Holy Assumption Orthodox Church
2027 18th St. NE Canton, Ohio 44705
Phone: (330) 455-9146

Wisdom from the 12 Steps

One of the great blessings of my life has been my privilege of spending some years actively attending meetings of various 12 Step groups. I have personally found these very helpful, and they have strongly challenged my growth in Christ. In particular, I have always been struck by their commitment to being “rigorously honest” in all aspects of their lives, and most especially with oneself. This commitment often resulted in the religious members admitting to themselves that their faith wasn’t working! This highlights a unique aspect of the 12 Step groups, which is the seeking of a faith that works, a faith for example, that can deliver a person from alcoholism, or from compulsive overeating, or destructive relationship patterns. The truth is that if some of us are truly honest with ourselves, our faith isn’t working either! Being Orthodox is no guarantee at all.

This then begs the question, why? Why is our faith not working for us? The twelve step movement provides some good answers to this question. Here is what Alcoholics Anonymous found out through the experience of their members:

For just so long as we were convinced that we could live exclusively by our own individual strength and intelligence, for just that long was a working faith in a Higher Power impossible. This was true even when we believed that God existed. We could actually have earnest religious beliefs which remained barren because we were still trying to play God ourselves. As long as we placed self-reliance first, a genuine reliance upon a Higher Power was out of the question. That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God’s will, was missing….

“During the process of learning more about humility, the most profound result of all was the change in our attitude toward God. And this was true whether we had been believers or unbelievers. We began to get over the idea that the Higher Power was a sort of bush-league pinch hitter, to be called upon only in an emergency. The notion that we would still live our own lives, God helping a little now and then, began to evaporate. Many of us who had thought ourselves religious awoke to the limitations of this attitude. Refusing to place God first, we had deprived ourselves of His help.” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. p.72, 75.)

Brothers and sisters, we can learn from this! In my experience, both personally, and with many parishioners through the years, this testimony is absolutely true. By not truly surrendering and “letting go and letting God,” by not truly allowing God His rightful place in our lives (the first place), we cut ourselves off from His blessing in our lives, and we wonder why everything is going wrong for us! Worse yet, we may get angry at God and blame Him for not helping us. But in reality we are simply harvesting what we planted!

I have lived as a non-Christian (as a former Atheist), I have lived as a Christian without God first, and finally I have lived as a Christian surrendered to God, with God number one in my life. Just like those in AA and other 12 step groups, I have found that the latter is the only way that actually works, and it is much, much better! It is the only life blessed by God.

There is no such thing as luck. What there is – is God’s blessing (often called “good luck”) or the lack of it (often called “bad luck”). Though God’s blessing is not exactly the same as what is commonly called luck, it is similar enough for my purposes in writing. Since I have committed myself to following God wholeheartedly, even my atheist family members have commented on what they called “good luck” seeming to follow me wherever I go. Now certainly, this doesn’t mean that a person with God first will not have struggles or trials, or that things won’t ever go wrong – but even in this it seems like the trials eventually turn to gold. With God first, we get his strength to go through any trial. “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:19)

The other aspect is that when God has His rightful place in your life, you feel like you are living how you were made to live. You will be much happier! The joy of the Lord, His peace, His love will begin to fill you.

To begin to surrender to God and put him first is really quite simple. It really is a decision of the will. Just ask yourself; “If following God was the top priority in my life, what would my life look like?” And then begin to live your life in that way. In my next article I will give more advice on how to put God first in your life.

Fr Stacey

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