Step three, according to the AA Big Book is “made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” When I first went to AA and Al-Anon meetings, I was an absolute mess. I pretty much cried the whole time and I remember someone saying to me that I could turn over my life to the care of God. God cared. I did not feel like God cared about me at that time. We had just recently found out that my adopted son has fetal alcohol syndrome which often times means a lifetime of difficulties. My older son had also admitted he had suffered from some extreme bullying at school. I was having a really hard time believing that God cared about me and that he cared about our family.
But then I came to AA and Al-Anon and I started to slowly work through steps one and two. Step one is: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable,” which forced me to admit that I couldn’t control anything in life more than my own attitude. Step two is: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” A lot of times I think about God as a friend and definitely as someone who can understand, but I have found that it really helps me with Step three to also think of God as huge, massive and all powerful. What helps me to believe in that is to observe the universe around me and to try and comprehend how big it is. Here are some facts:
A galaxy is defined as a massive ensemble of hundreds of millions of stars, all gravitationally interacting and orbiting around a common center. All the stars visible to the naked eye belong to our galaxy, the Milky Way. In our galaxy alone, we have about a million million stars. What is staggering to me is that if I were to count to one billion, just one billion, and counted one number each second, it would take me 35 years of continuous counting just to reach one billion, and we have a million million stars just in our galaxy. What blows me away is not only how many stars our galaxy has, but how big everything is. The Milky Way has been determined to be a large spiral galaxy, with several spiral arms coiling around a central bulge about 10,000 light years thick. Now, a light year is defined as how fast light goes in one year. The speed is 186,000 miles per second, so to grasp a little bit of how far that is, you would travel 16 billion, 70 million ,400,000 miles in one day, now muliply that by a year and that is one light year. Our galaxy center is 10,000 light years thick. Even more staggering is that our galaxy is only one of thousands of different galaxies. When I start to grasp how large and how powerful God is, then he seems like someone who is a lot more capable than I am to run my life.
However, even knowing that God is all powerful is not the same thing as knowing that he cares. For me, the thing that has stopped me from believing that God cares is the presence of suffering, not only in the world, but specifically in my life. An exercise in futility can be to compare the suffering that I am going through with the good times I see in someone else’s life. I can say to God, “Hey, what about them? Why aren’t they suffering the way that I am?” I have to remember that, first of all, everybody suffers at one time or another. Everyone is going to lose loved ones at some point. Everyone gets illnesses from time to time or has marriage struggles or struggles with their children. Feeling like I am in the company of a lot of fellow sufferers helps me to stay away from self-pty, which I know is something I don’t want to engage in. Besides, God has a specific plan for my life, to help me become a better person, more like who he is, and that can’t happen without suffering.
Think about some of the greatest inspirational people out there and you will see how suffering was a huge part of their lives. Some examples are Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. They all suffered, but it was the way they suffered that inspired us. They rose above it. They had peace in the face of suffering. They were all brave. What is so awesome is that we can imitate them and AA and Al-Anon is a huge piece of that. I see the peace of the program on so many faces in the meetings that I go to. It is motivating to go to a meeting and listen to others, but they also give me a sense of purpose, because the way I suffer can inspire someone else. If we look ahead to the future and believe that we can not only endure suffering, but can grow through it and inspire others, than there is nothing we cannot face in our lives and that can give us courage, strength, and hope.
I think another big obstacle to our turning our will and our lives over is our illusion that we can control people, places or things. Not only is it a myth, it is a recipe for anxiety. I like this analogy: Imagine that you are in an airplane and settled into your seat. Over the loud speaker comes an impassioned plea that if anyone on board is a pilot, you are needed immediately at the cockpit. No one goes up to the front. Then the flight attendant asks if anyone has ever sat at the controls of any kind of aircraft. You realize that even though you have never flown anything, you did sit at the controls of a small engine plane where you once went for a ride, so you go up to the cockpit. The flight attendent tells you that both the pilot and the co-pilot ate a contaminated meal, are passed out, and that you will need to fly and land the plane. You sit down at the controls and are overwhelmed by the enormity of the responsibility. How will you ever do it? Just then, a man enters the cockpit and says, Miss, I was in the restroom when the announcement came over the loud speaker and I am a professional pilot. Would you like me to take over? Relief floods your heart and you go back to your seat and enjoy the rest of the flight.
This is just a small picture of the anxiety we will feel if we are trying to control something so much bigger than we can understand. It doesn’t work and if we just “Let go and Let God”, we can relax and enjoy the journey. That is what God wants for us, to pilot our plane, and we get to relax and trust that he cares for us and will get us to the destination he has in mind for us. We will obviously not do this perfectly, but I think it is so encouraging to look back and see how far we have come. If you are attending 12 step meetings, I encourage you to look back and observe your continued progress. The qualities that you desire in your life can be yours if you continue to work the program.