This week I want to take a look at Step 3. Steps 1 through 3 are referred to as decision steps. In these Steps we admit, we believe, and then we decide. When I was about 30 I was a counselor and then the director or a treatment program. In those roles I walked men through the 12 Steps, but as an instructor, not as an addict. I was an expert on how the Steps are supposed to work in someone else’s life. Years later I experienced addiction myself, but in my head, I was still the expert. Combine that with the fact that I had grown up in the church and been in ministry for years. I didn’t need anyone to tell me about a higher power. I knew God on a first name basis.
My first time through the Steps as an addict I had an obvious advantage. I could bypass the first 3 Steps and start at Step 4. Decide to turn my will and life over to God? I did that when I was 8 and again when I was 14! That first time through the Steps as an addict ended as a miserable failure. It took a while but I eventually started through the Steps again, and this time my sponsor refused to let me slide by the first 3 Steps. He helped me to see that I had spent my life giving lip service to God but making decisions on my own and attempting to operate in my own strength. Giving up control terrified me but the trail of destruction I had left in my path made it clear I had never had control anyway.
As I made my “decision” I began to see God provide direction and care in unexpected ways. A devotion or meditation would seem to speak directly to a decision I needed to make. I began to hear wisdom in things my friends and recovery family were saying to me. My sponsor called this hearing from “horizontal Jesus.”He said that’s when God doesn’t speak from a cloud. He speaks through people around you. I asked my sponsor, “what do I do when I don’t hear God saying anything?” He told me that we can trust that God’s direction in everything will always be, “do the next right thing.” When someone is angry and I can lie to deflect the pressure, do the next right thing and tell the truth. When I fail to do something that I committed to do and I’m confronted? I do the next right thing. I own it and see if I can make things right. The next right thing is often not easy, but I’ve seen it save and restore relationships. And more importantly I don’t carry the guilt and shame I lived in most of my life.When I went forward to an alter at 8 and again at 14 I was told that it would change my life. When I made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God I experienced change.
One last thought. I struggled for much of my life with the idea of “God as I understand Him.” I don’t struggle with that anymore. I have come to understand that everyone interacts with “God as they understand Him.” My understanding of God has changed many times. At one time I understood God to be like an angry parent that would let me have it when I did something wrong. At one time I knew He was a God of love because the Bible says, “God is love.” So, He had to love me. I just didn’t think He liked me much. I was a disappointment to Him. Today, I’m convinced God loves me and He likes me. Even when I’m not perfect. It’s because He loves me and likes me that I want to do what pleases Him. Romans 2:4b. When I have an opportunityI’m happy to tell people about my understanding of God. If they don’t agree with my understanding of God I’m still willing to discuss Him with them. But I don’t feel a need to argue with them. If He has been kind enough to reveal Himself to me and change my understanding, I can trust Him to reveal Himself to them and change their understanding.
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk.