New Light on the Twelve Steps
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings…
Joe McQ says in his book, The Steps We Took, "that even though there has been a lot of discussion about these steps (6 & 7), they are simple, basic tools of change."
So we must first desire to change, right?
A woman related her reluctance to take Step 7:
"It was like having a real bad toothache. I wanted to go to the dentist and have him just take care of the tooth that was hurting. But I knew, once he had me in that chair, he was going to x-ray my entire mouth, and find every little cavity. And I could end up with a root canal before he was through. I had to choose which was worse: living with the pain, or letting someone do whatever had to be done to fix me, because I knew those "little problems" I wanted left one would become the big problems tomorrow."
God is thorough when we humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings (Matthew 7:7-11). Notice in this step we do not get to send in a list of which ones. Why?
The true character defect we will have to be willing to have removed may be the deeply cherished idea of our own "not so bad, I really wasn’t; I really am a nice guy; just a little problem here and there" goodness. That kind of "at least I’m not as bad as so and so" believing is sin (Matt: 18:9), and the root of all other individual character defects, trying to justify an independent self’s behavior. We need to own it as sin and humbly ask for removal.
Believing we are a "nice guy," or "I’m a sweet person, really," is blaspheming God, who clearly claims, "There is none good but God" (Matt. 19:17). If we are good, if we have any good in our "character" apart from Jesus Christ, then God is a liar, and we are the true gods, not Him.
Steps 6 and 7 are where we make good on what we have come to see, and start to change our behaviors.
As one sober alcoholic stated, "Alcohol was not my problem. Alcohol was how I handled my problem. My problem was me."
Rebellion. Satan-operated self-forself (Rom. 6:16). I want what I want and I want it now! And if you get hurt in the process, it’s your fault for not giving in to me or trying to stand in the way of self getting what it wanted. That’s the problem now, and has been the problem since the Garden of Eden. Sin, in the person of self-for-self Satan operating through us (Rom. 7:18-20).
It is a must to see clearly the results our choices to sin have brought upon every human being with whom we have had contact. Our disease is not just a chemical reaction we cannot control. It is a consequence of repeated choices to act out in sin when faced with temptation. We have always had the power to choose God and be delivered from any sinful behaviors. Norman Grubb makes that clear in his description of what took place in the Garden when Eve, in response to temptation, chose disobedience and rebellion over humbly asking to be rescued from the temptation. She wanted what she wanted. Asking for deliverance would have meant giving up what she thought was her choice to have it if she wanted to.
I can relate to Eve. I never "feel" like I want to call my sponsor before I act out. I know they will tell me no, and I will lose any excuse to go ahead and do what I want to do. Only when I see clearly the pain I have caused others, and hate what I have done more than I enjoy the relief of the drug, will I stop doing what I "feel" like I want to do and start doing what I don’t "feel" like I want to do. And that is the only way change can occur.
I was recently questioned by someone on why it was necessary to feel this pain of looking at what we had done, and then "just living in it awhile." Well, for one thing, living in it awhile is not a choice I make. If I truly see what I have done, I can’t not live in it. It is a branding iron on my heart. How can I not hurt if I truly see Satan’s damage that I let him do (Rom. 6:13)? But most of all, I think of how my children react in fear at loud voices. I see them afraid, sometimes withdrawn and hurting over memories of what I did to them, and they had nowhere to run. How could I ever have the audacity to selfishly demand relief from my pain, when they still feel theirs? I brought my consequences on myself by my own wrong choices. They are a gift that drove me to Christ and Christ only, and they are the blessing that keeps me there. And I thank God that He is adequate to do the same for my children, for I am power-less to restore them.
This is the positive side of the negative. The more and more deeply I see the pain and damage that my sin choices brought into being, the more deeply I understand the cross, and the magnificence of the choice Jesus Christ made for me. If I cannot fully experience the negative of the sin and its consequences, I cannot fully experience the joy of the Cross (Acts 3:19). Only to the depth I am willing to go in the negative, am I able to experience the height of the positive, which is greater and greater realization of God and what His sacrifice truly did for me (Rom. 7:24, 25). Only then can we truly be "humble" in our asking.
What is "humbly…"? I went on a paper chase for that one. The thesaurus names low, obscure, meek, modest, unassuming, and unpretending as synonyms of humble. The American Collegiate Dictionary defines humble as showing submissive respect. To be humbled is defined as to destroy the pride of, or to cause to be modest in spirit.
Well, what is pride? A sense of one’s self-worth. Since self-worth is Satan-worth, then to be humbled is to be freed from the dominance of Satan, to have that sense of wrong self-worth destroyed.
Humbly is non-pretentious. To understand non-pretentious, we must first understand pretentious. "Claiming or demanding a position of distinction that is unjustified," says Webster. So humbly means we have been released from the idea that we are justified to any claim of self-goodness.
In a state of having been freed from any illusions of any goodness in our-self; having been delivered from the lie of self-worth in and of ourselves, we are now glad to ask to be delivered from these character defects. We now see that even the things we used to like about ourselves have to go, because they are as wicked as the rest from God’s reality check. Since these defects have been wrongly viewed as our own independent self for most of our lives, it is not easy to let them go, unless we can come to hate them for what they really are. Jesus said, "ye must be willing to hate your own life"…all of it, because there is not one shred of goodness in us. None (Rom. 7:18).
Why do we have to humbly ask God to remove our character defects? After all, all we admitted powerless over was alcohol (or food, narcotics, control, etc.). So now that we have seen the awfulness of these character defects, why can’t we just change–just stop doing whatever it was that we know as wrong. Rightness is a Person who must live it out by us. It is not a thing we can have, only a Person we can contain (Gal. 2:20). So when we humbly ask God to remove our short-comings, we are in essence recognizing He is the only One who can live the right life, because He is the right life in us. We give up trying to get it right, and trust in His rightness as our only hope. We are powerless to change ourselves, or the damage we have done. Our only hope is in Him and His faithfulness.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 11 No 3
- The Deep Things of God
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- Annual Business Meeting
- The Single Eye
- Prayer Without Works
- The Letter to the Romans
- Birmingham Fellowship Weekend
- British Easter Conference
- Questions & Answers
- My Dark Hidden Secret
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- God’s Promises
- A Look at a Book
- The Mailbox
- Tape Talk
- Words to Live By