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Center for Action and Contemplation

Step Two

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 1

Step Two
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. [1]

A Cherokee or Ojibwa chief is said to have asked his young braves, “Why do you spend your time in brooding? Don’t you know you are being driven by great winds across the sky?” Don’t you know you’re part of a much bigger pattern? But you’re not in control of it, any more than you would be of great winds. You and I are a small part of a much bigger mystery.

The only people who grow in truth are those who are both humble and honest. This is traditional Christian doctrine and is the maxim of Alcoholics Anonymous. Without those two qualities, we don’t grow. If we try to use religion to aggrandize the self, we’re on the wrong path. Humility and honesty are really the same thing. A humble person is simply a person who is brutally honest about the whole truth. You and I came along a few years ago; we’re going to be gone in a few years. The only honest response to life is a humble one. As one dying person told Kathleen Dowling Singh, “I realized about halfway through this [terminal illness] that I’m not in control, and my body sure isn’t. It’s in the hands of something far greater than me. And that’s what I’m staying connected with.” [2] What a good way to say it.

Listen to Bill Wilson tell his own story:

[My] friend sat before me, and he made the pointblank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever known! [3]

I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil. [4]

Authentic religion leads you to a place that you initially know nothing about. Like Habakkuk the prophet, you have to be picked up by your hair and set where you need to be (Daniel 14:36). Once you know what you need to know, there is no other explanation except that there must be another Power at work in this world. It’s not believing doctrines; it’s having an experience of being changed or moved to a new place, almost in spite of yourself. Sometimes no one is more surprised than you. All you can do is offer thanks.

Alcoholics Anonymous parallels the clear teaching of Jesus: surrender alone leads to transformation; mere reason, willpower, or information cannot change you at deep levels. This surrender has been variously described as a spiritual awakening or “a vital spiritual experience.”

Give me your failure, God says. I will make life out of it. Give me your broken, disfigured, rejected, betrayed body, like the body you see hanging on the cross, and I will make life out of it. It’s the divine pattern of transformation.

Gateway to Silence:
Let go and let God.

[1] “J,” A Simple Program: A Contemporary Translation of the Book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Hyperion: 1996), 55.

[2] Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Dying: A Message of Hope, Comfort, and Spiritual Transformation (HarperOne: 1998), 24.

[3] “J,” A Simple Program: A Contemporary Translation of the Book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Hyperion: 1996), 10.

[4] Ibid., 11.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (Crossroad: 2003), 120, 166; and
How Do We Breathe Under Water? The Gospel and 12-Step Spirituality (CAC: 2005), disc 1 (CD, DVD, MP3 download).

Image Credit: Image by jclk8888
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