Maybe We’re All Alcoholics

AA meeting sign
Image via Wikipedia

So, I teach at a residential facility.  Today I was on the drug addicts’ unit.  They had two lists posted.  They were both from AA.  They were the 12 steps and the 12 traditions.

The 12 steps say this:

  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.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I was struck by something, as I read these:

With minimal tweaking, the 12 steps are a great description of how I feel about being a Christ follower.  And the 12 traditions, arguably, are a description of what the church should be.

I don’t want to get into a big debate about the nature of alchoholism or the effectiveness of 12 step programs.  A thing that’s undeniable is that more and more of us are identifying ourselves as addicts to more and more things.  (The upcoming DSM V lists caffeine addiction as an actual psychiatric diagnosis.)   I find myself wondering:

What if, in addition to the fact that we’re addicted to these things, we’re resonating to something more fundamental to our nature.  It’s so clear to see the universal significance of at least the first 7 steps.

  1. We admit that we are  powerless over the separation between ourselves and God—that our lives with  have become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves is necessary to restore our connection to God.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Jesus as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, recognizing that we have fallen short of the glory we were made for.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrong.  (In other words, confessed)
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  (In other words, wished to be reborn.)
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.  (In other words, took Jesus into our hearts.)
  8. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  9. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

(It seems to me that 8 & 9 speak to the idea that growing into Christ’s image isn’t an instant transformation but a life long journey.)

10. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to the ends of the earth, teach and baptizing in  Jesus’ name.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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