Powerless Over Alcohol & Life: Steps 6 and 7
This is a continuation of our explanation of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in light of the total truth of Christ in us as us. Millions of alcoholics are in recovery today thanks to Bill W’s spiritual answer found in these steps. Indeed, countless who are not alcoholic but suffer from distorted thinking and compulsive behavior resulting from growing up in dysfunctional families are on the road to mental, emotional and spiritual health as a result of incorporating this program of rigorous honesty, spiritual surrender, and self-sacrifice into their lives.
We know that all families are dysfunctional in that Satan has masqueraded himself in all men and women. Even in the "best" Christian families, operation from the lie that we are "just us" raising our children or being a child results in Satan’s sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, but always unmistakable self-for-self bent creeping in.
Therefore, no ultimate answer will be found in thinking that "we" can recover if "we" just work these steps. By faith we put to death the lie that independent of Christ there is anything we can do-except believe that it is He in our forms "working the steps." The 12 steps really just describe the way a person operates as God intended-a vessel created to be indwelt by a power greater than itself who can live rightly and be God’s hands and feet to the world.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
As with the other steps, I had trouble with this step but trouble of a different kind-now, if I would, I was to decide to have God remove all of the "crutches" I had used throughout my life to get through uncomfortable situations. At first, I didn’t have a clue what this step required-I would have said if asked that by now, surely I was ready to have Christ live my life in all areas. Yet it took about 18 months of sobriety before I realized what this step meant; ie., nothing less than preparing to ask God to remove all the attitudes, tricks of hand, mannerisms, etc., I had used to "survive" tough times.
My inner understanding of this choice came as a flash while sitting in a business meeting. I had just made a very inappropriate comment-an off color "joke." When called on the carpet, I realized that I could not freely do that type of thing anymore and said so publicly. In yet another flash, I saw that up to that point, I had kept a hidden "stash", so to speak, of mannerisms that I could do at the drop of a hat, to help me get through hard, embarrassing times. These "mannerisms" were really Satan operating in my members-I wasn’t believing that Christ/I was enough-I needed something more-what a lie!
I saw that I had to become entirely ready, nothing held back, to have God remove all the "add ons" I could identify. Col. 3: 5-8 was real to me now-not just an idea, but a condition I could experience by the simple act of faith. I had never before known what the Scripture meant or how to do it when Paul said:
"But now you must also put off all these: anger; wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth." Col.3:8.9
Until then I didn’t understand: "Therefore let not sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." Rom. 6: 9 -10.
I still feel uncomfortable in many situations; however, since I have repeatedly asked God to remove each of these crutches as Satan presents them, I’m learning that I can successfully live through uncomfortable situations and it is not inevitable that I sin in such situations.
Becoming "entirely ready" as this step requires, presents me with a clear choice between the two options: (1) of continuing on as I was with "little" bouts of vulgarity, grandiosity, cute, feigned discomfort, etc.,(2) to view those attitudes and "mannerisms" as sin in my members and then be ready to tell God that I really wanted nothing more to do with them.
The reason I chose the latter option is not because I’m now a "better" person, capable of independently doing right things. I chose to have God remove these "crutches" because now I know that I don’t like how I feel when I do them. In my drinking days I could do almost anything and blank out my consciousness of the consequences of doing them. I could, and did avoid experiencing the physical consequences of drinking more, working harder, etc.
In my early days of recovery I learned that I couldn’t do some things and had to do others if I was to continue on in sobriety. Now, I have been brought to the point that I want to stop acting crazy because I don’t like how I feel. I’d rather experience the discomfort of some situations and live through them than to avoid the discomfort and feel bad inside for so much longer.
What I have learned is that the Person whose life is being lived out as me is doing nothing more than Paul’s comment to Titus teaches:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." Titus 2;12.
Willingness and desire to stop sinning, however insignificant or innocent certain conduct seemed, is the heart of the 6th step. Because I’ve asked God to remove my (Satan’s actually) character defects, I no longer sin "so grace may abound". These character defects are not true about me, are they? In fact, I was created in God’s image and was created a perfect vessel, always intended to be a slave or servant to a deity. (Rom.6)
Step six has helped me see that Satan’s character defects that appear in and through my members (Rom.7) can be eliminated by asking God to remove them. Now what I mean by that comment I’ll discuss in step 7, but for now I’ll note that God’s way of "removing" them was to crucify His Son, resurrect Him and then send Him to live as me! I don’t get better-I don’t get right, I simply agree with that Bible truth!
