forces seem to go to work to help us move out of the pit of addiction and into the freedom of life.
For me, it all started when there were four things in my life that I could not change, things that were so out of my power of control that nothing I tried worked.
I wasn’t smart enough to change those four things.
I wasn’t rich enough, pretty enough, crafty or cunning enough.
I wasn’t strong enough, powerful enough or well-connected enough to change those
things I could not change.
Nothing that used to work for me worked any longer.
Nothing I had tried before made any difference, and the more I tried, the more I ground myself down into a hole of despair and failure in some of the parts of life that meant most to me. As a practicing co-dependent, I was up against the will of other people, which was not my responsibility to change. I was up against, the realities of life over which I had no control, no matter how hard I tried.
Nothing worked, but it was that hard, painful, humiliating admission that I was powerless over my four Big Problems that finally brought me to admitting that by my continued attempts to try to change the things I could not change, I was making my life harder and myself more miserable.
That big admission – that I was powerless over other people and those particular circumstances – somehow turned my switch on to a journey that would change my life.
Thanks be to God for those four problems that, like the story of the four friends who took their paralyzed friend to Jesus on a mat, took me to the feet of the Healer who knew just what to do and how to do it.
First, that Healer had to light the candle of belief within me bright enough to help me see the first step I needed to take to walk myself out of the darkness I was in.
What about you?
Have you hit bottom, using your well-used ways and means that no longer work for you?
Have you had your turn in a pigpen? What was your pigpen like?
Are you still resisting letting go of what has worked in the past, but no longer works?
Or, have you had that “turning-point moment” when you came to your senses and came to belief? What was that like for you?
Do you still think that what you have always believed is going to work for you this time, if only other people will straighten up and do what you want them to do?
Or, has something happened in your life to make you willing to examine your childhood beliefs, most of which may be unconscious to you, so that you can decide what is not adequate for today’s challenges?
Do you still cling to your self-defeating ways simply because you are too afraid to let go of them?
Or, have you come to the end of your ability to make life work, based on what you have already tried, and yet you have a faint sense that there is something greater, higher, more healthy that is possible for you?
Years ago, when I couldn’t let go of a particular habit, my sponsor said to me, “Sometimes, when we can’t let go and can’t even pray to be able to let go, we have to start with being willing to be willing to let go.”
Being willing to be willing is often all it takes to trip the switch of belief and possibility.
Grace to you,