The 12 Steps have their foundation built upon the first three steps: 1) We are powerless; 2) God’s power can save us; and 3) We make a decision to give our life and will over to the love and care of that power greater than ourselves. It seems simple and straightforward. I thought the same. These are basic Sunday School lessons we learn as children. Little did I realize that we all drift from the moorings of these seemingly simple lessons as we grow and become more and more engrained with the myth of our own self-sufficiency.
I still remember the day I sat in a recovery meeting and said those words, “I’m Ben and I’m an alcoholic.” It wasn’t at my first meeting. Or my second. But when I uttered those heavy words no one in the room but me could hear the seismic shift in my inmost being. That was the day I finally realized I’m powerless over my addiction. I’ve lived my entire life striving to be self-sufficient and successful at all things. And here something small like alcohol licked me. Little did I know that day that it was just the beginning – every day thereafter would end up being a journey toward the realization that I’m powerless over more than just alcohol. I’m powerless over most everything, except how I choose to act and react to the world around me.
I'm also coming to learn that it’s one thing to pray or sing about the power of God at work in our lives; it’s entirely different to live as though it’s true. Living in the light of this power greater than us means we must come to terms with things like how we can’t control everything, we don’t have all the answers all the time, and we’re not ultimately in charge of other people. We must recognize that these things come under the jurisdiction of God – and that God is most definitely not us.
The transformational nature of this way of discipleship means the heart of my morning prayer is to pray for God’s will to be done, not mine.
I’m a driven, task-oriented person, so I also need to pray to slow down more. Often, I find myself praying to “move at the pace of your grace, O God” so I can work on not trying to get too far ahead of God and accidentally losing sight of who’s really in charge as a result. Asking for God’s will to be done also seeks to give myself the grace I need to not be the loudest critic in my own life. If God loves me as I am at any given moment, I can begin to love myself, too. I can’t tell you how many years I’ve spent being my own worst critic heaping all sorts of unnecessary grief and guilt on myself for not living up to some ridiculous expectations I have about how perfect I think I need to be for others. Some of my best prayers are asking God for the strength and willingness to love myself the way God loves me.
These days, discipleship looks like a relatively simple set of practices of prayer and self-examination:
Prayer every morning to surrender my life and will to God as I give thanks for a new day and for my sobriety which is the strongest evidence of God’s healing power at work in my life.
A time of silence where I seek to rest in the quiet presence of God. This time can be short, but not rushed. Much like we can simply sit in the presence of a loved one without words, we should learn to sit in the presence of the God who loves us most fully.
Time spent journaling through my gratitude and how God might be stirring my soul. In the evenings I try to journal a daily inventory: Where have I dealt with fear, resentment, honesty, and self-will and how do I need God’s help for tomorrow?
We can do other things like read Scripture, go to worship, serve, etc., but this inward practice leads me to a different way of showing up in the world. The other means of grace can supplement and help me grow. But if I don’t spend time inwardly through prayer and examination, then I really have no hope to show up throughout my life with less ego and more dependence on God.
In other words, I need to spend time with Jesus fully as me – good, bad, and in-between – if I have any hope of growing into the person he wants me to be as I plod along this broad highway of faith. It begins and ends with His love and power at work in me and through me. The rest I hope to respond to faithfully. One day at a time.