September 5, 2015
We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over
to the care of God as we understand him.
It’s hard to admit you are powerless over something — a substance, a habit, a process or a person, and I’ve heard it said by veterans of recovering that if you’re blocked at one of the steps along these Twelve Steps, it may be because you didn’t fully “work” the previous step.
I’ve heard it said, as well, that people who never really recover from an addition have probably not ever honestly or fully taken that First Step.
It’s hard, isn’t it, to admit that you are powerless over something out there or within you, and it’s hard and humiliating to admit that your life has become unmanageable.
It’s difficult to take that Second Step and admit that that there might be a power greater than yourself or that you might be restored to “sanity”.
Time was when I thought that if only the words could be changed, these steps might work with me. Being a writer, I could come up with some more palatable words than “powerless”, “unmanageable” or “sanity”. Brought up in a church, I didn’t have any problem with admitting there was a Power greater than myself, but I had also been brought up in a culture that taught me that I should be able to be independent and self-reliant, pulling myself up by my bootstraps and “getting over it” when things were hard.
I’ve struggled with all of these Steps, and I’ve tried to work with changing the language until finally my sponsor, with her head in her hands and a few sharp words, said to me, “Would you consider that what has worked for literally hundreds of thousands of people for decades just might work for you?”
* * * * *
Notice, please, that in the wording of this powerful and difficult step, my will is placed before my life.
That has always both fascinated me and reminded me that I often turn my will, my welfare, my well-being and my happiness over to other people, substances, self-defeating habits or action, and that decision always results in regret. To turn my will over to something or someone else other than the One who created me in his image is to allow those other gods to have power over me.
I’ve learned that whatever I turn into a god or whatever I make into an idol will ultimately fail me, or I will destroy it. Either way, God will be God, but more about that in the next blog.
Turning my will over to other things or people is not the same thing as cooperating with others or the sometimes necessary give-and-take of human relationships. It is allowing another person or substance to control me, to wield power over my mind and heart, to be an idol to me.
We humans seem infinitely prone to turning good things into idols. Family, education, success, money, our children, work and other good things can become the organizing principles of our affections, our schedules, our expenditures and our moods. Substances that can destroy our minds and bodies can become our substitute gods, as well. It’s easy to see the damage that some pastimes and substances can bring, but it’s hard to recognize church, family and physical fitness as addictions!
So it is that what must be surrendered is both the will and one’s whole life, and frankly, that’s no small task.
* * * * *
How I have longed for those moments when I turned my will and my life over to God and could move on with my life, forever changed from that moment on– with no turning back, no stumbling, no relapses, no slip-ups.
I have wished for I could just pray a simple prayer with three or four points and have all the burdens of my life lifted from my shoulders.
For me, surrender has been an on-going, one layer at a time process.
Spiritual growth and recovering from co-dependency has been a laborious baby step at a time, and now and then I’ve been granted a moment of soaring. I’ve had to work out my salvation like Paul in the New Testament, and for me salvation is a lifelong process.
I’d like to use the excuse that my surrender is made more difficult because we codependents and workaholics get rewarded for our addictions, and the truth is that when we try to change our obsessions, others sometimes protest. Both codependency and workaholism are ego-gratifying, as much as I hate to admit it, and the hard, cold truth of the matter is that when I allow myself excuses, rationalizations and justifications for why authentic surrender is so hard for me, I am succumbing to the old trick of avoidance of the one thing that will move me forward into wholeness, health and the abundant life.
So it is that I have learned that I must give as much as I know of myself in the present moment to as much as I know of God and trust that in that yielding to that Higher Power, I am doing my part. In that abandonment of my will and my life into the care of God, I am moving into the realm of Mystery and trusting that the process of this mysterious dance between the Almighty and us creatures, human beings made in the image of God really works.
What about you?
If you have worked this step successfully, what wisdom have you learned that you would share?
If you have struggled to take this step, what is the stumbling block for you?
What is the hardest thing for you to surrender to God?
To what other “gods” have you surrendered your will and your life? How has that worked for you?
Is your experience that you have had to surrender your will and your life more than once, or has once been enough?
I know this much: God is at work in all things, including my surrender, at an unseen, invisible and mysterious level, attempting to work for good in our lives.
The miracle is that sometimes, in spite of our strong and stubborn wills and the messes and tangles we have made of our life, we can actually see and feel and know the power and peace of God’s work…..and that is amazing.
Grace to you–
On another note: Welcome to this new website.
For a variety of reasons, it was time to re-do and refresh my website. David Cassidy with FaithLab has done a remarkable and beautiful job, helping me for many years, and I will forever be grateful to him for his patience and creativity. Thank you, my friend.
Long Nguyen, the owner of Trusty Mobile Marketing and my computer guru and helper has set up this new website and helped me immeasurably. Since he is local, he can come to my rescue when I get stuck and is also eternally patient, teaching and re-teaching me the ways of computer-world and social media. If you live in Houston, I highly recommend his services.