I've indicated in earlier posts that I'm a slow learner. I've had yet another "Aha!" moment in the last week that I'm embarrassed took me this long to "Aha!" The first three steps of my 12 Step program:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
These can often be the most difficult steps for a newcomer to the program. Few people want to admit they aren't in control of every part of their lives. Personally, I was relieved with step one. I knew I had a problem but I couldn't "fix" it. I voluntarily sought help and therefore was willing to go to any lengths necessary to get sober. To say I was relieved to discover that my alcoholism was out of my control was an understatement.
Step two is difficult for those who have never had any exposure to God or who were raised with the perception of a judging, angry, punishing God. They are hesitant to consider that such a "figure" would be able and willing to restore their life to anything.
Step three is the real speed bump. For some, a red-light that changes from green suddenly causing a slam on the breaks, screeching halt and all. They not only have to admit they aren't in control of their own lives but they have to voluntarily surrender everything they've ever known to a power they cannot see, hear or touch. For many, there are months or even years staring at that sentence.
Personally, I was thankful for step three. I understood God was all powerful, that with Him all things are possible, and I knew that He loved me. Once again, I was relieved at the realization that I no longer had to manage my addiction on my own, I could "give it away."
One of the most powerful components of all twelve steps is the prayer that comes with the completion of step three. It can be meditated privately, said aloud with a sponsor, or even re-written in our own words. I've done all three. Most recovering alcoholics who work a strong program say this prayer every day and meditate over it as part of their daily routine (step 11).
Step Three Prayer
“God, I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
I'd understood, long before I got sober, the expectation for following God's will for my life. I'd heard sermons, read books, and "did" devotions on seeking out and following God's plan for me and my life. I had never fully processed it until I worked through step three in treatment. Even then, as I gained clarity and acceptance of it's significance, I was full of questions.
What is God's will? More specifically, for MY life?
How do I know what it is? Will HE tell me? How will I know once He does?
Can there be more than one?
Once I do hear or understand it, how do I execute? What if I'm wrong?
I know I must pray intently and ask repeatedly for Him to reveal it to me. My personal version of step three includes the sentence, "help me to accept and follow your will for my life." I've just never been 100% sure what it was. I believe, or at least I am told, that I should seek Him regularly, praying for His revelation. So I have been, for months...
Since July of last year, my daily prayers for recognizing God's will for my life have been framed in the belief that I am to do something BIG! I've been waiting for which ministry He wishes me to lead or participate. I've been listening for an announcement of sorts, an appointment to a position that will glorify Him in some big, obvious way.
"I'm here God! I'm suited up and ready! What's my assignment?!"
It's me. He must not be hearing me. Surely I'm not praying hard enough, often enough. He must not know I'm ready and willing. So I pray some more.
Last week, during my routine quiet time, I heard Him. There weren't fireworks. I didn't feel the house shake or a rush of energy that provoked me to run up and yell to Carl. I was just sitting and journaling. I think the kids might have even been distracting me as they filled cereal bowls and packed lunches. I'm not even sure I was 100% engaged in my journaling. There was no pomp and circumstance or drumroll.
It came in a clear and confident understanding.
God spoke to me and said that I must stop looking out in the world, around my home or in my church for His assignment. It wasn't going to be found in a stamped letter in the mailbox or a news flash on the church announcements. I wasn't going to read it in the church bulletin, or in any of the inspirational books on our shelves.
His will for my life was in the clanging spoons on those cereal bowls, the stack of field trip permission slips waiting to be signed and the list of odds and ends needed to be picked up to help our home run more smoothly and the kids' needs to be met.
His will for me right now, my ministry "assignment", is here in this house,
Providing physical safety and emotional security of my kids.
Modeling how to cope with failure, adversity, and how to manage conflict.
Demonstrating the practices necessary to develop a relationship with God.
Being available and accessible for their questions and fears.
Speaking in words that instill confidence and empowerment.
Teaching lessons on compassion and empathy.
I don't need to go anywhere or be assigned any special title. I mustn't travel overseas or write a lengthy proposal. I don't need to be published or recognized, highlighted or coveted. Right now, today, in this phase or our lives, my greatest ministry is using what I've been taught these last 10 months to communicate to my children the almighty power and the unconditional love of Christ. If they leave our home someday knowing the constant love and support from God, the kind that will comfort them in times of trouble and guide them during uncertainty, I'll be overcome with gratitude for having been given such a worthy assignment.