I hope you are taking advantage of our recent BlogTalkRadio podcasts related to the Twelve Steps that are listed and linked below. Our recent one with Robbie Goldman of Dry Bones Denver was particularly enlightening. Robbie works with homeless kids in downtown Denver and he talked about how when he first started thinking about going through the Twelve Steps he was thinking how good this would be for the kids they work with, many of whom are addicted to drugs and alcohol. But one of the first things he and his staff had to shed was that very kind of thinking that says the steps are for someone else. No, they’re for us. And so he and his staff went through the Twelve Steps before they ever went over them with their kids. And when they take the kids with them, they all go through the steps together. And Robbie says the number of times he’s been through the steps doesn’t matter. He learns something new about himself every time. Robbie is convinced that the Twelve Steps use a language of spirituality that the western church needs to wake up to — real words, not the lingo we talk.
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.
Has anybody noticed we’ve been stuck between Step 8 and Step 9 for a while now?
Here’s one thing I’m learning about the Twelve Steps. You don’t work through them as if you were going through a grocery list, marking off items as you put them in your shopping cart. As soon as you try to wrap up a step, you realize something you missed about an earlier step, or you learn a deeper ramification about a step than what you previously surmised. This is why people can be in their 27th year of recovery still going to AA meetings and still “working” the steps. You never complete a step. You “work” the steps. They are doorways into things we need to face, change or remember about ourselves and our relationships with God and others.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” John 3:14-15
I call this Christ’s version of John 3:16. It’s two verses earlier and it’s set in quotes because John records it as the words of Jesus. The famous words of John 3:16 which follow — For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life — are part of the commentary of John. John was talking about the cross of Christ which was planted by God in the middle of the history of the world. Jesus was talking about the snake-on-a-pole that was planted by Moses in the middle of the Jewish camp in the wilderness that was the forerunner of His death. Jesus said this Moses-event was an early picture of His own death on the cross. What we can learn from that Old Testament event is something with profound implications for all who believe, and points out why AA and the Twelve Steps are perhaps a better model for the church than what most might think.
There are a lot of references to God in the twelve steps, and yet AA has managed to stay fairly clear of many of the controversies that go along with religion. They meet often in churches (because churches will donate their facilities more readily than others), but the things that keep people commonly away from church don’t seem to keep them from AA meetings. People come as they are. Some smoke outside during breaks. There may be some raw language used in the telling of stories. No one minds. There is no pastor or even AA leader in charge. No one talks down to anyone; they all talk across. The lead passes from one to another each week, but these are people who have been coming for years and have their own stories to tell. There is no “minister to alcoholics.” If ministry goes on, it’s alcoholics ministering to each other. Most non-Christians are comfortable at an AA meeting because no one is trying to push anything. They’re just trying to help. It’s a totally different environment than church. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
Forget religion. Forget world religions. Forget atheists in foxholes. Forget what’s fair. There are really only two kinds of people in the world. Those who insist on meeting God on their own terms, and those who realize He insists on meeting them on His; and realizing that His terms are beyond their ability to perform, they meet Him on their knees, knowing their sin, and crying out for His mercy. That’s it. It’s all in the attitude of the heart.
Remember, we are card-carrying Christians. We established that this week. That means: We are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God; we have all received the free gift of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ that we don’t deserve; and we are depending on Him every moment for His life to be seen in us.
I’m pointing out these things today by way of review because I find we have to keep on saying them as they are so contrary to the way we normally think. For instance, we have nothing to prove and nothing to hide. Let’s think about that for a minute.
Thank you to those who have written and told us your stories so far. I think I’m finally starting to get it. I’m starting to get AA, and the steps, and why it works. You can find the answer in why people keep going regularly to meetings, sometimes multiple meetings a day, even after years and years of sobriety.
They go because they feel safe.
I have heard this from virtually everybody in AA. Their safest place is at the meeting. At the meeting is the only place they are free from temptation to give in to their addiction, so if they are feeling particularly pressed, they get to the nearest meeting.
They go because they feel useful.
One of our readers writes: “I go to meetings to meet the newcomer — the new person that is going to walk through the door, with that deer-in-the-headlights look. I love to welcome them and give them the 6 magic words: ‘You are going to be alright.’” This is truly grace turned outward.
They go because they are working on their lives in an environment where everyone else is doing the same thing.
Someone recently told me, “No one makes you do anything. You do everything on your own free will.” That’s freeing, and it’s also encouraging. It makes you want to work on yourself.
They go because they feel empowered.
This is the power of God. This is what happens when you give up. You surrender your life to God and you discover His Spirit is there to give you what you need to follow Him.
They go because whatever happens, there’s always the next meeting.
Something dawned on me last night during our BlogTalkRadio interview with a veteran AA recovery survivor who will celebrate 27 years of sobriety in June (congratulations, Tom!). He still goes to roughly three AA meetings a week. Why? Wouldn’t you think that after that long, he wouldn’t need the meeting to stay sober? Well there are at least two answers to that question. The first answer is that you are never out of danger as an alcoholic. Many have lapsed into drinking again after more that 27 years of sobriety, and the first thing to go would be the meetings. The meetings remind you of your dependence on God and others. At an AA meeting, the support is tangible.