Step Three of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.”
This week I am working on step three as I go through the steps with my sponsor. I think that of all of the steps, this one is the hardest. At least it is the one that requires the most effort on my part. That’s because it’s really about giving up living in self-will, and instead, learning to live in God’s will. For those of us that have struggled to always remain in control of everything, this is no easy task.
I lived a long time (40 years) before I ever heard about step three, and I spent most of that time trying really hard to be in control of things. I spent a lot of energy trying to keep everything (including myself) together. I thought at the time, that if I didn’t do that, then everything was going to fall apart. So I worked, and struggled, and held on by my fingertips, trying to keep everything balanced and everyone happy. The funny thing is, the harder I tried, the less I succeeded. The more I tried to manipulate situations, relationships, and reality into what I wanted, the less control I had. And all of that was when I was sober. Once I started drinking alcoholically, I tried to control that too. And we all know how that turned out!
The thing about living like that, in self-will, is that you can never make it work the way you want it to. There is just way too much stuff that is out of our control. There is a story in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous about the third step that talks about an actor who is trying to run the whole show. If only everyone would do as he wants, then the show would be perfect. He tries to control every aspect of the show – the lighting, the scenery, the other actors, the direction; and he does so with the best of intentions, he just wants the show to be perfect. Well, the show doesn’t come off perfect as he wants it to, no matter how good his intentions are. He is not in control…he’s just an actor in the show. At the top of the page, in my own Big Book, I have written, “It is not the Jami show.” I wrote that there to remind myself that I don’t get to run the show. My show has a Director, one who has a perfect plan….even if it doesn’t match mine. That’s where the rub is; when I know that there is a perfect plan, but it’s not the same thing that I had in mind. That’s when it gets hard, and I have to remind myself repeatedly to let go, and trust God’s will.
So, as I think about the third step, as I have to do every single day, it’s not the fear of turning things over to God that gets me, it’s remembering to do it, because I pick up the same things that I have turned over time and time again. I wrote a post last year about laying down my rock, giving up trying to control those things that are completely out of my control. I wrote in that post that sometimes it helps me to go through the physical act of getting rid of something heavy and uncomfortable to tote around, in order to really understand the act of letting go. I have to remember to lay down my rock, to let go, every single day. I think that it’s human nature (or maybe it’s just my nature, I don’t know), to want to control situations. When I remember to turn them over it really does make life easier.
These days, I am accepting of the fact that it’s not the Jami show. I am accepting of the fact that God’s plan is better for me than my own. I am accepting of the fact that I have to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. And I am accepting of the fact that I will probably have to keep letting go of the same things over and over because I keep picking them up again. I am okay with all of that because I know that I’m making progress. And the name of the game is progress, not perfection.