Remember that by now the 12 step program has been God’s tool to teach the simple Bible truth that our purpose is to see God’s will done through us, as us. Thus, the underlying purpose of this step is to line us up with our inner desire to know we are vessels, rightly fitted to do God’s will.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to Remove our Shortcomings
Humility was not a condition with which I had any experience. Humility springs from an honest view of oneself, and since I had not been honest about myself, my relationship with God, people, places and things, I couldn’t possibly know humility. I had been humiliated, but I was not humble. Thus, this step, like the others, was a killer.
The scriptures teach that humility is a result of a right seeing of oneself. As long as I see rightly that I am neither able to save myself (Eph. 2:8-9) nor to live life successfully (Romans 7), then I can not take credit for any good thing, nor credit for the color of my eyes, my family of origin, my brainpower, athletic skills. etc. As a consequence. I have nothing about which to be puffed up or proud. The Bible seems full of discussion pointing to "humility" as a right kind of condition in which one should live. In fact the first of the beatitudes says : "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matt.5:3).
Now I had read, studied and thought about what ‘poor in spirit’ meant but knew nothing of that condition by personal experience. Although the Power being expressed through the steps had clearly produced something akin to humility in me, the springboard for further progress was this condition called "humility." I believe the teaching of this step is nothing more that a restatement of Peter’s admonition:
"Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you". (1 Peter 6:6).
What to do? How to do it? Since it was obvious that humility was previously unknown by me, but was now required, I had to say by faith that because Christ lived in and as me that Christ/I was a humble person. That faith statement, plus an honest recognition of myself in relation to all of my world, produced the humility, the lack of which had driven me before.
I had to admit again that I was powerless to live life successfully (the first step) and that Another had to live it for me (Gal 2: 20). I could then rightly see my relationship to everything as being a wonderful, God made vessel, through which Christ’s life would be lived out and manifested. (Rom. 9:22-23).
The second word of this step-"asked"-was important because I needed to change my attitude from begging God to forgive me and demanding grace, to asking God to become intimately involved in the secrets of my life. I had previously asked God in the 3rd step to free me from my prior bondage to a self-for-self life so that I could be and do all that I was intended to be and do. This 7th step required me to agree to give up control of the details!
This step is one of the lost keys, although not often discussed, in breaking the horrible cycle in which most live. Pain or discomfort is followed by seeking relief through alcohol, by obtaining short term relief, followed by horrible, terrible consequences, upon which shame, guilt and isolation rush out and initiate pain that starts the cycle again. This horrible cycle is broken when I decide to live through discomfort without reaching for the crutch of alcohol, grandiosity, etc. When I say to God that I’m ready to experience discomfort emotionally over my feelings, I’m saying that Christ/I can make it through whatever the Father sends me without running or hiding.
Christ was the humble one, never exerting His power, place or avoiding God’s will. As long as I continue to believe that He is living as me (Gal 2:20), that humility appears to be mine, doesn’t it? As long as I do not believe that He lives as and through me then I don’t resemble anything near humility, and life becomes chaotic.
There are many other parts to my 7th step (I’ve done several) but the last one I want to suggest here is the part referring to "our" shortcomings. To appreciate the reality and the significance of the fact that these shortcomings are really "sin in my members" (Rom. 7:23), I must first ‘own’ the shortcoming-after all, I freely consented to the operation of sin in my members. I never recognized any relief until I just recognized and accepted responsibility for my part!
Now I could move forward to: "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering" (Col. 3:12).
Finally, I can now begin to understand Jesus when he said "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up".
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 9 No 2
- The Origin of Evil-Here and Now
- Forward Ever, Backward Never
- The Origin of Evil
- The Mind
- A Life That Works
- Questions? & Answers!
- Birth of the News
- Moments with Meryl
- A Lawyer Tells It Like It Is
- FAITH SWALLOWS UP DOUBT
- FREEDOM FROM SELF
- INDWELT BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
- THE MAILBOX: PRAISES SUNG
- An Easter Message
- Mini Fellowship Weekend
- Powerless Over Alcohol & Life: Steps 6 and 7
- Annual Business Meeting
- No Independent Self, Part One