We Admit we are powerless…
We Believe a Power greater than ourselves can heal us…
We Conform our will to God’s by turning our lives and wills over to Him…
These paraphrases of the first 3 steps of AA/Al-Anon are essential to any program or process of spiritual growth. In effect they are all aspects of surrender, something about as desirable as warm, mayonnaise sandwich with a sour glass of milk.
Unless you want to change.
When my pain is great, my hope is small and my problems seem overwhelming, surrender is my only option. Forget the fact that it is the best option in the first place. Which is perhaps why virtually all people point to pain or suffering as a major factor in spurring them on to real change and growth.
So why do we often start our “discipleship programs” with Bible memory, attendance at events, “accountability” partners, quiet times and serving opportunities? Why not start with these words.
“Tell me about your pain.”
Because it sounds “too therapeutic” and what do therapists know? (News Flash – therapeuo is the NT Greek word used for physical and spiritual “healing.” ) In Matthew 9:12 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy but the sick who need a Physician,” and it’s pretty obvious that the Great Physician does not do surgery on healthy patients.
Are you sick? Where does it hurt? What is broken? What do you hunger and thirst for? What needs attention? Let’s start there. It could be…
- Your unhealthy or distorted view of God
- Your false view of self
- The way you hide, run, or withdraw from deep friendships
- How you avoid challenges or suffering
- How you medicate your pain
- How your family reacted to loss or failure in your life and theirs
- The destructive habits/patterns that hurt you and others
- Whether you believe what others said about you is true
Or dozens of other ideas, events or beliefs that have shaped you into who you are right now. This is who you are, and yes, the causes behind how you got here do matter and should be explored. But they cannot be changed. Being attentive NOW and taking responsible steps to move forward TODAY is the only choice you have.
Are you willing to surrender? To give up and let God begin His redemptive work in new ways, and in new places in you? I thought I had done a lot of that work early in my Christian life. And maybe for that phase, I really did. But the reality is that I need the first 3 steps again today, and every day – not an event, but a daily process of awareness and a bold declaration that I cannot fix, manage or control all the people and circumstances surrounding me. I must place them in His hands and work, by His grace, on me.
I need God to show up in ME first. And so do you.
Your “symptoms” – anger, fear, arrogance, control, pride, self-hatred, are all indicators that places deep within are damaged. It is who you are right now.
So let’s start there. If you want to.
Or, you can focus all your energy on the outside – language control, showing up at the required meetings and services, following the program, memorizing the material – all of which is good. But can also make you a good Pharisee if the inner work is neglected.
Don’t get me wrong. The outer practices and support structures are necessary and helpful for long-term growth. But be careful never to confuse the structures that support spiritual change with the processes that produce it.
The ruling religious elites in Jesus’ day saw the structure, not themselves, as the problem. And it was other people, not themselves, who were ill and sinful; and “those people” needed to be managed and changed and to get with the program. This kind of thinking is a sign that legalism is taking root, not to mention evidence mental illness.
So begin with surrender. Listen to your pain and sorrow – they are great teachers who will tell you where to start.
They will point you to the Great Healer, and your “discipleship program” can begin.
So let’s start with the letter A, then B… then….OK , you get it. Now you’re making progress!