Making a Decision - One Day at a Time, 12 Steps to Sanity (for Everyone) - Step 3 - Brian Moodie
Trevor Hudson tells the story of a little boy who was drawing a picture with intense concentration. His mother asked him: What are you drawing?
‘I’m drawing a picture of God!’ The little boy said.
With a concerned look on her face, the mother replied, ‘But you can’t draw a picture of God. No-one knows what God looks like.’
Without looking up, the boy carried on drawing and answered confidently, ‘Well they will when I’ve finished drawing the picture.’
trevor goes on to ask: Have you ever stopped to think honestly about your picture of God? Is your picture or understanding of God Something or Someone that instils trust within you? Or does your understanding of God instil anxiety and fear in you?
It is a pertinent question, especially as we come to Step 3 on the 12 Step Program, which invites us to make a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God as we understand God.
In week 1 the first step invited us to be honest about our weaknesses, compulsions and self-defeating behaviour that undermines our lives and our relationships that make our lives feel unmanageable.
In week 2 the second step invited us to consider the possibility that there is a Higher Power that can help to bring greater balance and harmony to our lives.
Step 3 takes that a step further, inviting us to make a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand God. To begin to open ourselves up to the resources of a Higher Power.
It is a reminder that it is not enough to entertain the possibility that there is a Higher Power that can assist us in bringing us to wholeness, one actually needs to make a decision to avail of the resources of that Higher Power, in the words of Step 3, by turning our will over to the care of God, as we understand God.
And it is here that our understanding of God can either become a help or a hindrance. If we have a negative understanding of God that leave us in fear and anxiety, if we have a view of God that is less that Infinite Goodness and Infinite Love, and therefore less than Trustworthy, we are never going to be able to truly surrender our wills over to God, never truly open ourselves up to allowing the Divine or the Sacred to transform us from the inside. We will always hold this God at arms length.
About 13 years ago, I was working at a Theological College in Johannesburg and attending one of the large Methodist Churches in the area. A lay pastor at the church asked to come and see me. She had recently run an experiential retreat over a weekend for members of the church who wished to grow in their spiritual life. As she spoke to me, she was clearly extremely distressed. As part of the retreat on the Saturday evening or Sunday morning there had been an opportunity for participants to consider surrendering their lives to God in a deeper way. (It’s not the kind of thing that is often done in the NSPCI). But the distressing part of the exercise for her was that the majority of participants did not feel they could participate. As she questioned why they couldn’t participate in this experiential act of surrendering, it became apparent that they held views of God that left them feeling a deep sense of fear and anxiety. The couldn’t bring themselves to surrender themselves to God, because deep down they didn’t trust God. They didn’t believe that God had their best interests at heart and so their instinctive reaction was to hold God at arms length.
For the lay pastor leading the retreat, this came as quite a shock, because for her it should have been self-evident that God is infinitely loving and therefore infinitely trustworthy. It was a shock to discover that this was not the case for many Christians.
I touched on this last week in Step 2. In my own experience I have come to realise that you will never be able to surrender to something or someone that you don’t trust. And the beauty of Step 3 is that it invites each of us to revisit our understanding of God, or the Divine and to cast out from that understanding everything that is negative or unhelpful to our growth and blossoming as human beings. If the picture of God you inherited leaves you feeling anxious and afraid, as is the case for many Protestant and Catholic Christians, then Step 3 invites us to come to a new understanding of God that is life-giving, life-enhancing and positive, conducive to human growth and fourishing.
I believe it invites us to come to a new understanding of God as Goodness and Love Itself for unless you have come to believe that God is utterly Good, utterly Loving and utterly Trustworthy you will never truly be able to turn over your will to the care of God, in which case it may be better to find a conception of the Divine or the Sacred that does instil trust within you.
And some in the 12 Step Program have done just that. I have seen that one person chooses to substitute the word Love with a capital L in place of the word God in which can Step 3 reads as follows: We made a decision to turn our wills over to the care of Love. If you have a negative and harsh picture of God one can immediately feel the difference in that statement.
Others might choose to substitute the word God with the word Wisdom with a capital W. We made a decision to turn our wills over to the care of Wisdom.
I saw on the internet that one person has re-interpreted the 12 step program through the lens of the ancient Chinese concept of the Tao as expressed in the little book of Chinese wisdom called the Tao Te Ching. In Taoism, the Tao is understood to be the subtle and mysterious wisdom that is constantly being expressed in natural flow of life. When you resist the Tao, or the natural wisdom flowing through life you suffer. When you seek to live in harmony with the subtle wisdom of the flow of life you begin to live within that harmonious flow and life becomes more balanced.
For others, the word God might even be substituted with the phrase Higher Self, in which case Step 3 becomes an invitation to turn over the care of our small ego driven will with it’s petty concerns and compulsions, to the care of our Higher Self, the belief that there is a Divine essence within each of us that is truly wise and truly loving (connected with the Divine) and which can direct and guide us to wholeness if we are open to it.
However we understand God in this Step, the important thing is that we need to believe is that there is something higher, wiser and more wholesome than our current ego-driven self that can assist us and inspire us and instil confidence within us that life can be different and that we can become more balanced and wholesome people. And one of the key words in Step 3 is the word decision. We made a decision… we made a decision to surrender ourselves, perhaps others might say to open ourselves to Something or Someone Higher than ourselves as we are currently living.
Making a decision sounds all very evangelical, like when a travelling evangelist invites everyone to make a commitment to Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour. I don’t want to belittle that experience because for some it is indeed life changing.
But turning one’s will over the care of God as we understand God (or a Higher Power) might simply be the daily commitment to seek a wisdom that is higher than our own. It may mean simply that facing a challenge or a difficult situation and recognising that we don’t know enough on our own to know how to navigate our way through it, and in our hearts and minds to hand it over to a Wisdom or a Love that is higher and greater than our own. It may simply be recognizing that often there is something Bigger going on than our small selves are able to understand or control and to take the risk of trusting that there is a Higher Wisdom that will somehow take care of things if we let it. It may simply be a little prayer that says: I hand this situation over to God, or to Wisdom (with a capital W), or I hand this situation over to Love, with a capital L, or perhaps, I ask my Higher Self to help me navigate through it.
For Trevor in his Book One Day at a Time, he describes his own experience at the age of 16 of giving himself over to God. He says it was a profoundly significant moment for him even though he did not see flashing lights, hear voices or feel goose bumps, but from that moment he knew that his life had begun to take on a different trajectory as his centre of gravity had begun to change. It was not that everything fell immediately into place, but rather that a life-long journey had begun towards an ever increasing balance, harmony and wholeness because in that moment, the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth became a primary reference point in the way he lived his life and the choices he began to make.
What might Step 3 mean for each one of us? What might it mean for you to hand over your will and your life to the care of God as you have come to understand God? Or to Open yourself to a Higher Power or a Greater Wisdom, or whatever it is in your life that instills within you a greater sense of trust and confidence and that might enable you to flourish.
Sermons and Blog
On this page you will find our online services, sermons and news.