12 Steps of Christmas | Thursday

Step Seven – “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

The service for Morning Prayer on this Thursday after the First Sunday in Christmas can be found here.

The Gospel reading for this evening, which we will miss because the Eve of the Holy Name takes precedence, can be found here.

Do you want to be made well?

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” (John 5:2-8)

Jesus asks the sick man, “Do you want to be made well?”

Today in Step Seven we humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.

For many of us in recovery, “working the steps” doesn’t happen right away. We may spend a few months “working the program” first — attending meetings (perhaps every day to start), reading Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and hearing speakers share their stories of “experience, strength, and hope.”

It may be several months, in fact, before we find a sponsor and begin diligently working through the 12 Steps, talking with them about our powerlessness, admitting we can’t do it alone, taking stock of our failings and character defects.

But even so, eventually the day arrives and the question our sponsor puts to us now is just as abrupt as it was for the sick man lying by the pool at Beth-zatha.

“Do you want to be made well?”

So many excuses

“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

Like the man at the pool, sick for 38 years, up until now we have made so many excuses.

We now clearly see that we have been making unreasonable demands upon ourselves, upon others, and upon God.

The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear—primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. (76)

It took me 46 years to realize that the serenity I wanted to acquire could not be bought, only received. It took me a lifetime to recognize how sick I was and finally to lay down the self-confidence, the pride, that kept me making excuses instead of asking for help.

A whole lifetime geared to self-centeredness cannot be set in reverse all at once.

Still goaded by sheer necessity, we reluctantly come to grips with those serious character flaws that made problem drinkers of us in the first place, flaws which must be dealt with to prevent a retreat into alcoholism once again.

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. (73, 75)

Something like real peace of mind

The slow progress in early recovery works on us very subtly.

Week after week, meeting after meeting, day after day, we practice a new way of living.

Day after day, we try simply to avoid drinking and to do what is in front of us. Week after week, we “work the program” with others who are in the same boat. Meeting after meeting, we begin to share our stories, too.

We “keep coming back,” and discover that “it works if you work it.” (It’s probably a sign of how much I need them that these are the slogans that grate on me most.)

But when we have taken a square look at some of these defects, have discussed them with another, and have become willing to have them removed, our thinking about humility commences to have a wider meaning. By this time in all probability we have gained some measure of release from our more devastating handicaps. We enjoy moments in which there is something like real peace of mind. To those of us who have hitherto known only excitement, depression, or anxiety—in other words, to all of us—this newfound peace is a priceless gift. (74)

When you humbly ask God to remove your shortcomings, you are not only asking for a fuller measure of that peace you have tasted.

You are also asking to be made well, and you will soon be invited in Steps Eight and Nine to “stand up, take your mat and walk” — to put your newfound peace of mind into action.

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer 461)

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